How to Train Your Older Dog to Accept a Puppy

Medium
1-8 Weeks
Behavior

Introduction

You're super-excited about the arrival of a new pup.  Your much-loved older dog is getting a bit long in the tooth, and you've high hopes that introducing some new blood is going to help him feel young again. After all, what's not to love about a puppy? (OK, yes, you know it's hard work with all those puddles and accidents, but the cute face and cuddle factor more than make-up for it.) 

Sadly, things don't go according to plan. The puppy knows his job just fine and wants to play in that floppy eared, pounce-and-box-his-face way that puppies do. The trouble is the established dog is none too thrilled about it. In fact, he's downright grumpy about the new addition. So far he growled and grumped, shown his teeth and snarled, but not actually gone as far as snapping at the new bundle of fun. Oh dear, this isn't how you planned things at all. 

You're fairly confident the older dog wouldn't actually hurt the newbie, but still, this tension wasn't part of the plan for one big happy fur family. In fact, you're wondering if you made the right decision since all that's been achieved is making the older dog miserable. 

Defining Tasks

An older dog has a lot invested in his home. It's his core territory and he has things pretty much the ways he likes. He knows when meals happen, when it's time for walks, and that everyone adores him. Then along comes a new puppy and everything's turned on its head. 

Now the older dog is no longer the center of attention. To make matters worse he's expected to put up with having his face boxed and tail pulled. Then there's how the upstart steals his food, bed, and favorite toys. 

Helping an older dog accept a puppy has a lot to do with getting into the mind of the established dog, and understanding how he sees the world. This enables you to minimize the disruption to his life so that he feels less threatened and can open his heart to the youngster. This involves making sure each dog has his own resources (food, water, bed, and toys) and you acknowledge the older dog ahead of the puppy. 

In addition, you can use reward-based training methods such as clicker training, to reward the older dog when he uses an appropriate coping strategy, such as getting up and moving away from the annoying pup, rather than growling. 

Getting Started

You will need:

  • Separate resources for each dog, so each has their own bed, crate, food and water bowls, and toys
  • Treats
  • A treat bag you can wear on your belt so as to have access to treats at all times
  • A crate for the puppy
  • A pen or pet gates to corral the pup and provide the oldie with peace
  • A clicker
  • A squeaky toy

The Time with the Elder Method

Most Recommended
5 Votes
Step
1
Understand the idea
The older dog has been your companion for a long time. It's therefore perfectly natural for him to feel unsettled, jealous, or threatened by the presence of a puppy who gets all the attention. Do the older dog a favor by understanding things from his perspective and helping to maintain a sense of order and place in his world.
Step
2
Give the older dog attention first
Yes, the puppy is intoxicatingly cute, but no that's not a good enough reason to overlook the older dog. It's essential the older dog has his place in the fur-family preserved, which means putting his needs first and have the puppy fit in second. In practical terms, this means greeting the older dog first, putting his food bowl down first, letting him through the door ahead of the puppy, and putting his leash on ahead of the youngster.
Step
3
Don't punish the older dog for growling
Puppies have very bad manners. They'll jump all over another dog without being invited and are liable to steal prized toys or food. That precious puppy has to learn boundaries and how to behave, and the older dog is the one to teach him. But more than this, it's wrong to punish the older dog for growling, as his behavior is completely natural. To inhibit his way of correcting the pup will lead to confusion and inner conflict, which could be disastrous in the long term.
Step
4
Keep the older dog in routine
Your senior dog's world has been turned upside down by the arrival of a puppy. Dogs find change hard to deal with, so don't make the problem worse by disrupting his normal schedule, which means he has no anchor points in his day anymore. Instead, try to keep mealtimes and walks at the regular time in order to promote feelings of security and reduce resentment over the pup's arrival.
Step
5
Give the older dog "me time"
Let's face it, everyone needs a break from the kids from time to time, and dogs are no different with puppies. Be sure to spend time just you and the senior, so that you have time to refresh your bond. Also, give the older dog a safe space where he's allowed but the upstart isn't, so that he can escape if it all gets too much. This will refresh the senior's stores of patience and help him better accept the newbie.
Recommend training method?

The Time with the Puppy Method

Effective
6 Votes
Step
1
Understand the idea
It is human nature to coo over a puppy, which means the older dog fades into the background. However, from the word go this upsets the balance of their future canine relationship. Dogs are happiest when there is a clear pecking order and each understands their place. As the adult dog, this automatically makes the senior top of the heap and he should be treated accordingly. If the oldie is consistently given attention first and the puppy controlled, then they will get along just swimmingly.
Step
2
When the two dogs are in the room, ignore the puppy
Both dogs are in the kitchen. You walk in. Be sure to greet the older dog first, giving him a fuss and only greeting the puppy when the senior has been acknowledged. This sends out a strong message to the oldie that he is top dog and the puppy is an underling.
Step
3
Give the puppy his own toys
In the canine world, it is the height of bad manners to take someone else's toys. It will help the doggie duo to get along if each has their own things. Present the puppy with his own toys to play with and praise him when he chooses these. If the puppy picks up his senior's toys, then say a short firm "No", distract him and remove the toy, returning it to the senior.
Step
4
Teach the puppy self-control
You wouldn't allow the kids to rampage unchecked through the house, so don't allow the puppy to do the same. If the puppy gets over excited, go for 'time out'. Stop the game and wait for him to calm down before continuing. This teaches him that the fun stops if he's over exuberant and over time, teaches him self-control that the older dog will benefit from.
Step
5
Crate train the puppy
Crate training not only helps with potty training, but can save the sanity of the older dog. When the puppy has his own place to go, this leaves the older dog with the run of the house, which does his morale (and therefore tolerance of the pup) the world of good.
Recommend training method?

The Clicker Training Method

Least Recommended
2 Votes
Step
1
Understand the idea
A clicker is a small plastic device that makes a clicking noise when you press the trigger. The click is a great way to 'mark' a behavior that you want to encourage. This is called capturing a behavior, and you can think of it in the same way as pressing the camera shutter captures the picture. The payback for the older dog is he gets a reward each time he hears the clicker, and so offers behaviors that are most likely to make this happen.
Step
2
Teach the dog to know a click means a reward
First, the dog needs to link hearing a click with getting a reward. This is easy to do and most dogs learn the link after as little as one or two sessions. Offer a treat. As the dog eats it, click the clicker. Scatter several treats on the floor. As the dog eats each one, click the clicker. Having got the dog's attention, throw one treat at a time and click as the dog eats each one. Then try clicking before giving the treat. You should find the dog's ears prick forward as he anticipates the reward. Job done!
Step
3
Identify a good reaction to the pup
Let's say the older dog alternates between growling at the pup and turning his head away to ignore the youngster. Obviously, ignoring him is preferable. Rather than telling the older dog off for growling (which you should not do for a variety of reasons), instead click him when he turns his head away. Then reward him. This teaches the older dog that the simple act of turning a blind eye is rewarded and he will start to do this to earn a treat.
Step
4
Identify positives behaviors
But two dogs living together is also about them getting on well together. Be alert for encouraging signs that the older dog is accepting the younger. This could be the older one wagging his tail when the pup approaches, or engaging in a game of tug. Simply click these actions as a means of showing your approval and help teach the senior the right way to behave.
Step
5
One-on-one clicker training
Consider using the clicker to teach the older dog tricks or refresh his basic training. For the dog, this represents wonderful one-on-one attention from the pet parent, which helps him feel secure and builds his confidence.
Recommend training method?

Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers and Success Stories

Question
Lyla
Multi breed
5 Years
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Lyla
Multi breed
5 Years

Seems like my dog is scared of the new puppy. Which the puppy is a husky pup. Other then giving lyla lots of attention. Is there anything else i can do to help my girl?

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Question
Chewie
Shih Tzu
7 Years
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Chewie
Shih Tzu
7 Years

We recently took on a 12 week old Shih tzu girl called Kytra who is proving to be a very excitable and boisterous individual whilst she has settled down at night and seems to have got the general idea about doing her business outside, she is constantly antagonising our 7 year old male Shih tzu Chewie to the point where he has started to become very aggressive towards her, Im at my wits end to be with the situation to be honest and have developed serious reservations about them ever being able to get along, he snarls and snaps at her but she just things its all a game, I don't want him to really lose it with her one days as keeping them apart is proving to be difficult. Please help

Thanks

Alisha Smith
Alisha S., Dog Trainer
123 Dog owners recommended

Hello! So in short, some dogs do very well with new additions. Some do not. It typically takes dogs about 30 days to adjust to any sort of change within the house. Chewie is a little older and here comes a crazy puppy into his home. The best thing you can do for them is to not feel bad for Chewie during this time. Humans view things much differently than dogs. Giving Chewie extra attention will only reinforce his disdain for the puppy. So that behavior will continue. Right now you will want to do everything with them together, or not at all. Until everyone adjusts. So, walks together, feeding together, play time together, affection together. Practice that for about a week and you will see improvement. But give everyone about 30 days to adjust. If you have any additional questions, please let me know!

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Question
Mac
Pekingese x poodle
4 Years
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Mac
Pekingese x poodle
4 Years

So I just got a new dog today (1 year old) and my dog, Mac cannot stand her! He keeps barking and occasionally growls. What should I do?

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
701 Dog owners recommended

Hello Caitlin (great name by the way haha), Whenever puppy enters the room, give your older dog a treat while pup is not looking. Whenever he is calm, relaxed or tolerant of puppy also give him a treat. Try not to let puppy see you rewarding him though so that she doesn’t run over and overwhelm him. I also suggest crate training the puppy. Use the Surprise method from the article linked below to gradually help him learn to be calm in the crate and to relax by using rewards for being Quiet. https://wagwalking.com/training/like-a-crate Crate pup at night and when you leave, and you can use an exercise pen with some toys in it also. When you cannot directly supervise the dogs together, puppy should be crated or in the pen. If you want pup to be free but don't want to chase after him while you are home, you can also clip him to yourself using a six-foot leash, so that he has to stay near you and not wander near your other dog. When you are supervising, teach both dogs the Out command (which means leave the area) and make whoever is causing issues leave the area as needed (like pup pestering your older dog). Out command: https://www.petful.com/behaviors/how-to-teach-a-dog-the-out-command/ Decide what your house rules are for both dogs and you be the one to enforce the rules instead of the dogs. No aggression, no pushiness, no stealing toys, no stealing food, no being possessive of people or things, no bothering another dog when they want to be left alone, or any other unwanted behavior - if one dog is causing a problem you be the one to enforce the rules so that the dogs are NOT working it out themselves. For example, if pup comes over to your older dog when he is trying to sleep, tell pup Out. If puppy obeys, praise and reward him. If he disobeys, stand in front of your older dog, blocking the pup from getting to him, and walk toward pup calmly but firmly until pup leaves the area and stops trying to go back to your older dog. If your older dog growls at your pup, make your older dog leave the room while also disciplining pup by making them leave for antagonizing if they did. Be vigilant and take the pressure off of your older dog - you want him to learn to look to you when there is a problem, and for puppy to learn respect for your older dog because you have taught it to him and not because your older dog has had to resort to aggression or he has to hide all the time. I would work on building your older dog's respect for you also, so they will trust you to handle situations with puppy. Check out the article below for gentle ways to build respect for your dog. https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-doberman-to-listen-to-you For managing the two dogs, teaching Heel, Place, Out, and Leave It, among other commands can also help. Place: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O75dyWITP1s Thresholds: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_-w28C2g68M Out - which means leave the area: https://www.petful.com/behaviors/how-to-teach-a-dog-the-out-command/ Leave It method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bite Heel- Turns method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-poodle-to-heel If you feel puppy is endanger, you feel overwhelmed, things are getting worse, or things are not getting better, I also recommend hiring a professional trainer who will come to your home and work with you in person, to help you. Look for someone who comes well recommended and specializes in behavior issues like aggression. Not all trainers have aggression experience so look specifically for one who does. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Simba
Doberman Pinscher
5 Years
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Simba
Doberman Pinscher
5 Years

I am seriously worried that Simba will hurt the puppy . She is extremely jealous and so very upset by the pups arrival. Her body language is quite aggressive. I am not able to put the pup down in her presence for fear she will attack it. She has always been very bossy and tends to get whatever she wants from the 11 year old boy. What can I do?

Darlene Stott
Darlene Stott
Dog Trainer and Groomer
91 Dog owners recommended

Hello, I apologize for the delay. I suggest that you bring in a trainer as soon as possible who can quickly give you hands-on advice to deal with this problem. One session may just be enough to give you the skills to work with Simba. In the meantime, please read this guide through for excellent tips, especially in the Respect the Resident Method: https://wagwalking.com/training/accept-a-new-dog. As well, it may be time to reinforce Simba's obedience knowledge by working with her to brush up on the commands she was taught as a puppy. This guide has a lot of advice, much of what I think may work well with Simba's personality. https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-pitbull-puppy-to-be-obedient. All the best and good luck!

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Question
eclipse
Rottweiler
10 Years
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
eclipse
Rottweiler
10 Years

I am planning to bring home a shitzu poodle mix in a few weeks. She will be 8 weeks old. My dog had a litter many years ago so she has experience with puppies. However she is not very socialized and doesn't like new people or other dogs. I am afraid she will not be accepting of the new dog and she may be aggressive towards her.

Alisha Smith
Alisha S., Dog Trainer
123 Dog owners recommended

Hello! So in short, some dogs do very well with new additions. Some do not. It typically takes dogs about 30 days to adjust to any sort of change within the house. Eclipse is a little older and here comes a crazy puppy into her home. The best thing you can do for them is to not feel bad for Eclipse when this happens. Humans view things much differently than dogs. Giving Eclipse extra attention will only reinforce her disdain for the puppy. So that behavior will continue. Right now you will want to do everything with them together, or not at all. Just everyone adjusts. So walks together, feeding together, play time together, affection together. Practice that for about a week and you will see improvement. But give everyone about 30 days to adjust. If you have any additional questions, please let me know!

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Training Success Stories

Success
Angel
Shih Tzu
12 Years

Caitlin Crittenden, you are a saver of lives. Praise God I found your Wag Walking site. I truly had given up hope with a dog issue. After reading a few stories in your blog, I found several people had the exact same problem as we (myself, two dogs) had. Caitlin wrote an answer of hope in our lives that in my humble opinion must have been Heaven sent. Bless you child!

1 year, 6 months ago
Book me a walkiee?
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