How to Train Your Older Dog to Accept a Puppy

How to Train Your Older Dog to Accept a Puppy
Medium difficulty iconMedium
Time icon1-8 Weeks
Behavior training category iconBehavior

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. 

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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. 

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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

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The Time with the Puppy Method

Most Recommended

10 Votes

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Most Recommended

10 Votes

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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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

The Time with the Elder Method

Effective

8 Votes

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Effective

8 Votes

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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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

The Clicker Training Method

Least Recommended

3 Votes

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Least Recommended

3 Votes

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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.

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!

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.

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.

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.

By Pippa Elliott

Published: 11/22/2017, edited: 01/08/2021

Training Questions

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Training Questions and Answers

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Duka

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cross

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Two Months

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Question

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I have got a new puppy and I want to introduce him to my mums dog so he can stay with her a lot whist I’m away. Fred is a golden retriever and when we’ve introduced them Fred is snarling and going for the pup. I’m concerned because of the pure size difference Fred will hurt the new puppy. (He’s tiny a yorkie terrier cross dashaund) How do I get fred to accept the puppy because he doesn’t live with him.

Nov. 16, 2022

Duka's Owner

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Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

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1133 Dog owners recommended

Hello, I recommend hiring a professional trainer who will work at both homes with the dogs together to train in person for this case because of the risk of the older dog hurting the puppy. A dog intentionally trying to attack a puppy that young is not a normal response. Most dogs naturally have a higher tolerance of puppies under a certain age, and at least when the puppy isn't pestering the dog, even an uncomfortable dog will usually growl or give warnings or move away if afraid of the puppy - which can still lead to a bite but the dog is at least attempting not to bite. A dog who is intentionally trying to attack a puppy before being provoked is more serious and isn't something for safety reasons, that I recommend addressing on your own. You can start to get the older dog used to wearing a basket muzzle, so that tool can later be used in training as an added safety measure. Check out the video example below. The video did it in one sitting, but with a dog who is unfamiliar, the training would be broken up into small steps and done over a couple of weeks, slowly easing the dog into willingly putting their face into the muzzle on their own, then being able to buckle it, and work up to the dog wearing it for longer and longer as you reward the tolerance every couple to few seconds. Muzzle introduction video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KJTucFnmAbw&list=PLXtcKXk-QWojGYcl1NCg5UA5geEnmpx4a&index=6&t=0s Look for a private trainer in your area who specifically has experience with aggression, possessiveness, counter conditioning, and desensitization. Read reviews, ask for recommendations, and call to speak with the trainer and ask about their experience in those areas. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

Nov. 16, 2022

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Shrader

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Shihpoo

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Four Years

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We have recently adopted two 8 weeks old mini dachshunds. It has been 3 weeks and our older dog appears to be terrified of them still. We have tried limiting interaction with one at a time, we give our older dog lots of attention and love when with them but at any chance he will try to run away. He won’t come in the living room anymore and will happily stay alone in another room all day. He has barely acknowledged them and has only shown a little interest in sniffing them. He’s growled once at one of the puppies when said puppy was licking his ear, but then proceeded to run away.

Nov. 14, 2022

Shrader's Owner

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Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

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1133 Dog owners recommended

Hello, First, I would start by setting up an exercise pen for the puppies and giving them toys in there, and work on the steps from the Surprise method to get them used to that confined space - rewarding when they don't cry. This method mentions a crate, which would also be good to teach, but the steps can be used for any confined area like a pen also. https://wagwalking.com/training/like-a-crate Having the puppies playing happily in that confined space where your older dog can see them will likely help your older dog feel safer about coming into the room where they are. You can also use a hands free leash to tether a puppy to yourself at times, so the puppy can't wander over to your older dog just yet - start with the pen though, freeing the puppies with your supervision when your older dog is in another room and won't be bothered by them, to give breaks. Whenever a puppy first enters the room, your dog moves closer to the puppies without any aggression, is calm in the same room with them, or generally shows curiosity, calmness, and the type of behavior or emotions you want them to show around the puppies, have some of your dog's favorite treats handy (in a treat pouch, ziploc baggie in a pocket, or small bowl in that area out of the dogs' reach). Work on associating the puppy's presence with good things, but also on minimizing how much your dog feels like they have to control the situation by managing the puppies for them, so they can ease into interactions with less stress at first. When the dogs are ready for less barriers between them, be the one to moderate interactions and make the rules for what's acceptable in their interactions and to enforce those rules for the dogs...like no stealing toys, waking up another sleeping dog, being possessive, guarding, or aggressive toward another dog, no hovering around the other dog's food, ect... You be the one to make whoever is causing the issue leave the area so the other dog doesn't feel the need to use aggression or hide to handle it themselves. I suspect this process will take time for your older dog. Watch for small steps in the right direction. Even if it takes time, you want to see gradual progress. If you aren't at least tiny amounts of improvement or things get worse or you feel anyone is in danger like a puppy, then I would go ahead and hire a professional private trainer who has a lot of experience with counter conditioning and desensitization, who comes well recommended for their work with fearful behavior in dogs. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

Nov. 15, 2022


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