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 Clicker Training Method

Effective
0 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?

The Time with the Elder Method

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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
0 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?

Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers

Question
Ferdinand
Newfoundland
9 Weeks
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Ferdinand
Newfoundland
9 Weeks

We have 2 older dogs, a 7 yr old sheltie and a 4 yr old border collie mix. The sheltie has always kind of been alpha and the border collie submits and is cool with it. They aren’t best pals, but they get along fine

We just brought home the Newfie puppy about 5 days ago. We have maintained that the sheltie is alpha by feeding first, greeting first, and keeping his toys away from the puppy. He also is the only one allowed to sit with us on furniture. The puppy is naturally rambunctious and bounces and paws at the dogs. The sheltie is NOT having it. He stiffens and tries to turn away a bit, but doesn’t actually move away and eventually will snap. The puppy cries loudly and drops to the floor. I haven’t seen an injury yet from the 3 times this has been the result, so the puppy may just be sounding very dramatically out of fear and communicating submission. But it still concerns me. I don’t even expect them to be best buds. But I do expect them to tolerate each other eventually.

The 4 yr old is doing great. He doesn’t really want to play with the puppy, but he moves away and walks away, and occasionally growls as a warning without snapping.

I really am trying to protect the senior dogs from the rowdy puppy behavior, but I know this rowdy stage could last a while and the puppy being a Newfie, he will only get bigger and stronger. I separate them, but the sheltie tends to be jealous and if I’m paying any attention to the puppy, he wants to be part of it too...but then gets annoyed when the puppy plays with him.

Are there any other tips you can give me to help the older dog to tolerate the puppy’s behavior a bit more?

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainier
30 Dog owners recommended

Hello Lindsey, Congratulations on the new puppy. When dogs in your home are not getting along the easiest thing to do is to remove the question of which dog is alpha entirely. To do this, you must be the one to make and enforce the rules for each dog, so that the dogs are not left to decide on their own. The bellow article can accomplish that without too much confrontation. Make sure that the rules apply to all of the dogs, not just your Sheltie or just your puppy. "The Obedience Method" and "The Consistency Method" are less strict methods to begin with, so I would recommend implementing steps from both of those, and if there is still a problem use the more strict method, "The Working Method". Here is that article: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-doberman-to-listen-to-you That article mentions Dobermans but the training is the same for all breeds. Also follow the steps for "The Clicker Training Method" in the article "How To Train Your Older Dog To Accept A Puppy", that you asked this question at the end of. You can also use that method without a clicker, by following the steps, using your voice in place of a clicker. The word "Yes!" in an excited tone works well for a clicker replacing sound. The timing of your "Yes!" and pairing it with rewards exactly like you would a clicker are important. Do this to help your older dog enjoy the new puppy by pairing the new puppy's presence with rewards. Also, along with working on teaching your dogs that you are the one who makes and enforces the rules, choose rules that require the dogs to give each other mutual respect. For example, "No dog is allow to take a toy from another dog", "No dog is allowed to fight another dog or be possessive of an item", "No dog is allowed to bother another dog while she is eating". If one dog tries to take another dog's bone, then scold the thief firmly and command them to leave the area, while blocking the dog with the bone from the thief so that the thief cannot get to their bone, but if the thief does steal the bone, the dog with the bone is not allowed to retaliate, that is your job! Instead you take control and go over to the thief and take the bone back and make them leave the area, and you return the bone to the dog who had it before. You can see how you are the one monitoring the dogs and creating and enforcing the rules so that the dogs do not try to do it on their own. This builds respect and also trust, because the older dog feels like you will defend him when needed so he does not have to defend himself as much. Also have a rule that the puppy must leave the older dog alone when the older dog is trying to sleep or get away or is telling the puppy without hurting him to leave him alone. Teach each dog the "Out" command, and when your older dog is trying to get between you and the puppy because he is jealous, tell the older dog "Out", so that he has to leave and not be demanding of your attention when you did not offer it to him. In the same way, when the puppy comes over to you or over to your older dog when your older dog does not want to play, tell the puppy "Out", and stand between the older dog and puppy and firmly walk towards the puppy and block him from getting to the older dog until he gets bored of trying and leaves the area. All of this will take extra time and vigilance on your part, but if the dogs learn the new order of things now, then it should get better as the puppy ages, rather than letting the puppy and older dog fight it out when the puppy gets old enough to potentially want to challenge your Sheltie's dominance status. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Kylo
Miniature Schnauzer
1 Year
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Kylo
Miniature Schnauzer
1 Year

Our dog, Kylo, is just over a year old. He is the sweetest boy. Very playful and loveable. He goes to visit his friends (a male golden retriever, a female chow and a female poodle) everyday and he gets along great with them. When he can’t go play with them he is usually very depressed and thus we decided to get a new puppy, so that he can always have a companion with him. We brought home a 8-week old mini Schnauzer yesterday. The first couple of hours went really well, they got along and played. However sometime last night he decided that he has had enough and now he is in a terrible mood towards us and the puppy. She really wants to play with him but he just growls at her. It breaks my heart to see Kylo like this. We got the puppy hoping that it would improve his live, not make it miserable. Any advice on how we can improve the relationship will be greatly appreciated.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainier
30 Dog owners recommended

Hello Nicole, Congratulations on the new puppy! To improve the dogs' relationships work on three things. The first is to reward Kylo with treats whenever the puppy is around. As soon as the puppy leaves stop all rewards and ignore him for a minute. The idea is to make him think that the puppy's presence equals good things so that he will begin to enjoy the puppy's presence more. When you do this, keep your body between the two dogs so that they cannot compete for the food, and stop rewarding Kylo if he starts acting possessive and mean about the treats. The second thing is to make sure that Kylo has space of his own. Many older dogs simply get overwhelmed by puppies. Be sure to give the puppy a space of her own where she can go to chew on her own toys and leave him alone when he has had enough. As she gets older she should learn to respect his boundaries better if you work on teaching her to respect his space, so that he does not have to tell her to go away by growling or snapping at her. Lastly, decide what the rules are in your household for both dogs and you be the one to enforce them instead of either dog enforcing them. For example, if the rule is "Do not steal another dog's toy", then when you see one dog start to take the other dog's toy, go over there and defend the dog who originally had the toy by making the thief leave and returning the toy to whoever originally had it. Some great ideas for rules are: "No fighting", "No being possessive of people, objects, toys, or food", "No bothering another dog when he or she wants to be left alone", "No climbing, stepping, or generally disrespecting the space of another dog", or "No pushing another dog out of the way to receive attention". By deciding on the rules and being the one to enforce them, you are taking that job away from the dogs and preventing them from fighting over who is in charge, especially as the puppy grows. Neither dog should be in charge. You should be in charge. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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