How to Train a Puppy to Respect an Older Dog

Medium
2-4 Weeks
Behavior

Introduction

Sammy is a 12-year-old black Lab that is starting to feel her age. She used to go for long runs with her mistress, but now she can’t keep up anymore. She is achy from arthritis and has lost a lot of muscle tone. Sammy's owner decides to bring home a new puppy so she can have company and protection on her morning runs. The new puppy, a German Shepherd named Mack, is adorable and energetic, but from Sammy’s perspective, disruptive, annoying, and disrespectful of personal space! Mack is constantly jumping on Sammy, chewing on her ears, nudging, licking and otherwise being a pain. 

Sammy is not impressed, at first she would get up and walk away, but lately, she has started growling at Mack. Sammy's owner has taken a lot of time to ensure both dogs get lots of attention and Sammy does not seem to be jealous, as much as she seems to be in need of peace and quiet when she wants it. Before this escalates any further Sammy’s owner needs to teach her new puppy to respect her older dog.

Defining Tasks

Introducing a new puppy to your pet family, when it already contains an older dog, can be a bit of a rocky road, especially if your older dog doesn't have the energy or the inclination to keep up with his little sibling. Sometimes pet owners misconstrue the interaction between their new puppy and their older dog, becoming alarmed when the older dog corrects the new puppy to set boundaries and enforce respect. If you reprimand your older dog because you misinterpret his behavior for being mean or jealous, when he is just teaching your new pup some manners, you can, in fact, create a problem, where the new puppy does not respect boundaries of other pets in the home. 

Often, allowing an older dog to establish respect themselves can resolve the issue, however, if your older dog is unable to exert himself or the new puppy is particularly boisterous, you may need to step in and train your puppy appropriate behavior with your older dog. Often, draining your new pup's energy by providing lots of play and exercise can help to control his behavior around your senior dog. Limiting access between the dogs with crates or barriers can also help establish boundaries. You should not punish your puppy for exhibiting boisterous, playful behavior--this is natural for puppies and punishing natural behaviors will only confuse your new puppy and create anxiety. Instead, limiting, correcting and redirecting playful behavior around your older dog, to establish personal space, boundaries, and respect will be more effective and provide a peaceful, comfortable environment for both your old friend and your new one

Getting Started

You will need to dedicate time to both your older dog and your new puppy in order to meet each dog's needs--your older dog’s need for quiet and your younger dog's need for activity.  Remember, you need to be the leader and not allow either of your dogs to take over this role, which can create an imbalance in the pack dynamic, resulting in a lack of respect for either of your dogs. This will require time, patience and confidence. Make sure you have lots of toys and treats to redirect your young dog, and establish a quiet retreat for your older dog where he will not be disturbed or harassed by a puppy demanding attention.

The Pack Leader Method

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Step
1
Teach obedience
You need to be the pack leader to enforce that all pack members treat each other with respect and everyone's needs are met. Work with both your older dog to review obedience commands, and your new puppy to establish obedience commands like 'sit', 'stay', 'come' and 'down'.
Step
2
Provide exercise
Exercise your new puppy...lots. Burn off as much of his playful energy as possible with walks and outdoor or indoor play so he does not irritate your older dog with demands for play and roughhousing. When possible, include your older dog in walks to establish a pack mentality for both dogs, with you as leader.
Step
3
Engage mind
Work your new puppy's mind. Give him puzzle feeders and interactive toys. Teach him tricks and reward with treats, reduce regular feed accordingly if lots of treats are being used. Give your young dog a job to do that matches his breeding. Is he a scent hound? Teach him to track. A herding dog? Let him herd small animals if possible. A pulling dog? Teach him mushing commands and to pull a drag. Keep your puppy occupied until he is old enough to work, practice agility, or whatever suits his breed and nature.
Step
4
Do not allow dominance
Do not allow either dog to overstep their bounds with regard to position in the pack. Older dogs can correct behavior towards themselves but do not need to exert influence over your puppy's other behaviors such as playing with other pets or household activities. Young puppies should not be allowed to continuously pester older dogs with demands for attention and play. Do not sympathize with one dog over another when correcting behavior, treat both equally, correct dominant behavior. An older dog should be able to defend his boundaries but not to “rule” over the younger dog and vice versa.
Step
5
Allow play
Do not interfere in play and roughhousing behavior where both dogs are engaged. Sometimes play may look aggressive, with mouthing and growling, but learn to distinguish between annoyance and aggression and playful behavior where both parties are willing participants. Allow dogs to share toys when playing but do not allow toys or bones to be owned by one dog or the other, as the owner/pack leader you should own all toys. However, when one dog has a toy, the other dog should not be allowed to take it. If this occurs, correct the dog who is transgressing and remove the toy.
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The Correct Manners Method

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Step
1
Provide a safe place
Set up an quiet area for your older dog with a blanket or bed in an out of the way place where your older dog is comfortable.
Step
2
Supervise
Supervise and intervene to correct behavior if the puppy wants to play and the older dog is trying to avoid him.
Step
3
Seperate
If the puppy is demanding attention that the older dog doesn't want to, or is not able to, provide, step in between your older dog and your puppy. Direct your older dog to his quiet place and distract your puppy by taking him to another part of the house and providing him with a toy.
Step
4
Enforce seperation
If puppy is still bugging the older dog, separate them. Use a crate to contain your puppy, or set up pet barriers or gates to either contain the puppy, protect the older dog, or block off certain rooms.
Step
5
Socialize
Give your puppy access to dogs the same age or slightly older than him. Allow play so that your puppy learns socialization from other dogs with similar energy levels to himself.
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The Reinforce Respect Method

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Step
1
Reduce energy
Exercise and play with your pup to burn off some energy then bring pup on a leash near your older dog.
Step
2
Distract from older dog
When your pup notices your older dog, distract your puppy. Make a funny noise and call your puppy over. Ask him to sit or lie down and ignore the older dog.
Step
3
Reinforce respectful behavior
When your puppy sits, give him a treat. If you are using a clicker to mark behaviors, click to mark ignoring the older dog or say “yes”.
Step
4
Distract and reward
Bring out a toy and initiate a tug of war game. Remove toy and repeat previous steps. Repeat for about three games of tug of war for three sessions per day in sessions about 5 minutes long.
Step
5
Establish ignore behavior
Gradually increase the amount of time your puppy needs to ignore the older dog before getting a reward and play.
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Success Stories and Training Questions

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