Extending the Family: A New Puppy in the Pack
This week I’m writing about a topic of great interest to me personally at present. In a few short months I will be bringing a new puppy home (a second Cocker Spaniel) to live with my slowly growing family.
To me, the idea of a new puppy is nothing new as I see new puppies happily integrate every week with older dogs at Happy Paws daycare, yet when my fiancé mentioned his concerns about inter-pooch rivalry, I stopped to consider just how different things might be in our home environment. I’ve set about my research, and can share what I have learnt with you if you too are considering adding a new puppy to your fur family. Knowing your existing dog’s signs of jealousy, and limitations seems to be the best starting point on this quest
Signs of Jealousy in your Existing Dog
New Behaviours such as-
– Excessively urinating or ‘marking’ in areas of the house or yard previously left alone
– Growling and lip lifting (tooth baring) at the puppy or other family members
– Destructive behaviours such as destroying furniture
– Attention seeking such as incessant barking
– Older dog claiming the puppy’s bed, toys or food
Dogs are naturally pack animals, and both understand and rely on their place in the pecking order of their family. Disruption to this natural hierarchy can be a major problem and anxiety, jealousy and aggression may follow.
The established dog must always remain higher on the pecking order to feel secure in his position, so this means resisting those urges to let the adorable new puppy claim your lap, bed, or extra treats. Give your attention to the older dog first. Feed and direct the older dog with cues first (and the puppy will soon catch on and copy too).
Now that a few of the classic signs of Jealousy are established, how does one go about the initial introduction between the old dog and new puppy? The most optimal introduction should be done in neutral territory, such as in a park or open space. If your new pup is not yet fully vaccinated, public spaces are best avoided as they may harbor traces of contaminated materials (from sick dogs), and a friend or family member’s yard could be used.
-If possible, exercise both puppy and older dog separately before hand so they are in a calmer, more relaxed state of mind before meeting. Keep it light an don’t wear them out too much so that tiredness plays a part in the meeting
-Get a relative or friend to help you with the introduction
-Keep Both Dogs on lead and let them contemplate each other from a distance for a few minutes
– Walk the dogs past each other at a distance of a few meters, and gauge their reaction
– Use verbal praise to both dog and puppy if they approach each other. Dogs are naturally curious, and most likely will be keen to meet
– Keep this exercise fairly short, and if all goes well take things to the next step. Praise each dog once separate again and reinforce the positive message with high value treats
Now that the obstacle of public meeting is overcome, its time to meet at home.
– Use a secure outdoor area such as a yard or courtyard. Be sure to have removed any food or highly prized possessions from sight at this point
– Begin with both dogs on lead at a distance so they can once again observe one another and verbally praise calm and composed behaviour
– When both dog and puppy are calm. Slowly remove their leads and let them approach and sniff each other
– Be sure to always supervise the dog and puppy until they have firmly established the ground rules of their new relationship. Once separate, once again praise both dog and puppy and reinforce with treats
New relationships between dogs take time, and supervision should continue for some time when your older dog and puppy interact. At home, separate the two by using a baby gate between rooms or puppy pen so the older dog can chose to have peace and relaxation away from those nipping teeth, while still encouraging communication and promoting a sense of companionship.
Dogs need routine just as much as they need to feel comfortable in their pack position. Be sure to continue your usual routine when the puppy arrives- from walk time, to feeding time and include the puppy from the earliest possible time in these activities so they become routine for him or her too.
Spend time with the older dog alone on a regular basis to remind them of their priority in your life and heart and solidify the bond you had before the new puppy was introduced to the family.
Thanks for taking the time to check in, and as always- give your pup a kiss form me X
Lolly (Happy Paws co- manager, resident vet nurse and dog blogger)