Owning more than one dog is now commonplace and as such people at some stage will find themselves introducing their new puppy to their well-established family pet.
Sounds simple? Then think again!
How well your established dog adjusts to the new addition will depend on many factors, so much so that no two dog meetings will likely be the same. By understanding some of the factors involved, however, we can manage the situation for a smooth transition to a larger family.
In general it can be said that most new pups behave in similar ways; they are playful, exuberant, energetic and so on. Your established dog is not quite so straight forward, however, and it is their characteristics that we need to be particularly tuned into if we are to ensure harmonious family relations from the outset.
A dog’s eye view
If all this sounds a bit complex, put yourself in your dog’s position. I’m not sure many of us would be too thrilled for our husband to come home and say,”Hello darling; meet my new wife. She is moving in for good and I just know you will get on famously!” And new wife proceeds to take over your possessions, destroying some, takes up your bed space and wets on your bedroom floor. Worse, she gets all the attention from your husband – from everyone in fact!
Not good, really.
This is exactly how your existing family member might well feel. The extent to which he will feel this depends on his temperament, age, dominance traits, territorial traits, his health, special attachments he has to a family member and/or his possessions and so on.
Understanding and sensitivity
It is likely that you cannot change your dog’s characteristics and nor would you necessarily want to. Afterall, the characteristics maketh the dog. Instead, it is up to us as the human to understand our dog’s ways and be sensitive to them.
In regard to temperament, some dogs might be naturally a bit snappy and value their personal space. I think of our Chihuahua; he has never bitten, but he grumbles and snarls a treat if he doesn’t like what’s invading his space. In short, he is stressed by such things and his behaviour shows this. For dogs like Wilbur, the time puppy spends with him should be controlled, starting from brief encounters and gradually progressing to longer intervals. Such dogs will probably always value some puppy free time.
Dominance is another factor to consider. Some dog breeds are naturally dominant, like the Jack Russell, and they can feel the need to exert their control and establish their higher status in the hierarchy. Other breed types have no desire to dominate at all.
The problem with dominance behaviour is that puppy could be at risk, so contact between puppy and dog should be monitored until such time as you are satisfied puppy is safe. Even if your dog seems fine with puppy, take time to secretly watch them because a smart dog might save up his bullying ways for when he thinks no one is looking.
The other problem with domineering behaviour is that your new puppy could become a sycophant. This involves subservient behaviours, such as rolling over in front of the dog to expose the belly (yes, you’re boss, I give in!) to constant jumping up to fawn and lick at the dog’s mouth. All this might seem quite cute while puppy is young, but the behaviour can extend for a lifetime. That is, no matter how self assured your puppy becomes as an adult dog, they will always behave as a sycophant to the older dog. It’s not nice to watch and can be obsessive in its nature. Interestingly, they will likely not be like this with other dogs; only the one that dominated them as a pup.
Territorial behaviour is another area to be wary of because puppy could be at risk. Bones and food are a good example here. Even the best trained dog with respect to allowing humans to touch, take, move their bones or food might react very differently when puppy tries the same. A good rule of thumb would be to feed them separately until they have had a chance to establish a relationship beyond the potentially controversial area of food. And if you do finally feed them together, make sure puppy gets his puppy food; some dogs will happily consume both meals in two quick inhalations!
Note that the territorial behaviour can extend to bones buried in places you don’t know about, so all the more reason to be within earshot or visual sight of your puppy and dog until this ground is well tested and all is well.
Dog health is a big factor in puppy acceptance. If your dog is old and arthritic, or has chronic pain of some form, then their threshold of tolerance for a puppy bouncing all about them and tugging and chewing on ears and tail will be diminished. The time-out factor is best used here, whereby you limit the time your dog is exposed to puppy.
Along with dog health there is the more general issue of age. Just like humans, dogs slow down with age and can become exhausted and possibly grumpy by an exuberant puppy constantly bothering them. Be sensitive to this and allow your old dog some peaceful quiet time alone. Fortunately puppies tend to exhaust themselves too, so puppy nap times can also bring welcome relief.
Whatever the personality and character traits of you existing dog, one general rule is that of ‘first impressions’.
Harking back to the example of a new wife (or husband) being brought home, make sure your dog doesn’t have this experience. Plan that first meeting and make sure everyone in the family understands. Bring puppy into the room where your dog is and place puppy down. Make a big fuss over your existing dog, explaining that although a new pet has arrived, he’s still number one and special and so on. Ignore little puppy, who won’t even notice he’ll be so busy pottering about in this wonderful new play area. Stay right by your dog and keep patting and praising him.
In this way his first impression is ‘Yes, a new creature has arrived, but this results in me getting spoilt!’ This will help alleviate feelings of jealousy, which are bound to be natural.
A word of caution is that even when you think all is well, stay within earshot or eyesight of the two canines for the first couple of weeks. If you go out, best to place puppy separately in the laundry or somewhere. Placing pup safely away is especially important if you have more than one established dog. As much as we like to humanise our dogs and think we know their every likely move, they are animals and like any animal can act on instinct.
A little forethought will go a long way to ensuring a firm, happy and everlasting relationship soon strikes up between your canine family members. Dogs are social animals and greatly enjoy the company of one of their own feather. #