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Old Dog, New Dog - Acceptance or Rejection?

When an owner loses one of their dogs, it is inevitable that the behaviour of the remaining dog will change. Sometimes the dog will appear very sad, it may become withdrawn, anxious, or nervous, or the opposite can be true, where the dog becomes more confident and relaxed. With the first scenario, it’s not uncommon for the owner to think that the remaining dog needs a friend and thus brings in a new puppy to solve the problem, however this can go two ways. Sometimes it works, and even gives the older dog a new lease of life, however sometimes the opposite it true and the older dog rejects the puppy and may become more withdrawn or even turn aggressive.

Anyone who is a Grandparent knows what fun it is to have the grandkids over for a few hours, playing games and having lots of laughs, love and cuddles, until it’s time to hand them back to their parents, which normally comes as a huge relief, as young children are exhausting.

This is also true in the dog world. Older dogs, just like people, can lack in energy, suffer from stiff joints, tire more easily, and therefore may not welcome a puppy pulling on their ears or jumping on them when they are trying to sleep. Puppies are full of life and know no boundaries, and therefore as their owner, it is your responsibility to manage the situation, teaching them good manners and how to behave in any given situation.

Dogs are pack animals and as such there is a pecking order. If the puppy believes that he should be higher in the pecking order than the older dog, he will continually demonstrate this by what can be perceived as bullying behaviour, which causes the older dog to withdraw. Just like when a person or child is bullied it can cause them to become anxious, introvert and generally very sad. If however, the older dog retains his position in the pecking order and sees this new arrival as an unruly child with no manners, he may attempt to deal with him/her by using aggression. When we observe this kind of behaviour, we tend to see this as the older dog being grumpy and will often scold them for behaving in such a manner. However, you wouldn’t expect your elderly parents to just put up with your children hurling themselves at them, so why do we expect our dogs to?

If any of the above sounds familiar or you are considering getting a new puppy, you need to take charge from the get-go, teaching the puppy manners, rules and boundaries. The best way to do this is via play and training, not involving the older dog, unless he comes over and wants to join in – again you wouldn’t try to get the grand parents to join in a game with your toddler if you could see they were tired. This also allows the older dog to see that you are taking action, so he/she doesn’t have to!

Another common mistake is when owners introduce a new dog into the home, in an attempt to calm the undesirable behaviour of their current dog, thinking that the dog’s behaviour stems from boredom, and a playmate would be the solution. Sometimes this appears to work, with the change in behaviour of the current dog being quite dramatic, but often this is only at the expense of the undesirable behaviour being transferred to the new dog (with more energy and enthusiasm thrown in!) In this situation, what’s actually happened is that the existing dog has acquired a second in command, meaning he no longer has to bark at everything or deal with visitors or situations, as the new dog does all this for him, acting on the very subtle language that the older dog is feeding him. In these instances, you have to address the hierarchy and not just the problem dog.

If you wish to know more about canine behaviour and how I can help redress the balance, then please click here: Canine Behaviour

Canine Behaviour

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