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The much anticipated Zephyr arrived at my house on Friday evening. He’s a little (actually not so little!) bundle of golden fluff, with a coal black nose and the cutest little pink tongue. If you can’t tell from that description and his picture, he is a Golden Retriever. So, the usual potty-training, teaching him to walk on a leash, learn his name, and not chew on everything in the house is as I expected, although it’s been ten years since I had a puppy, and I forgot some of the details during that time. What I didn’t expect is that my older dog does not adore him.
When I brought Gryffin, my second puppy, home, within 24 hours he and Alex were playing tug with a teddy bear. Cuteness and sweetness rolled into two furry golden kids. Gryffin however has decided that he doesn’t want Zephyr. He isn’t mean, hasn’t bitten, just grumbles and does his best to avoid the puppy. Gryffin does like to play with other dogs, although he prefers being petted and adored by people. I thought I could just say “Here’s your baby brother, Gryffin” because it worked before. Lesson learned. Instead of just introducing them, I should have been a little more prepared.
I’m sure that Gryffin will get used to the puppy; he’s a very stable dog that doesn’t stress much over anything except the slightest hint that I’m not happy with something he did. So for now, I am giving lots of treats to Gryffin when Zephyr is around, and rewarding them both for calm behavior. If you want to do a better job than I did at the initial introductions, please read Dr. Whitfield’s information that follows. Dr. Whitfield has an interest in behavior, and would be happy to do a consultation with you about any behavior problems you might be struggling with in your household, dog or cat.
Although it looks like they are resting comfortably together, if you look closely at Gryffin’s ears you will be able to see the signs of stress – his ears are laid back and he is avoiding looking at the puppy.
Denise Nickodemus, DVM
Introducing a Puppy to Your Adult Dog
In all the excitement of bringing home a new puppy, we have to take a minute to consider that not all family members may be excited about the new puppy. Unlike your weeks of anticipation and planning, this is a total surprise to your current dog. Behavioral responses can run the entire range from extreme fear to aggression, but by taking a few simple steps we can ease the stress and create a successful introduction!
Select a neutral location and have a partner so each dog can be apart on a leash for safety. This way your current dog will not feel threatened about the security of his home and your puppy will not be overwhelmed with a huge stimulus of a new house to explore. Your older dog should have had some exercise to rid any excessive energy before they meet. Take A LOT of treats.
As you begin the introduction walk the dogs closer together while feeding them both treats and giving praise. Monitor each dog as you get closer together for signs of distress. Signs to watch out for are licking lips, yawning, avoidance of gaze, stiff body posture, growling, and trembling. If either the adult dog or puppy shows these signs, do not force the interaction. Continue to offer treats and praise.
Never use punishment as this may create fear or aggression associated with one another. If your dog is displaying the distress signs as mentioned, continue to use the positive reinforcement (treats and praise). Although it may seem like you are “rewarding” for growling or avoidance - this is not the case. Think of it as giving a child an ice cream cone at the doctors where they may cry, scream, or hide. The ice cream does not encourage more anger or fear, it just makes the situation a little better for them, and over time even enjoyable.
If either the puppy or adult dog shows that he or she is not coping well and is showing signs of lunging forward to bite or trying to flee, your dog is over its threshold. Stop the interaction, and reassess. Keep them separated and offer each pet its own resources and attention. Think of how you can adjust the situation such as different location, before meal time (extra treat motivated), etc.
Take your time and go as slow as each dog needs.
If you keep these guidelines in mind and always have a pocket of treats, you will set yourself and your dogs up for a successful, long term relationship.
Kayla Whitfield-Bradley, DVM