Bringing a new puppy into a household with an older sometimes not so accepting dog can be a frustrating, potentially dangerous situation if not handled correctly.
This article was written by Alice Fritz. Alice believes in and uses only positive reinforcement training and has been a training coach in various types of obedience classes for approximately 8 years. If you have any questions regarding the introduction of a puppy into a household w/an older dog, or any obedience questions in general, Alice participates
About six months ago my Pitbull Henry was absolutely angry angry angry that we brought a puppy home. He couldn't even look at my Ursa without lunging, snapping, etc., etc..., well you get the picture, here is what we did.
This method takes TIME and PATIENCE. Do not expect immediate results. If you push it...it won't work.
1. Total separation. They were never in the same room for the first week but my husband built some very sturdy gates which we mounted in the doorways, but any barrier strong enough to keep the dogs separate will work. This phase of the training could take more than a week. Knowing your dogs and their distress signals is key.
2. Watch your older dog very carefully. Get to know what he/she does when stressed. Could be panting, tense muscles, ear position, tail position, etc... Engrave these signs in your memory and make sure anyone who will be helping you with this knows them too.
3. Then start controlled exposure to each other, CONTROLLED is the key. Both dogs MUST be on leash. You can do this in the house or outside. We did the exercises in the house at first on a limited basis and then worked oustide.
4. One of the barriers in the house was made so the dogs could see through it. We started with one human on one side of the gate with the older dog and one human on the other side with the pup. With both dogs on leash we allowed them to see each other from a distance. If Henry stayed quiet with no signs of stress he was rewarded handsomely with treats. As long as he maintained a calm state he got treats. At first this was not more than 5 seconds at the best. As soon as he started to stress we stopped the exercise and moved the dogs to places where they couldn't see each other. When he could bear to look at her for a minute or more we progressed to outside work.
Here's how to proceed from here:
5. Take the older dog to the area you are using first. Have lots of really yummy treats, I am not talking kibble. It needs to be something your dog won't ignore when he/she gets excited. It should be something you never give him/her at any other time. My dog loves Kentucky Fried chicken. We never eat that at our house so he thought it was a delicacy from God. You have to cut it up in really small pieces though or he/she will get full and lose interest.
6. Okay...you are now in the area with your older dog. Let him/her sniff around and just generally chill for a bit. Then the person with the puppy enters the picture. They should be far enough away that your older dog doesn't get aggravated right away. We had about 100 yards distance at first. You may need more or less.
7. As soon as the pup enters the area start feeding the older dog treats. Feed slowly at first...maybe one every two or three seconds. Watch your dog. If he/she starts to show ANY stress signs tell the person with the pup to leave and stop the exercise.
8. If your dog shows no stress signals allow the pup to move closer. As the pup moves closer you treat faster and faster so that the closer the pup gets the more treats the older dog gets.
9. As soon as your dog starts to stress...and this doesn't mean full on barking...it means those signals you have identified previously, you STOP the exercise.
You can repeat this exercise twice a day if it doesn't seem too stressful for your dogs. Eventually you will be able to have both dogs in close proximity without explosions of anger from the older dog. Never never never let them off leash together until your older dog is able to sit or be near the pup with NO signs of stress or anger.
I know this seems like lots of work but the results are awesome. You have to take your time and proceed at your dog's comfort levels...not your own. It took us almost a month before the dogs were comfortable with each other. And...if you feel at all uncomfortable with this method please don't use it. I have been working with dogs in various types of classes for about 8 years and I admit, I had my moments of discomfort. But here is a pic of Henry and Ursa now.