In our “Ask the Dog Trainer” column, expert trainer Colleen Safford answers reader questions about all aspects of dog training. Colleen is the founder of New York Walk & Train, named “Best of NY” by New York Magazine.
My grandson just got an adorable new puppy. Old pet has been barking nonstop since new puppy came into house. Family read all the hints about introducing on neutral ground with leashes, but old dog continues to viciously attack new puppy, and barked all night. They are ready to give new puppy away already. Situation seems undoable. Please help. Boy needs the new puppy. Thanks.
To me, it sounds like your particular situation warrants the help of a trainer.
First impressions are important. Making sure to take this process slowly is very important. Often people will start on the track to slow acclimation, human haste takes over and we push it too fast.
Unless the dogs are clearly loosey-goosey waggy tails, it’s important to take precautions when introducing new housemates. This is particularly the case when introducing a new dog to a long time single resident.
I do not know the history of the older dog, but if he has not been previously socialized with other dogs, or has shown lifelong signs of aggression towards other dogs, it will make this transition significantly more difficult. In such cases a decision would need to be made on whether it makes sound sense to keep the animals together under one roof. If you opt to do so, creating a safe management system for them would be imperative.
I am not sure exactly what you mean, but I am most concerned by you saying that the older dog is viciously attacking the younger pup. If the older dog is baring teeth, barking and lunging towards or causing injury to the younger pup – you must stop the interactions until you can work with a professional.
A trainer can better access the dog to dog language that is being exchanged and can help assess the potential for danger to both humans and animals in the situation.
Your situation is a bit more complicated, but some general rules of thumb for new dog introductions:
- Introduce dogs on neutral territory.
- Give each dog an opportunity to get some quality heart pumping exercise before the introduction.
- Keep a good HEALTHY distance between the dogs to begin. Walk each dog on leash at a distance of 15-20 feet apart to begin. If the dogs seem mildly interested and calm, you can slowly cut down on the distance between the dogs, but for this first time keep a healthy distance and do not overwhelm them. Each time the dogs look at the other and remain calm, praise and reinforce the behavior (with a food reward). Use a happy, “good boy,” voice.
- Allow the dogs to sniff each other through a barrier such as a fence. While barriers are NOT a good long term solution, they can provide for brief safety insurance for first time introductions (though should NOT be used if either dog is already a fence barker).
- If the dogs seem comfortable while walking together and meeting through a fence without becoming stiff or displaying prolonged growling and barking at one another, you can progress to a nose to tushie introduction. J This is an appropriate dog greeting. Never pull on the leash or apply pressure to a dog’s collar while he is greeting/sniffing a new friend. This can remind the dog he has no “flight” option. Always be sure leash is slack.
- Keep the dogs on leash (even if you drop them) for their first few socialization sessions. This will give you more control if necessary in breaking up any tussles and squabbles.
- Do keep in mind that dogs CAN growl or snark at one another from time to time. Do your best to allow them to speak their own language within reason (and as long as no one is getting injured).
- NEVER punish your dog for growling, barking or even fighting with another dog. Your dog is simply anxious, and stressed. He needs to work on his dog skills. Punishment will only reinforce to him that life is NOT nice when in presence of other dogs.
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