It’s often the case that dog lovers can’t stop at just one dog in their household. They may reason with themselves for a long time, but there’s always a time when they come across a puppy that they simply can’t resist. Is that your case? What should you do? Are you already a pet parent and you can’t wait to make your family bigger, yet you worry about introducing a new puppy to the older dog? Here are some tips to show you how to do it right to calm your mind a little bit.
Make sure the dogs are healthy
It doesn’t matter if you found a puppy in the street, get it from a friend or a shelter, or buy it from a breeder - PetPlace recommends a full physical examination in all cases. You can never be too careful with your loved ones and you certainly don’t want to put your older dog in danger. Make sure your new puppy is up-to-date with all of his vaccinations and that he’s been de-wormed. It won’t do any harm to check if you didn’t forget about your senior dog’s vaccinations as well.
Prepare your house
It’s important to do absolutely everything to prevent possible conflicts between your dogs - sometimes there’s nothing you can do because they simply don’t like each other, but most times, tension is just because they started on the wrong foot. So put away any toys and chews to avoid territorial aggression and buy a second set of food dishes, or scatter food so it's enriching too. Make sure you have enough space for the dogs to be away from each other when they want to. Plus, to avoid accidents, take into consideration that a puppy is just like a human child - a little bit clumsy, but very curious. You have to eliminate any potential dangers, e.g. put some rugs on slippery floors, secure the stairs or move a rocking chair so that the puppy can’t get hurt underneath it.
During the introduction
Your older dog already thinks about your house as his own house (and rightly so) so in order to avoid territorial problems, think about a neutral place for an introduction, like a park. Let the dogs sniff each other - that’s how they meet and get to know each other better. The leashes should be loose, to not give the dogs any tension, but you should be able to bring the dogs away from each other in case anything happens. Take someone with you, so that each of you could focus on one dog only. Try to stay relaxed, because animals can really sense your feelings; if you’re stressed, they’ll stress too and they can become too wary about each other. Parallel walking is great for dogs to get to know each other, walk at a distance and gradually let them walk closer and closer to each other.
Monitor the behaviour
For the first couple of weeks, you should never leave the dogs together unattended. They need time to get comfortable around each other; insecurity may cause tensions. Let them play, but be there with them. Puppies are usually much more energetic and eager to play, so observe your older dog. If you see that he’s tired or irritated, take the puppy away for a while. Don’t ever force any reactions, because it’s essential that both your dogs feel secure around you. Make sure you spend time with them separately, especially with your older dog. You don't want him thinking that that he’s less important, because he might resent the new dog.
You should start training your puppy as soon as possible. He may be playful, but the younger he is, it’s also easier to teach him something. Plus, there shouldn't be different rules for the dogs, if there’s a ban on sleeping on the couch, it should include all of the animals. If you train your puppy in the garden using treats as rewards, let your older dog do some tricks to gain a treat as well; that will prevent them from fighting over it.
But above all - be patient. Just like with children or even adults, the dogs will need some time to get used to the new situation. It is very rare to have two dogs who really don’t like each other and there’s nothing you can do about it. Most times it’s all about the right approach. First weeks can be though, but you should just focus on giving love and spending time with both your dogs. Once you sit on your couch with both of them giving you dog kisses, you’ll see it’s all worth it.
Regardless of how much we adore our dogs, we can’t always be around them. This is why, in addition to creating an amazing home for them, we have to make sure that we also help them be at ease when we’re not there. Of course, this is one of those things that’s much easier said than done, since being on their own can be very stressful for dogs, for some dogs, being left home alone can even lead to separation anxiety (click here for separation anxiety video).
Let’s see how you could help a dog like this German Shepherd Golden Retriever mix to settle by themselves.
First off, you have to make sure that your dog is able to feel relaxed when you are at home, but are not paying attention to him or her. For that, he or she should have their own bed or covered den, in a place where they won’t be distracted. Indeed, when you’re cooking, or doing some type of activity, give him or her a tasty food-release toy in their bed. By doing so a couple of times, they will learn to enjoy their bed when no one is paying attention to them.
Now, if they start following you around, this is perfectly normal, since dogs are social beings, after all, however they need to learn that they can't have your attention ALL of the time, so make sure you spend some time each day ignoring your dog, so that they learn to amuse themselves.
Move a Bit Further Away
Separation is something that can be taught, but it has to happen gradually, with plenty of patience. When your dog is calm and at ease, use baby gates across doorways to teach your little dog that it’s ok for you to be at a distance from them, and they don’t have to worry. Before going through the baby-gate, make sure you leave some treats spread out on the floor, or give them a toy. Stay away for short periods at first, and then gradually build up.
It is very important that if you see your dog becoming very anxious, you go back to leaving them for a shorter period of time. If the dog is not able to calm down at all, it may be a good idea to look for a qualified behaviourist for help.
The Big Step: Leaving Them Alone
Before leaving your pooch in the house, make sure to take them out for a walk to make sure that they’ve gone to the toilet and burned off some energy. Be sure to leave them with water and safe chew toys. It’s also a good idea to have your things all prepared, so that you can be both quick and calm when you’re leaving, so that the dog won’t pick up on your stressed energy and become stressed themselves. Something else that can help a great deal is establishing a leaving routine, and incorporating a special phrase in it, that’s only used when you leave. Routine is crucial for helping your dog know what will happen next, and for helping them feel safe.
It’s also a good idea to make sure they have a food-release toy, or something that will keep them entertained for at least 15 minutes. The tastier, the better. Another great idea is leaving an old item of clothing that smells like you in their bed, so that they will have something to help keep them safe. Also, be sure to leave the radio or the TV on, to keep them distracted from outside noises. Finally, it’s important to ensure that you’re not gone for a very long time the first couple of times. If you have a camera you can use to supervise them, that would be best. However, even if you don’t, try leaving for only 30 minutes the first time, and then gradually increasing the time you spend away from the house. When figuring this aspect out, it’s also very important to make sure that you take into consideration how long they can go before going to the bathroom.
Leaving your dog at home alone for the first time, can be quite a stressful experience for both of you. However, if you take care to prepare them for it ahead of time, this can become a more pleasant journey, which they can be eased into slowly. Patience is the key, however, since dogs are social beings, and they do prefer to be around humans as much as possible. Still, this doesn’t mean that they can’t learn to be happy for a while on their own.
For more advice on leaving your dog home alone, check out our videos on Canine Separation Anxiety
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