We commonly get requests from owners looking for a puppy, but they’re unsure of how their new buddy will fit in with their older dog. Having a dog friend or puppy around seems like it would be good for older dogs, but there are a few things to consider.
Many families begin seriously considering getting a puppy when their first dog starts to age. Most families never want to be without a dog so getting a younger dog before your senior friend passes away seems like the logical step. But how will your senior dog feel about the new addition?
A Puppy Can be a Good or Bad Thing Depending on Your Older Dogs Personality
There are a number of factors that will impact how your older dog reacts to a new puppy. First of all, what is your older dog’s experience with other dogs? If he/she has been well-socialized and can happily interact with other dogs, this will typically get things started off on the right foot (or paw) when it comes to bringing home a new puppy. (Learn about the differences in personality between Sheepadoodles, Goldendoodles and Bernedoodles here.)
A dog that has significant fear aggression or other negative reactions to other dogs in general will have a harder time warming up to a new puppy. Fortunately there are some very calm doodle breeds.
Still, even if your dog is generally accepting of other four-legged-friends, he may feel quite differently about a puppy and about a puppy in his home. Older dogs can find puppies’ playful energy particularly obnoxious.
Most of the time, a stable-tempered older dog will be able to communicate to the puppy that he/she does not want to play or at least does not want to play as much or as often as the pup without anyone getting hurt. Still, it’s a good idea to keep a close eye on your older dog and new pup over the first few weeks as they transition.
If your older dog is clearly setting boundaries with the new pup, but the new pup isn’t catching on, you may need to step in to help redirect the pup. An older dog may growl or snap at a pup when the puppy is jumping and biting at him to play. Puppies are most difficult in the 6-10 month age range.
Oftentimes, puppies get the memo and back off on their own, but some are still learning social skills so may need to be redirected by their owner to a more appropriate play outlet such as their basket of toys. We generally do not recommend scolding your older dog for growling at the new pup.
This is simply his way of setting boundaries and scolding him can lead to more stress and potentially bigger issues between the two of them down the road. With consistency and time, your puppy will learn to respect the boundaries of your older dog.
Your Puppy’s Temperament Will Also Determine Whether He or She is a Good fit for the Older Dog
Another factor that will affect how your older dog accepts a new puppy is the puppy’s temperament. We strongly recommend finding a breeder who can help guide you on choosing a pup based on personality. All puppies are adorable, but their temperaments do vary quite a bit even from a young age.
If you already have an older dog at home, you will want to follow your breeder’s recommendation on getting a pup who tends to be more submissive in nature and mild-mannered. A naturally submissive and calmer pup will most likely learn to respect your older dog’s space quickly.
It can also be beneficial to get a pup of the opposite gender of your current dog. While dogs of all genders can and often do get along just fine, dogs of opposite gender are overall less likely to bicker for dominance than pairings of the same gender.
Remaining consistent in how you interact with your older dog will also greatly aid in his acceptance of the new pup. Your goal should be to keep as much of your previous schedule and routine as possible. Making sure your dog still has a safe spot to sleep where the puppy won't bother him is one example of making sure he still feels safe in his environment.
If your dog is used to being fed at certain times, going a daily walk at the same time each day, etc., then you will want to make sure to keep up these parts of his routine even with the new addition around.
When it comes to introducing your new puppy to your older dog, we recommend finding a neutral meeting place. If you simply bring the puppy into the house, oftentimes the older dog may feel a little territorial over his space. Allowing your dogs to meet on neutral territory (i.e. a field, park, etc.) allows them to get to know each other without risk of the older dog feeling he needs to resource guard or defend his space.
Once you take both dogs back home, you will want to still give priority to your older dog. You will want to be sure to let your older dog have all the "firsts" - meaning give them attention first, let them outside first, feed them first, etc.
Sometimes, an already established dog can feel a little threatened if they feel like a new pup is coming in and "taking over" especially when everyone is fawning all over them. It's probably much the way a first child feels when a new baby arrives on the scene! As time goes on, your older dog will get used to having the pup around, but being extra vigilant in keeping his routine the same the first few weeks will keep disagreements between the two dogs at a minimum.
So far it may sound like a lot of work to get your older dog adjusted to a new pup, and it can be especially during the first few weeks. But there are some strong positives to bringing home a puppy while your older dog is still around.
Dogs Are Pack Animals and a Well Trained Older Dog is Good for a Young Puppy
The positives to getting a new puppy often outweigh the difficulties surrounding the transition period. First of all, dogs are pack animals and learn well from watching other dogs. Your older dog can prove to be a skilled teacher and trainer of your new puppy. If your older dog is well-trained, it will often make for a significantly easier time training your pup.
As an example, if you walk your two dogs together and pass an object of interest such as the neighbor’s cat, your puppy’s natural reaction may be to bark or pull wildly on the leash, but if your older guy can show him the ropes of remaining calm and focused on the leash, your pup will be more apt follow his lead and remain poised.
This goes both ways, though. On the flipside, if your older dog is not well trained, then he may have the opposite effect on your pup. If your older dog is reactive on the leash, your puppy will almost certainly feed off this excited energy and follow suit.
Another positive is that oftentimes, while the puppy’s incessant desire to play can be a bit obnoxious to an older dog, it can also bring out some of your older dog’s youthful energy. Many owners report that their older dog starts to play again with their new friend. They will typically not want to play as often or as vigorously as a pup, but still may be inclined to get in a few good wrestling sessions or playful romps each day.
Playing with other dogs is phenomenal exercise for your older buddy as it involves a large variety of movements — more so than a typical walk in the neighborhood. And exercise is a huge key to your older dog’s long-term health. Fit dogs generally suffer less from debilitating mobility issues and exercise is often the prescribed treatment for dogs in the early stages of arthritis.
As always, we recommend careful planning and thoughtful consideration before getting a puppy, especially if you already have an older dog at home. But when owners are prepared to work through the transition, we often find that the two dogs can coexist quite peacefully despite the large age difference.
Dogs are generally such cooperative, pack-oriented animals that they tend to adapt to changes in their environment and social structure with relative ease. Before long you may notice that your older dog actually seeks out your younger pup for play time, snuggles, etc.
Jenna and the JLDD Team