I wrote about how I’m feeling overwhelmed with a puppy.
And then I received all these nice comments on how it gets easier and your puppy doesn’t have to be perfect and so on.
Only … my main concern is actually my senior dog Ace! (2019 update: Ace has passed away.)
I’m worried my older dog is Ace is being too aggressive when correcting Remy (at times) when resources are involved like his bed, toys or … ME.
It’s normal for an adult dog to correct a puppy
Don’t get me wrong, it’s totally normal for an older dog to correct a rambunctious puppy. You can bet the older dog will growl or snarl or even lunge if a puppy is being a pest. This is how a puppy learns it’s rude to jump on a dog’s head while he’s resting, for example.
The older dog shouldn’t be scolded for doing this as long as he’s not physically hurting the puppy.
(Some puppies will yelp and squeal even if they are not hurt. I don’t react to this.)
It’s the owner’s job to re-direct the puppy
The dog owner needs to make sure to re-direct the puppy from being a pest so the older dog doesn’t have to correct the puppy most of the time. Call it a team effort for setting boundaries.
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Where it gets complicated … resource guarding
My dog Ace is definitely showing some resource guarding around his bed, toys and, unfortunately, ME.
This is also to be expected to some degree. If a dog is calmly chewing on a bone, he’s going to growl if a puppy barges over to take it. Again, it’s always the owner’s job to manage these interactions.
However, in my opinion, Ace has crossed a line a couple of times. (And this still falls on me as the owner. Dogs are dogs.)
Older dog attacks new puppy
One example was when I was sitting on the floor petting Ace and he lunged at Remy for approaching us.
Ace used teeth on Remy’s head for a second and left marks (no punctures or scratches). Remy squealed and ran away.
I should have seen this coming and blocked Remy because, let’s be honest, he was BARGING his way onto my lap.
However, I thought Ace’s reaction was out of line.
It left me really stressed out about how I’m going to manage future interactions.
But on the plus side, Remy is totally fine. He’s happy go lucky and resilient. He likes Ace and he is not afraid of Ace in the slightest. They do have positive interactions with each other every day.
Other notes about Ace:
- He has been sick for 7 months and has some pain. He’s also had to wear a cone collar which blocks his vision, hearing and movement.
- I have seen some minor resource guarding from Ace over the years (Behavioral issues are rarely “out of nowhere.”)
- Since he’s been sick, Ace has shown increased resource guarding around my cat Beamer, so it’s not just the puppy.
How to set new dogs up for success
Here are my recommendations for introducing dogs that will be living together.
In our case, these have helped things go as smoothly as possible for managing two dogs of different “generations.”
1. Keep dog intros slow.
That goes for the initial meeting but also the next couple of days and weeks. Slowly integrate them into each other’s lives. Don’t force them to play, interact, cuddle, pose for photos, etc.
They may or may not choose to do these things on their own but don’t force them to be best friends.
See my post: How to introduce your dog to a puppy.
2. Prevention. Prevention. Prevention.
Pick up all toys, bones, food bowls, etc. Don’t give them opportunities to fight or guard items. It’s wise not to sit on the ground petting one dog if there is any risk of “guarding” like my example with Ace. Use gates, crates and leashes as needed.
3. Re-direct the younger dog from your older dog.
He should not be allowed to bother the older dog. Older dog needs to know you have his back.
4. Seek out positive experiences.
Do walks go well? Go for lots and lots of walks together as a pack if possible. Bring another adult along to help.
Ace does much better with Remy when we’re outside. He tolerates Remy getting in his face for the most part outside. They can walk together, sniff the same bushes, touch noses. I’m using that to create positive interactions. “Yay! Such good boys! Treats for all!”
5. Calmly have both dogs sit and then give them treats.
Dog Behaviorist Dr. Patricia McConnell has an excellent post on dog-to-dog resource guarding. One idea she listed is to give both dogs treats one after the other for calm behavior. This is assuming you have no tension between the dogs and there is no risk of fighting.
In our case this works really well. I use a spoon of peanut butter, have both dogs sit (Remy tethered) and say their names one after the other giving them a few licks rotating back and forth. It teaches Remy to stay and teaches Ace fun things happen around Remy.
A few other things I want to mention about how to get your older dog to accept your puppy
1. Dogs really do live in the moment.
Even if they fight or bite they generally move on from second to second. They can have many positive interactions in any given day.
2. Dogs adapt.
Even if two dogs have had a couple of bad interactions they can move on and live peacefully together if they’re set up for success. Usually anyway. There are exceptions.
3. Humans need to move on too.
Dog owners have to move on and change their mindsets as well. Even if something bad has occurred, you have to move on. For example, I need to stay light and positive (not tense). I can’t sit there predicting a reaction from Ace or it’s bound to happen. I may even cause a reaction.
4. It’s not personal.
Ace is not capable of “hating” Remy or being upset with me for getting a new dog. Those are human emotions. My dog is just being a dog, guarding what he feels is valuable and protecting his space. While we can make it complicated, it’s really pretty simple.
What do the rest of you have to add to this?
You can give me some advice if you wish. I’ll take it or leave it, but it’s really hard to understand an exact situation without actually observing the dogs, don’t you think?
You could also share your own ups and downs.
I love hearing from you!
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September 2016 update: Things are going much better! Ace is no longer showing aggression.
2019 update: Sadly, Ace has passed away.
Dog-to-dog resource guarding (Patricia McConnell)