Raising A Puppy With An Older Dog
Owners often buy a puppy as their existing dog grows older, hoping it will turn out to be just as wonderful. Unfortunately, second dogs have a habit of 'going wrong', leading owners to wonder just why this has happened when they used similar methods to raise both.
Why does it go wrong?
If a puppy is raised as the only dog in a household, it grows up without another dog to play with and to depend on for support. This forces the puppy to learn about humans and to learn to rely on them for company, play, and guidance.
A puppy that grows up with an older dog, already has a friend that speaks the same language and is ‘understandable’, and so has no need to make the difficult transition to learn to be good friends with humans.
This results in a lack of a deep relationship with owners which can lead to all sorts of problems later and also means that the owners will find the dog less satisfying than one that is brought up with only humans.
Raising a puppy with an older dog can lead to:
- a stronger bond with the other dog than with owners
- no need to learn human ways as they have the other dog for company
- never learns to play properly with humans as other dog is more fun to play with
- reluctance to learn from humans as the other dog is more fun
- lack of socialisation with dogs outside the family if owners keep them at home to play with older dog
Common behaviour problems in puppies raised with another dog:
- not coming back when called
- running off on walks
- chasing problems, especially livestock
- bad manners such as too boisterous, barging, stealing
- aggression to strangers
- aggression to other dogs
- severe separation issues when the other dog dies
Avoiding 'second dog' issues
It is possible to raise a puppy successfully with another dog providing you take care to restrict the time they spend together. This allows you the chance to build a good relationship with your puppy and teach everything required to produce a well-adjusted dog.
If you are raising a puppy with another dog, it is important to do three things:
- quickly interrupt any play and play with both your puppy and adult dog separately (see later)
- give your puppy separate outings and time away from the other dog during the day
- make sure they are separated when left alone
This is so that you can develop a relationship with your puppy that is stronger than the relationship he will have with the other dog. It is important that your puppy bonds to your other dog, but more important that he develops a better relationship with humans in the household as this will make him a better pet.
Don’t underestimate how difficult it is for a young puppy to learn to live with humans. We don’t speak their language, we look and smell very different, and we have very different ways of behaving. It takes time to learn our ways. Puppies have to want to be with us to learn about us and, if there is another dog available for play and social contact instead, guess who they will choose?! Ask yourself, if I went to a foreign country with a friend where I couldn’t speak the language and where the inhabitants were slightly intimidating, who would I spend my time with?
Separating your puppy from your other dog using stair gates and puppy play pens and, sometimes, closed doors, for some of each day for the first year will provide an opportunity for you to make friends with your puppy and teach it human ways. It will also make your puppy less dependent on your other dog. It is really important to do this but it is often something that owners are reluctant to do as they like to see their dogs playing together. It is not until behaviour problems start to appear during adolescence that owners wish they had taken more care when they were young.
Play with other dogs is powerfully rewarding to a puppy. It is a dog’s natural way to play and this is why it is so much fun. In comparison, our attempts to get them to play with toys is, at first, less successful. If you allow your puppy to play with your other dog non-stop throughout the day, he will not be interested in learning to play with humans. Since play with others creates strong bonds and builds relationships, the absence of play with people can have dire consequences.
Since our attempts to play with toys is initially less rewarding, we need to play for longer to give the puppy chance to learn how enjoyable it can be. For this reason, make sure you play with your puppy for 3 times longer than it plays with your other dog. So for each 2 minutes they are allowed to play together, you need to spend another 6 minutes playing with your puppy (and another 6 minutes playing with your other dog to prevent any jealousy!). You can see how the time you spend playing can easily mount up if you leave them alone together for too long (30 mins playing together will mean you need to play puppy and dog games for 3 hours!). This is why you need to keep your puppy separated for most of the time and only bring them together when they are tired and want to rest.
When you are resting in the evening or sitting down for a while during the day, bring both dog and puppy into the room but don’t allow them to play together. If you spend enough time playing with both, little and often, throughout the day, they will be less interested in playing together. If they are still playful, separate and play with each independently for a while before trying again.
As well as separate play-times, you will need to take your puppy out by itself daily. This will allow him to develop independence and learn to cope by himself without relying on the other dog. This is especially important since the puppy is likely to feel more vulnerable, and will naturally rely on him for support. Instead, your puppy will learn to be supported by you and your relationship will be enhanced. If you take your puppy out without the other dog, he can also learn to socialise independently with other people and also other dogs so he will grow up to be well-adjusted in his own right without the need for support from the other.
If you have kept your puppy and other dog separate during the day, and then put them together at night, they may take the opportunity to play and no one will get any sleep. So you will also need to find a way to separate them at night, either with stair gates or by keeping them in separate rooms.
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