Dog’s Eye View: The second dog
January 12, 2018
Okay, show of hands. How many of you already have dog? That was easy. How many of you got another dog/puppy within the last month? There are probably quite a few of you. Trick question: How many of you studiously studied books on canine behavior or went on line to credible websites and cautiously crammed from these resources before the new arrival? How many have taken the ornaments off of the lower part of the Christmas tree? That's a very wise "Holiday Puppies Anonymous" confession.
Aside from the fact that its winter and it has probably been a little chaotic at your house, the basics of bringing a new canine into your home are about the same year-round. But I thought it was worth mentioning a few things that are often taken for granted or might need more attention.
Since the new puppy is already with you, it may seem a moot point to think of breed type or characteristics of a mixed breed puppy. However, we all make assumptions about certain breeds such as, all Labrador retrievers are perfect with children or all border collies make the most obedient pets. We might think mixed breed dogs will evenly distribute all parts of their behavior perfectly according to the mixture of the parents or that a particular breed type will dominate this puppy's behavior.
Aspects of these statements may be true but we sometimes hope against hope that our puppy will automatically behave just as we think it should. Don't count on it. A big part of the puppy's behavior is brought out by the circumstances and stimulus surrounding it; that means you and your family and the other dog in the house.
Some nuts and bolts management changes are in order. I keep all food bowls picked up and only put them down when I am actually serving meals. The eating areas are at least several feet apart. Purchasing a bunch of new toys so that the only ones the puppy has are not the ones the older dog has had may head off some possessive squabbles. Learning to sleep in his own crate will be a useful and lifelong skill. There will surely be times when one of the dogs might need to be gone from the house, leaving the other at home. Bonding is a good thing but never being apart can be crippling.
I don't expect my older dog to endlessly suffer the attentions of a biting, playful puppy without some intervention. That might come in the form of redirecting the puppy to a toy to wrestle with or possibly giving him a short time out so that he can settle down. Yes, dogs understand dogs, but some adult dogs honor the puppy license for only so long before they say enough is enough. That can come in many forms including getting up and walking away, gruffly but inhibiting their bite to say stop now, to actually biting the puppy. Many baby puppies visit their veterinarian with a puncture on top of their nose and underneath their jaw after having stuck their innocent and uneducated nose in the mentor's food bowl.
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It's a lucky puppy that has a very calm, congenial and well behaved mentor in the house. The older dog alone can be of great assistance in household routines such as how to go outside and where to potty. He can also be a comfort to the puppy and a bridge from the litter to the new home. The tendency is to think that the older dog will train the puppy, making our job easier. The truth is this young one needs as much individual attention from you as your lovely older dog received when it was a puppy.
"How Many Dogs?! Using Positive Reinforcement Training to Manage a Multiple Dog Household," by Debby McMullen is book that might give you some ideas that you hadn't thought of.
Sandra Kruczek is a certified professional dog trainer at Total Teamwork Training, LLC with more than thirty years of experience.