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Advice needed - older dog and new puppy

Discussion in 'Dog Training and Behaviour' started by doce_24, Nov 16, 2020.


  1. doce_24

    doce_24 PetForums Newbie

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    So this is my first post here, though looking through other threads over the last few weeks has really helped! Will give probably too much info, but just want to try and explain the situation as best I can.

    I live at home with my parents (thanks to COVID/general economy situation..) and we have a male cockapoo who is almost 7 years old, named Bert. He was our first dog and we made plenty of mistakes in raising him and spend most of our time trying to fix those mistakes. He can be quite jumpy when he is excited and is an awful counter-surfer, for example. When he was a puppy he was overly friendly to people/dogs, and very submissive (we thought this was just classic puppy behaviour, but now know it was an anxiety thing). As he got older he would have the odd bad incident with another dog (getting chased excessively, pinned down, bitten on his back) and it gradually made him more and more reactive. We've been working really hard on this over the last year, and felt we had got him to a good-ish place. Throughout his increasing reactivity, he has always been good with certain doggy friends, so it didn't feel like he was always dog aggressive, just with strange dogs who bounded up into his face. We always felt like getting a second dog would be good for him, as he had so much fun when he was with dogs he trusted.

    So this year we took the plunge and brought home an 8 week old cockapoo male, named Ernie. We did the initial meeting in a neutral area, where Bert responded with a bit of curiosity and then mostly ignored him. We kept them separated for most of the first week, and crate trained Ernie. During that week Bert barked and growled a lot at Ernie and found the general disruption upsetting. We got a dog trainer in at the end of the first week to help us with questions and worries we had, and they had their first play together in our yard under her supervision. She said that everything was normal, but Bert played a bit too rough with the puppy and we needed to watch that.

    It's now been 7 weeks and the situation is much better, but still very stressful. Bert tolerates Ernie being in the house (the only sore area is the sofa, where Bert will sometimes charge at him from if Ernie comes into the room, but we are working on that). Generally Bert will just ignore Ernie as long as Ernie isn't directly engaging with him. Ernie on the other hand is obsessed with Bert. When we let them interact, Ernie will usually just follow Bert around endlessly, snapping at his ears and trying to get Bert to play with him. They have had some 'play' (though I'm not confident it was pure play, as there was no role reversal like they say there should be, it was Bert mostly mouthing Ernie's neck and pawing him across the face, but when I separated them, Ernie ran straight back to continue, so he didn't seem unhappy with the interaction) but mostly whenever Ernie goes up to Bert, Bert shows his teeth and growls, very much telling Ernie to back off, and Ernie doesn't listen. I usually intervene and try to re-direct Ernie's attention to me, but he doesn't want to play with me, I'm not as exciting as Bert. We give Bert plenty of time away from Ernie, and Ernie still spends a fair amount of time crated (I worry about this, but he does get 2 walks a day, and plenty of play sessions, though it would be nice if we could just have the two dogs free-roaming in the kitchen during most of the day (as long as there is someone there supervising)).

    My question is, will it get better? I'm not expecting Bert to be best friends with Ernie, I'm mostly just relieved he isn't attacking him, but I worry it isn't fair on either dog. Bert feels harassed, and Ernie doesn't seem to be actually being taught what is and isn't acceptable behaviour. Ernie is also very shy around all other dogs/people (we are working on this, but its difficult during COVID/social distancing), and I worry that he will have problems with other dogs when he is older. I'm also not sure what to do when they are interacting and I don't think Bert is happy. I try to leave it for 10-20 seconds to let Bert give signals to Ernie that he doesn't want to play and then move Ernie away, but Ernie doesn't want to play with me, and I either have to crate him or just physically stop him from running back to Bert, both of which make Ernie frustrated. How can I help Ernie learn to leave Bert alone when he doesn't want to play?

    I think we are all just overwhelmed and exhausted, as anyone is when they get a puppy, but it's hard not to think have we made a mistake. I won't be living at home forever, and worry about my parents dealing with two adult dogs who don't get on. The dog trainer will be coming back for another session soon and Ernie is enrolled in puppy classes at the start of Dec, so I'm sure she'll help us find the things to work on, but if anyone has had experience similar to this it would be great to hear how it ended up working out. Really hoping for some reassurance that this is normal. Looking through threads of similar discussions, so many people say 'oh it took some time', and they then said like a week as if that was a long time to figure it out.
     
  2. Boxer123

    Boxer123 PetForums VIP

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    I have two male dogs. When the younger one (Loki) came along he was very similar and wanted to play with the older boy (Sox) all the time.

    Sox wanted to play a bit but sometimes needed his own space. I would separate using baby gates.

    Fast forward to years they are best friends they love playing bity face and bity leg so don’t worry about them chewing on each other. I no longer have to separate them it gets a lot easier when they get out of the puppy bity stage.
     
    doce_24, Torin. and LinznMilly like this.
  3. Sarah H

    Sarah H Grand Empress of the Universe

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    To me it sounds like you are doing all the right things. Some dogs will just never become best buddies, but they should learn to be OK with living together.
    Agree with @Boxer123 I'd get some baby gates and allow them to see and interact but not directly. You could use a puppy pen too to keep Ernie separate but in the same room. This will help Bert realise that Ernie isn't going to bother him all the time, and show Ernie that he can go off and do his own thing or chill out when Bert is around. Use stuffed Kongs, chews, lickimats etc to keep Ernie occupied, and you can even give a nice calming activity to Bert too so they are separated but chilling out together, learning to be calm around each other and the food will be rewarding this behaviour.
     
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  4. HamsterHouse

    HamsterHouse PetForums Newbie

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    Hi,
    Your description could be me describing our 3 year old Border Terrier cross, Molly. She has a lovely nature but can be reactive to other dogs. She sounds identical in behaviour to Bert from puppy to now, including submissiveness and being pinned down :(
    We have just (3 weeks ago) brought home a Cocker male puppy (Reggie) who is desperate to play with Molly but she just doesn’t want to know. I think it is getting better, but it’s still pretty stressful. It’s really nice to read your post to know someone else is going through exactly the same thing. I don’t expect them to be best friends but to not have snarling and snapping from Molly would be nice. She’s much better in the garden where she has more space and doesn’t feel trapped by Reggie so we’re trying to do a lot more of that.
    Let me know how you get on!
     
    #4 HamsterHouse, Nov 18, 2020
    Last edited: Nov 18, 2020
    doce_24 likes this.
  5. doce_24

    doce_24 PetForums Newbie

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    Thanks for all your suggestions/reassurance! We took them both to a secure hire field for a session last week and they did so well, really reassured us that they are going to be okay. Kongs have been our saviour! We started using them a few weeks ago when Bert needed some chill time and Ernie was up for playing, so would give Bert one and then keep the babygate shut between them, but this weekend we gave them both one, and they sat in their beds while they ate them calmly. Was so great to see! Bert still doesn't want to play with Ernie, and he may never, but if we can increase the amount of time they are okay to be around each other, that's all we need!
     
  6. doce_24

    doce_24 PetForums Newbie

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    The first few weeks we felt awful, convinced we had ruined both their lives, and that it was a stupid idea to get a second dog when Bert wasn't always 100% around other dogs, but the past week has seen a bit of a turning point, so hang on in there! It's hard when you see videos of older dogs immediately falling in love with their new puppy sibling, but we are just aiming for them tolerating living in the same house, and hopefully that will develop into a friendship down the line. Yeah more space definitely seems to help - maybe because both Bert and Molly have had issues with other dogs, they like to know they have freedom to get away? If you have a secure field hire near you I'd really recommend that. We let Bertie loose, but kept Ernie on a long line so we could stop him if he was being too much, but Bert was much more chilled when he felt like he could move away when he needed to. I can totally sympathise on the stress! I can only reassure you it does get better - if more slowly than I expected! Slow and steady has definitely helped us, but its still pretty knackering! Thankyou for replying - it does really make a difference to know that other people are in the same situation as you!
     
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