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New Puppy – Old Dog

Dear John,

We are going to be getting a new dog in the fall. It will be a male.  We have a nine year old English Springer Spaniel, Bailey. She is an extremely well behaved dog with people and our past dogs. However, she does not seem get along well with dogs she does not know. Recently while on a walk, we met up with a year old Wheaton and Bailey did quite well to begin with but quickly tired of him and sat with her back to him. I knew that Bailey did not want to play and she snapped to let the Wheaton know. Other times there isn’t that much warning. Do you have any suggestions to introduce the new dog to Bailey? We are hoping she wants to mother it. -Bob

Hi Bob,

She already reminds me of my own mother (kidding mom). Her behaviour is not that unusual in the companion dog world. Her pack is you and your family, plus whatever other dogs she lives with. Even other species in the same house, like the family cat can be considered part of the gang. All of these may be able to get away with things that the neighbours, their dog and cat can’t.

This is why Bailey got along well with past house dogs although I’m sure as any family does she had her scuffles with them as well. It was just that living with her daily made it easier for them to heed her warning signals.

Her past behaviour with your other dogs is a better gauge of what to expect. Meeting strange dogs on the street can be hard. It’s not something that would happen to their Wolfie cousins in a good way. To them it’s territorial infringement, so our own dog’s similar instincts can kick in and they can be a little more reactive, drawing boundary lines differently and more vigorously then with familiar dogs. Nature provides a means of communicating that they’re about to cross the line. This is done with a warning which could range from a lip quiver,  baring of teeth, a growl or a snap. I’m sure in the past, if not now, she always tried to warn them. After a few bad experiences though some dogs just forget the warning and decide to play it safe and high tail it, which is hard on a leash, or fight. The other dog can, after the warning decide themselves whether they’d like door number one, heed the warning or door number two, accept the consequence.

That doesn’t mean she’s going to get along with the new dog, although based on what you’re saying I’ll bet she does. She’s going to have experience, maturity and physical superiority, on her side all of which are pretty intimidating to a new puppy. Though, at some point in their relationship household dogs are going to have to hash out who is going to be top dog. When it’s two adults suddenly thrust together they go through a period where there are frequent scuffles. They don’t usually go too far, although a lot of dog owners keep breaking them up before anything can be decided and the frequency and intensity can seriously escalate. In cases when they’re evenly matched, more from the perspective of ‘drive to rule’ as opposed to physical superiority, they’re never going to get along and one or the other has to go.
Most scuffles in the house or even in the park are more huff and puff then anything else, although they can sound pretty awful. On average they don’t amount to much more then swapping spit, perhaps a nicked ear or nose. Ironically the most serious dog to human bites and dog to dog bites occur when dog owners leap into the fray. Somehow the dogs don’t extend the same courtesy of inhibited bites to us, or perhaps in their scuffles their speed and agility, looser skin and coat allow for more protection from serious injury.

If you believe her to be of a territorial nature, make the initial introduction in a neutral area. When pup comes home, pop him into the crate that I’m hoping the breeder has the sense to introduce to him as an area of sanctuary and security from the moment his eyes were open and let Bailey sniff things out at her own pace. When you’re ready, put Bailey’s leash on, keep it slack but ready and let the pup out. Same for the pup. It wouldn’t hurt to remind her that it’s your house and she just gets to live there. so tune up her obedience between now and the day of the pup’s arrival and on the day of arrival, run her rear off with exercise and put her through her obedience paces like it’s a final exam.

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