When you brought your new puppy home, was your senior dog excited at the prospect of having a playmate, or was he anxious, afraid or even aggressive towards the newcomer?
Your senior dog runs away from the new puppy because of fear, stress or anxiety. Puppies can be annoying, especially if they’ve recently joined your family and training has just started. They want to play constantly and have no manners, it’s no wonder your senior dog runs away, especially if he or she is dealing with health and mobility issues.
Signs Your Senior Dog is Anxious or Annoyed Around the Puppy
Your dog may start showing signs of:
These can manifest as: snarling/growling/barking – destructive behavior – obsessively licking – peeing/pooping in the house – hiding – pacing
Why Your Senior Dog Runs Away from the Puppy
- He may have had a bad experience with a puppy in the past
- Never had any interactions with a puppy before
- He’s recovering from an illness or surgery and isn’t feeling well
- Mobility issues limit his ability to get away
- Vision problems mean he probably frightens more easily, especially if something suddenly appears out of nowhere or comes running at him
- If your dog has dementia for example, routine is important and a new puppy in the house can easily disrupt that routine and cause confusion
How Long Does It Take an Older Dog to Get Used to Being Around a Puppy?
I’m afraid that’s an impossible question to answer. It depends on how you manage their environment, whether or not you’re training the puppy, how often and how consistent that training is.
How to Help Your Senior Dog Relax Around the Puppy
♦ Use food your dogs love but doesn’t usually get. Keep pieces small so they don’t get a stomach ache or gain weight.
♦ Be patient, and understand it’s a process.
♦ Don’t raise your voice because not only will that not help, it could make the situation worse.
♦ Manage the environment so your puppy is not able to bother your senior dog – keep the puppy on a leash (which he should be anyway in the early stages of training), and when no one is around to supervise put him/her in a separate room or use a baby gate/rope off an area/use an exercise pen or crate. NOTE: Only use a crate if you’re crate training, don’t just put your pup in and walk away.
♦ It’s not uncommon for senior dogs to develop anxiety, even when not dealing with a puppy. This article “How to Calm Dog Anxiety Naturally (22 Easy Ways)” has lots of recommendations to look into.
♦ Train your puppy so he grows into a well behaved and well-adjusted dog. Start with the basics – sit, stay, come, look at me, drop it, leave it. Exercise him first so he gets rid of pent-up energy and is better able to focus.
♦ Create two separate play areas in the same room but as far apart as possible. This is to prevent fighting or guarding toys, and so your dogs can still see each other. Be sure to reward your dog if he’s calm and doesn’t react to the puppy’s presence. Over time (days or weeks), gradually move the play areas closer to each other. If at any point your dog reacts, even if the reaction is mild, you’ve progressed too quickly, go back to the point your dog was ignoring the puppy and move slower.
♦ With your puppy on a leash, walk him by your dog. Start at a distance you know your dog won’t react. If there’s no room in your house, try the backyard. As you walk by, toss your dog a treat (if he doesn’t react) and keep walking. Practice this a couple of times a day, every day. The purpose is to show your dog good things happen when the puppy walks by. Gradually and over time, you will be able to shorten the distance you need to be when passing your dog.
♦ For this next exercise, enlist the help of someone to hold the puppy’s leash, or tie it to a table leg. Keep the leash short so your puppy can’t jump up and bother the dog.
Sit on the floor closer to the puppy, and throw your dog a treat. Do that a few times over a day or two. If your dog is relaxed during this training, the next time you’ll throw the treat a bit short of where he is so he has to take a step towards you and the pup to reach it. Next time throw it so he has to take a couple of steps to get it…and so on.
You see where this is going? You want him to a) see that good things happen when the puppy is around (namely delicious treats) and b) you want him to get closer to the puppy each time.
You don’t always have to throw the treat, sometimes you can hold it out and lure your dog over. Just like in the above exercises, do not rush and only advance if there’s no reaction from your dog.
♦ This following tip is a great way to take both dogs for a walk at the same time, but you’ll need another person to help!
When putting harnesses and leashes on the dogs in preparation of their walk, be sure to keep them separate. You don’t want your dog getting anxious before he even gets outside, as that will ruin this exercise.
Have your friend/neighbor/family member go outside first, and stand far enough away so your dog sees the puppy but doesn’t react. Keeping your distance start your walk. There are two ways to do this – one in front of the other or side by side. I prefer side by side, but make sure it’s the two humans near each other or human, dog, human dog.
As you’re walking, as long as your dog is calm give him treats periodically. If he’s hesitant the puppy is too close, so increase the distance.
How did this go? Try it again tomorrow, then the next day and the next. Your goal will be, as in the above exercises, to gradually decrease the distance between the dogs. Remember, dog, human, dog, human or human, dog, human, dog – whichever works for you.
Will This Help Every Senior Dog Adapt to Life with a Puppy?
Even with the best of intentions and commitment to training, there will be plenty of instances where your senior dog just won’t be happy having a bouncy puppy around, and that’s okay. If you find yourself in that situation, it’s very important you consider the needs of your older dog and ensure they are not bothered. That doesn’t mean locking your old dog in a separate room or removing him from common areas because your puppy is there. It does mean keeping an eye on your pup and ensuring any interactions are supervised and ended when appropriate.
Have you recently welcomed a puppy, and your resident dog is having a hard time adapting? Have you found any tips that have worked? Sharing helps others so leave them in comment section below.
I’m a certified dog trainer, specialising in helping senior dog parents with health & behavior issues and training advice for new rescues. Try my FREE, 15 minute no obligation consultation. You’ll have the chance to share what’s going on, and I will explain how I can help. Get in touch via my FB page or through my website.