Canine Behavior/puppy and older dog
Hi. I just want to know I just brought my older dog back form the vet after a week and in the mean. Time I got a new pup she is about 8weeks old. And the older one just wants to bite her. What can I do to prevent that and also how can I help to make it better.
Thank you for your question.
If I'm understanding your rather brief question here, you have a dog who is older - you don't indicate how old (1 year, 10 years...) - who was at the vet for a week. And while your existing dog was away (sick?), you got an 8-wk old puppy who was there when your existing dog returned home. The existing dog is not very happy at the new addition to the family.
OK, so the first thing we need to remember is that your dog has been ill or injured such that he had to be at the vet's for an entire week. He's coming home, probably still not feeling like himself - tired, sore, in actual pain, generally just not feeling 100%. I don't know anything about his temperament prior to his vet stay, so I don't know if he was social and liked to be around other dogs before. But even if he did, it's likely that immediately upon return from the vet stay, he was not feeling very social.
Puppies are filled with energy and want to play with anyone and everyone who is in their space. They have little to no sense of personal space, boundaries or really how to heed the social cues from other dogs that say "back off" or "give me space" or "not now."
I don't have nearly enough information about your dogs to give really specific information. For example, if your existing dog has any bandages or stitches, I'd say the puppy shouldn't be allowed in the same room with him until the bandages/stitches are gone for good and your dog is feeling his normal self. Then a heavily supervised visitation schedule can be set up to help them get to know each other. I don't know if your dog was ill or has neurological issues that took him to the vet for a week... without the details of what is going on with your existing dog, I can't say with any specificity about how you might deal with this issue.
Also, you don't indicate the breed/s or breed-types of either dog. While I'm a firm believer in "judge the deed, not the breed," we must not lose sight of the innate characteristics that we've bred certain dogs to have. Some dog breeds are specifically more open to others, some dog breeds are not so friendly with other dogs even under the best of terms. That's not to say that proper socialization/training can't create excellent and social dogs who are of a breed that typically has a harder time with other dogs. But we should always remember what we've bred the various breeds to excel at.
So, speaking in the very general terms (since I have no details), I'd first give your existing dog some time to settle back in at home. I'd spend some quality one-on-one time with him to reassure him that his place in your heart and home has not changed, even though there is another dog in the house now.
I'd keep puppy on a leash when they're in the same room and keep puppy from being able to get too close to the older dog. The older dog is free to come over and investigate the puppy if he wants, but he's also free to move away and give himself space if he needs it. Don't allow the puppy to chase him around at this stage, insisting on play/interaction. Whatever the older dog's very favorite treat is (the thing that would make him walk on the ceiling to earn - if he could walk on the ceiling) should only ever appear when in the same room with the puppy. So, get some of that treat together, and make a point a couple times per day of calling him to come into the same room with the puppy (even if puppy is in his crate), give the older dog the treat while he's in that room with the puppy. You may need to start with the dogs across the room from each other and build up to them being near and then even next to each other. Make sure you have some treat for the puppy too, but hand them off at the same time so that the older dog isn't likely to try to steal from the puppy or "resource guard" that bit of treat. Give the bigger dog a bigger bite, or 2 or 3 bites to the puppy's one bite. The key is that the awesome treat never appears, ever, unless the older dog is in the same space as the puppy. This creates an association for the dog that it's a good thing to be near the puppy because that awesome treat appears. Keep the treats handy so that if your older dog chooses to come into the space with the puppy, you can reward it by giving him a bite of the treat.
We also need to understand the body language and communication that's occurring between them. This is important so that we can assist when necessary. I strongly encourage you to read the book On Talking Terms with Dogs - Calming Signals
, by Turid Rugaas. It will walk you through myriad subtle signals that dogs give. Some are designed to increase distance (we usually recognize those as growling, showing teeth, snapping, biting, lunging, etc), while others are designed to decrease distance (soft waggy bodies, soft and squinty eye contact). Some are designed to appease another and avoid conflict (lip licking, yawning, sniffing) and some occur when the dog is truly contented. Some happen when the dog is nervous/anxious and sometimes when the dog is stressed. The book explains what each looks like, when you might see them, what they mean and how other dogs tend to react when they see these signals. Some are even signals you can give when your dog is nervous/anxious and help to calm and reassure him. It's important to remember that no behavior or signal happens in a vacuum. So, seeing a single behavior (e.g. lip licking) doesn't necessarily mean the dog is nervous just because it is associated with appeasement and conflict avoidance. We need to take a snapshot of the entire dog in that moment. If the dog is leaning into you, with a soft body, tail wagging lazily while you scritch his bum and he looks over his shoulder at you and licks his lips, he's probably telling you he's contented. On the other hand, if he's not coming too close, body is stiff, ears are pulled back, hackles may be up and he's licking his lips, that's pretty clear indication that the dog is not comfortable (uncertain, afraid, etc).
There's a companion DVD which shows the dogs doing the various signals and how other dogs respond to them. For visual learners, this can be a great asset, though I still recommend reading the book first.
The key in helping the dogs get comfortable is in you knowing what your dog is feeling in a given moment (hence the book). If you see your dog becoming uncomfortable, you can intervene BEFORE he feels a need to snap at the puppy. If the dog gives a clear correction (back off, I don't want to play), and the puppy ignores it, you can step in and redirect the puppy to another activity - showing your older dog that you've got his back and will protect him from the "annoying puppy." This will help the older dog see that he doesn't need to escalate to a full attack because you will get the puppy away.
On the flip side, if the dog gives such a warning and the puppy does back off, but the older dog doesn't let up, then you need to intervene and redirect the older dog. He's made his point and he doesn't need to keep at it. Here you have the puppy's back and ensure that you won't let any harm come to him from the "big, scary dog."
On thing to keep in mind: DON'T EVER PUNISH THE GROWL. This is important. If we punish the dog for communicating, he'll stop communicating. But that doesn't mean that he's suddenly comfortable. It just means that he's learned he gets in trouble for telling you he's uncomfortable. Punishing the communication out of a dog is the reason why we end up hearing about an "out of the blue" bite down the road. We never did anything to help the dog feel safer, more secure or more comfortable. We just took all the communication away, which means the dog is forced to tolerate something he finds unpleasant until he reaches his breaking point and lashes out "get the heck away from me already!!!!!!"
So, without knowing the details of your dogs or this circumstance, I can't say if this is fixable. Not all dogs get along with all dogs. Your dog may prefer to be an only dog, or he may just really dislike this particular puppy. He may prefer an adult dog who is more settled over any puppy. Or this may settle in a few weeks and they become good friends. I can't say at all which one of these is true. I do need to point out that you'll need to do some soul searching and some objective observation and decide if there's a chance of a comfortable co-existence, even if they're never good friends. It's not fair to either dog to force them to live with someone they hate or who hates them. Not every house is right for every dog and that's not a judgement of those living in that house. It's just a fact that we are not able to provide the best environment for every dog and so in the end, it may be that you'll need to re-home the puppy. I don't know if this will be necessary since I'm not there to observe, but I do want you to keep that potential in mind as you assess if this is going to be a good match for both dogs.
I'm sorry I can't be of more direct assistance in your situation. Please feel free to followup with more details or if I can be of further assistance.
Los Angeles Behviorist