Canine Behavior/Introducing new puppy
I just brought home a miniature dachshund and was very careful when introducing it to our 4 year old German Shepherd female. While our GSD does not seem at all aggressive (her tail is always wagging, no growling, hunching, etc.), she can't seem to leave the new pup alone. She's constantly wherever he is to the point where she's constantly over top of him. Poor little guy can't go anywhere! She'll also constantly stick her nose under his belly and nudge him. When he's crated, she's usually right there, and half the time she just sits and whines at him! Sometimes when he's out she'll even paw at his head gently as if to get his attention. Is this behavior going to eventually subside after she gets used to the new pup? What could be causing this behavior?
Thank you for your question. If your GSD is being very gentle, though enthusiastic, I'd say it sounds like she's very excited and happy to have a new friend. That's wonderful! But it can be a bit overwhelming for the young pup, especially one so much smaller than she.
As they get to know each other, as the dachshund grows up and settles in to this new family, their relationship will grow and they'll learn how to be around each other. You can, and should, assist this process by supervising all time spent together. I never leave new dogs unsupervised with each other for the first couple months (to several months), until they've demonstrated repeatedly that they get along and that they respect each other's communication. It's important that if one dog says "that's enough. I need space" that the other dog accepts this and doesn't torment the one requesting space.
I have a few simple rules when it comes to helping dogs learn to be with each other.
1. If Sophie tells Milo to back off (growl, show teeth, snarl, air snap, lunge but no contact), and Milo heeds this warning and gives Sophie more space, then GREAT!!!! They have just had a beautiful communication.
2. If Sophie tells Milo to back off, and Milo does not respect this, I move MILO. I redirect MILO to another activity. This lets Sophie know that I've got her back and will not force her to endure Milo's rude behavior. I do NOT scold or punish Sophie for communicating her need for space. I want her to tell me so that we can help her feel better before she feels the need to land a real bite.
3. If Sophie tells Milo to back off and Milo heeds that request, but Sophie goes after Milo, trying to further drive the point home, then I move SOPHIE. I redirect SOPHIE to another activity. She's made her point and Milo respected it. She's not allowed to be a bully. In this way, I'm showing Milo that I've got his back and will not allow Sophie to be ugly toward him, especially when he's being respectful to her.
When helping an enthusiastic adult dog learn to temper her enthusiasm with a younger/smaller dog, I may keep the adult on a leash so that I can keep her from overpowering the little one. I will sit close to the interactions and intervene, creating space or time-outs in the interaction as needed if I feel it's becoming a little too high energy. So long as she's being gentle, I will praise her and tell her things like "good gentle." If she begins getting overly excited, I might just say "eeeaaassyyy...." Long, slow words (similar to saying "Whooaaa" to a horse) will slow a dog, while short, choppy words or sounds will speed up the dog, so I'll say "eeeaaassyyy...." or "gentlllee." to try to lower the energy in that moment. If necessary, I might just put a hand in between the dogs, creating a bit of a barrier so the larger dog can't get too on top of the little one.
Here is a link to my dogs just 4 days after I got Hagrid. He was just 2.4 lbs, compared to Chewie who is 35 lbs. Chewie was very quietly enthusiastic in this video. He self-handicaps frequently by lowering himself to the ground as well as turning his body to offer his bum. He does roll Hagrid a couple times and when I feel he's getting a little too intense or too mouthy, I intervene. I always take my cue from the dogs themselves. If Hagrid is not upset by being rolled by Chewie, then I'm not terribly concerned if it happens just once or twice. If Hagrid seems scare or nervous, then I'll intervene more to make sure he feels safe, and to help Chewie learn he must be gentler if he wants to play. This play session was probably 10-15 minutes long, but edited to just a couple minutes. It may be helpful to give you some idea of how/when you might want to intervene with your dogs.
I encourage short play sessions of just 10-20 minutes, then breaks of 30-90 minutes so both dogs can rest and recover from the excitement. As the little one grows and settles in, those play sessions can get longer. Ideally you will get to a point where they will play for a while and then rest together (not necessarily touching, but choose to take a break and just nap in the same space).
I am a fan of actual Time-Outs. I don't show any in this play session as Hagrid was so little that the actual play was limited. But as he got older, Hagrid became very intense in his play, growling like a motor boat as he wrestles and tugs. So every 15 - 90 seconds (depending on their play behavior), I would interrupt their game. I'd say "Time Out" in a cheery voice an then separate them - picking up and moving the puppy because he was the more intense player. I'd ask for a Sit and gently restrain him from returning to the game until his body relaxed and settled a bit. I don't want him vibrating with energy or struggling to get away from me. Once he settled, I told him "go play" and allowed him to return to the game. If the newly started game was gentler, I allowed it to go on for a while. If he went back at the same intensity that prompted me to stop it a moment ago, I'll do an immediate time-out even if it's only been 2 seconds. If the play is gentle and not escalating, and/or if the dogs are doing spontaneous time-outs, then I won't intervene at all. After just a half dozen or so time-outs, I no longer needed to physically separate the dogs. When I said "Time Out", the dogs automatically separated and sat facing me. This made for much shorter time-outs at that point because they were now getting the hang of what I was asking.
Spontaneous time-outs include any break in the play. You may see one or both dogs stop and avert their gaze away from each other, sniff the ground, do a full body shake (as if wet), yawn, lick their lips, play bow (as Chewie does in the video with elbows and chest on the floor, but bum in the air), they may lay down or walk away, turn their head or body away from each other, sit or any other break in play. You may see one dog do one or more of these behaviors and the other dog just stands there. The other dog may mirror the behavior back or do a different behavior. These breaks may only be a second long or they may take up to a minute before the game resumes. So long as the dogs are periodically offering these types of signals (cut-off signals) which are designed to regain their composure/self control, and remind each other that they're all just playing and not seriously attacking each other, then good communication is happening.
So, for your GSD and the new little one, I encourage heavy supervision and they should be separated when not supervised. This can mean that both dogs are simply tethered to furniture on opposite sides of the room from each other, but both still present with the people. This can give them a chance to learn to settle in the same space with each other. Short, but frequent play sessions (several per day) followed by longer rest periods where they can settle and think about what a great play session they just had. Intervene if communication isn't clear between them, never scold a vocal communication, just move the dog who is not being polite (ignoring the growl) and redirect to another activity. Time-outs during play to make sure everyone settles and is able to regain some self control so things don't get out of hand.
I hope this proves helpful. Please feel free to followup if I can be of further assistance.
Los Angeles Behaviorist