Several years ago, I wrote an article called “What to Do When Your Dog Doesn’t Like Puppies.” At the time, I worked at an animal shelter and I’d fostered a young puppy for a night. To my horror, my angelic border collie despised the puppy.
Fast forward a few years, and I’m bringing home a puppy in 17 days. Barley is seven years old now and honestly, hasn’t changed his feelings about puppies. So how am I going to make puppy-raising a success for me, my puppy, and (most importantly perhaps) my current dog.
10 Steps for Success With Puppies and Dogs Who Hate Them
1. Pick your puppy carefully.
Be sure that you’re bringing home a puppy who’s likely to grow into an adult that your dog jives with. My border collie really doesn’t like mastiff-type, bully-type, or giant breed dogs in general. He strongly prefers other herding dogs like border collies, Australian shepherds, and Shetland sheepdogs.
Note from the research: Aggression between dogs is most common with same-sex pairs that are the same age. While some pairings of the same breed will “get each other” better, they also might have similar motivations and therefore might compete more over a given resource. Keep all of this in mind as you select and prepare! Citation: Wrubel et. al., 2011
My take: I selected a second border collie for this reason.
2. Time your puppy strategically.
Whether you’re adopting from a shelter or purchasing from a breeder (read more about making that decision here), you might not get to choose exactly when your new puppy comes home. But if you can, bring home your puppy when you’ll have the time, space, and energy to dedicate to both an extremely needy puppy AND a more-needy-than-usual adult dog.
My take: I am bringing home a puppy while Barley is still relatively young (7) rather than bringing home a puppy when he’s arthritic and cranky. I also am bringing home a puppy before I start graduate school
3. Get help from your friends.
Puppy-raising almost always takes a village, and it’s even more important to get help from friends. Friends or family might help by taking your puppy for a few hours (a great way to double as socialization and independence-building) or give your older dog a break.
My take: I’m planning on sending my puppy away with friends at least a few times in the first few weeks and months so Barley can catch a break. He’ll appreciate the time alone! I also will send him out on plenty of solo hikes and runs with friends who like to borrow him.
4. Give each dog their own bedroom.
Giving each dog a safe, separate space to play, eat, sleep, and decompress will let everyone breathe once in a while. Make sure each space is large enough for the amount of time your dog will be in there and set up to be comfortable and entertaining!
My take: My “puppy zone” will be an exercise pen over some rubber garage mats. I’ll then have a crate, a bed, some water, and a variety of toys (chewy, squeaky, soft, hard, etc.). Barley’s bedroom will just be his crate. This will allow me to separate the dogs while I train the other or even put them both away. Barley can be so impatient with puppies that it’s imperative that they both have comfortable areas to hang out. Most of the time, I expect I’ll put the puppy in his deluxe puppy zone while Barley is loose.
5. Give each dog one-on-one time with you.
Two dogs are twice as much work (if not more), especially at first! Expect to take the two dogs out for separate playtime, walks, and training. It’s just not fair to expect the puppy to wait patiently or understand the rules of these activities, and it’s not fair to expect your adult dog to put up with this.
My take: While I certainly plan on doubling up on most walks and hikes, I plan on all training and playtime to be separate. Over time, I’ll teach both dogs to politely take turns and watch in training and playtime. Until then, it’ll be “bedrooms” and snacks for the idle dog.
6. Plan for fun shared activities.
Most dogs that dislike puppies will still tolerate puppies at times. For example, Barley doesn’t mind going for walks or hikes with puppies as long as the puppies aren’t allowed to mug him constantly.
Taking the dogs on shared outings (where you referee interactions) will help them bond. Activities that involve movement and enrichment other than each other will be most beneficial.
My take: I plan on keeping the puppy leashed on hikes (using a 15-20 foot long line) until I trust that he won’t constantly bug Barley. I don’t want Barley to get annoyed!
7. Expect feelings to change.
Some dogs are fine with young puppies but hate teenagers. Other dogs are nervous around puppies but feel more comfortable as the puppies age. Your adult dog may feel differently about the puppy based on the puppy’s behavior or hormone levels, which change as the puppy develops.
And this all goes for your puppy as well! Your puppy may suddenly be fearful, anxious, hyperactive, pushy, or all sorts of other things as (s)he ages. That’s all normal! Be flexible with your plans and expect progress to NOT be linear.
8. Parent proactively.
This is the underlying need of all puppy raising. You’ve got the big brain and the thumbs, so it’s your job to stay ahead of all the issues. Assume that food, bones, space, attention, toys, and just about anything else could cause conflict and be ready to separate the dogs as needed.
It’s exhausting, but setting up the dogs’ zones well will make this so much easier.
9. Avoid punishment.
It’s tempting and reflexive to scold your dog for growling or snapping at the puppy. You want to tell your dog that that sort of behavior is unacceptable, right? Well… no. Punishing, scolding, or swatting your dog for trying to draw boundaries around the puppy will backfire! That’s because your dog is MUCH more likely to learn that puppy = punishment than to learn that growling = punishment.
If your dog already doesn’t like puppies, punishing your dog for trying to set boundaries (even if he IS being a jerk) is one of the worst things you could do!
10. Get professional help if you’re stuck.
If your dogs are actually fighting, or things just aren’t getting better, it’s probably time to get some help. Journey Dog Training has a team of professional dog trainers who can help over video or phone in almost any time zone. Hire our team for email and text support, a 15-minute call, or a one-hour call.
Kayla is from Ashland, Wisconsin but lives in Missoula Montana. She holds a degree in biology from Colorado College and has spent years working in zoos, animal shelters, as a private dog trainer, and with working detection K9s. She is a Certified Dog Behavior Consultant. She shares her life with her border collie Barley.