Farm Dog 101: Raising a Puppy with Other Dogs

If a “breeder” tries to sell you more than one puppy, saying that they can keep each other company, run far, far away. Even experienced trainers avoid rearing two puppies at the same time. As mentioned before, puppies do not learn good dog-dog social skills (or pretty much anything else positive) from other puppies after a certain age. If a puppy has been raised to 8 or 9 weeks with its litter-mates, it has learned what it needs to learn and is ready to learn how to form a bond with a human. Raising two puppies – correctly – at the same time involves a huge investment of time and even then, provides a less than optimal environment for both puppies.

However, many dog owners bring new puppies into households with a dog (or more) in residence already. As stated before, I do not own pets. Each of my dogs are companions or, in the case of Fix, being raised to become a companion. This means that I cannot leave raising the puppy to the adult dogs but rather have to invest the time and energy into raising Fix myself. It is certainly easier just to throw the puppy in with the big dogs but it won’t create the relationship I want to develop. Puppies that spend most of their time with other dogs end up, not surprisingly, forming bonds with the other dogs and become what is called “dog-bonded.” I want, however, a dog that is more bonded to me and which prefers my company over that of the other dogs.

I currently have three adult dogs in my household. SLT (Sleet) is probably about 14 years of age at this time. She is a failed foster (a dog I was fostering for Australian Shepherd rescue who was not placable in a pet home, and therefore remained with me.) SLT is very deaf and spends quite a bit of her time currently sleeping. She also has a “kick me” sign firmly in place. She is very (read, overly) tolerant of other dogs’ bad behavior and even when she attempts to correct Fix it is not effective and therefore SLT is not a great adult dog to be teaching manners to a young puppy.

Tuck, who just turned ten, is my working English Shepherd (and also the grand-uncle of Fix). Tuck prefers to pretend that Fix does not exist most of the time. He will correct Fix if necessary but otherwise just walks away when Fix tries to engage him.

Kip is probably about 9 years old. She is an English Shepherd who I fostered (and ultimately kept) for National English Shepherd Rescue (www.nesr.info) a few years ago when the Yellowstone Sheriff’s Department seized about 200 dogs from a very bad situation in Montana. Those dogs all spent several months in custody before the case wound through the courts and the dogs were released to NESR. Kip, like many of the ONB dogs, has some significant orthopedic problems. In Kip’s case she has a spinal stenosis in her lower back which affects her mobility. Despite this handicap, Kip has undertaken to take over Fix’s dog education. First thing in the morning, Kip and Fix will usually play wrestling and chase games. The chase aspect is usually Fix zooming around while Kip waits for him to fly past where she can roll him. After the initial morning games though, Kip will generally correct Fix for bothering her as the day progresses.

I monitor Fix’s interactions with SLT because she is not capable of teaching him good manners. Tuck is capable (and willing) to limit Fix’s interactions with him as is Kip so at this stage all of the dogs are generally out together (where I can monitor Fix with SLT). However, when Fix was first brought into the household, his interactions with all of the dogs were more limited. He was allowed approximately ten or fifteen minutes every couple of hours with the other dogs and the remainder of the time was spent interacting with me. He was never allowed access to the other dogs unsupervised.

Back when I was training professionally I saw a lot of students/clients who were inadvertently creating problems by “protecting” the new puppy from the older dog. Everytime the older dog tried to correct the puppy for inappropriate behavior, the owners got upset and corrected the older dog which fostered the belief in the puppy that it could do anything it wanted, including hassling the older dog, without fear of consequences. Eventually, when the pup was older and has lost its puppy license, the older dog had had enough and the ensuing altercation caused a lot of consternation in the household. There is a reason there are so many Craigslist ads where people are trying to give away or sell an older dog because it “doesn’t get along with the new puppy.” If the older dog has good dog-dog social skills it needs to be allowed to correct the puppy and to teach the puppy appropriate behavior around other dogs. In the case of a dog like SLT, who is incapable of effectively teaching this lesson, I simply monitor the interactions and prevent Fix from developing bad habits. This means that sometimes he ends up in a time-out (spending a short time in his crate) away from SLT.

So Fix has spent (and will continue to spend) most of his time interacting with me (or simply sleeping at my feet which he is doing now). Initially his interactions with the other dogs were limited and even now when all of the dogs are out together, Fix is still monitored and supervised. I allow the adult dogs to correct him as they see fit and will undertake to correct Fix myself if he doesn’t respect SLT’s attempts to warn him off. In this way Fix is learning 1) that I am the most important being in his life; and 2) how to appropriately interact with other dogs and respect their space.

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