How to Introduce a New Puppy to an Old Gun Dog

There are ways to prevent hostility when bringing a new puppy into the home of your old gun dog.

How to Introduce a New Puppy to an Old Gun Dog
Photo Credit: Dale C. Spartas

Problem

I will be getting a new puppy in a few weeks. She is to be the replacement dog for my 11-year-old female. I worry my old dog might not accept the pup, and might attack her. My old dog has always been outgoing and friendly to dogs and people alike until a year and a half ago, when she was attacked and nearly killed by an off-leash pit bull. She spent a lot of time in surgery and in rehabilitation. However, there were mental as well as physical scars. She has become very attached to me, like I am her security blanket. More importantly, she has become very fearful of every dog that approaches her. She has gone from a gracious greeter to attack first and ask if the dog getting into her space is friendly later.

I worry she will attack the new pup the same way, leaving the pup with the same mental scars she has, or physically hurt the new pup. I am especially worried what will happen if the new pup pesters my old dog.

Because of the old dog’s special behavior problems from being so viciously attacked, can you give me guidance on things I can do to further ensure a peaceful easing-in of the new pup? For example, I have always walked the old dog off leash in nearby fields and woods daily, and still do. Can I walk the two together, or should I walk the old dog first and then the pup? What about sleeping arrangements? I have received suggestions to use clicker training on both dogs. Any thoughts on it?

Solution

From what you’ve told me about your old dog’s temperament and then her unfortunate experience with the pit bull, I can understand why she would be the insecure old girl that’s anxiety level goes up when a strange dog is near her. I can also understand why she is so dependent of you. We don’t want the new pup to be quite so dependent, or she will not fully realize her potential as a hunting dog.


I will try to address your questions in the order you posed them.


The first is the pup pestering the old dog. Some pestering is okay, especially if she treats the pup like she treats dogs she knows. It will be good if the pup is put in her place, and if she lets the pup know there are limits and what those limits are. It is essential that you do not side with the pup if the old dog tells her “enough.” You should intervene only after your old dog lets you and the pup know she’s had it with the little monster.

Crate training and tie-outs are both good ideas. A tie-out should have a mat that belongs to the pup right there. The pup will pester the old dog to get a reaction. Any reaction acts as a reinforcement for the pup for being a pest. What you need to do is have a reward for the pup that is equal to, or preferably better than, the reaction she gets from the old dog. Use the reward item to distract the pup, break her trend of play attack on the old girl, and lure her into her crate or to her tie-out, and let her have her reward. Then, take the old dog out of sight, leaving the pup alone to work on the distraction treat. A Kong toy filled with treats or peanut butter is one good distraction object. It is essential that the pup has a valuable distraction as well as confinement, or there will be problems with the tie-outs or the crate.

For the daily walks, I would start with the old dog alone first and then the pup second, and I would keep her on leash for the first few walks. After the old dog realizes she is still first, you can take both, but with the pup on leash and the old dog running free for a while, using the time to teach the pup to walk on leash and to understand that there are rules. When the pup has shown some restraint, you can let both off leash to get more exercise. You can use this time to give your old dog a “stop” command and a recall and a pat on the head, so the pup starts to get the idea that there are commands that are to be obeyed. If the pup tries to chase and roughhouse the old dog, she goes back on the leash. It is essential to remember whenever you stop the pup from doing something or tell her “no,” that you redirect the pup to a behavior you prefer she does and is of some high value to her.

The pup’s crate at night can be next to the old dog’s mat in the bedroom. It should eliminate the first nights’ whining. Again, give the pup a “soother” to work on and a soft toy to cuddle with when putting her to bed.


Clicker training is okay to use, but I haven’t used a clicker. My reason for not using a clicker is that it can only be heard a short distance. I prefer the beep or hum and vibration in an e-collar. I don’t use the shock unless it is absolutely necessary. Most collars have a sound and or vibration that you can use as a clicker with the advantage of being the same every time as in a clicker, but it can reach a half-mile to a mile, depending on the collar. Clicker training is nothing more than Pavlovian conditioning. You could use a word or any sound, so long as it is consistent. Timing is more important than the sound that is used.

For the obedience, yard training and later, the field work, let the old girl do it first and have the pup on a tie-out line waiting her turn. Things will go much smoother, and your old dog will be happier. You pup will also learn a bit about being patient, too.

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