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How to Prevent Sibling Rivalry

How to Prevent Sibling Rivalry

By Patty Dobson

Adding a new puppy into a senior dog family can be as exciting as it is challenging. With our senior dog Pork Chop nearing 13, we decided to add Murray to our family and we're so glad we did. The road to siblinghood isn't always smooth, but we learned that with some commitment, consistency, and careful coordination bringing a puppy into your happy home can be struggle-free.

Here are our top 4 tips for adding a puppy into a senior dog home:

Start with Separation

Having both pups in separate rooms, keeping the young pup in a room your senior pup doesn't use may be a good start, as your senior dog will smell and slowly familiarize himself with the new scent of your pup and vice versa. Start by feeding, training, and playing with both dogs separately and equally. This will give you an opportunity to train your budding, boisterous pup.

While some dog owners find it helpful to train their pup to parallel their senior pup's routine, with both on the same walking and meal schedule, each situation is different. It's best to gauge what works best for your young pup and senior dog. For us, the limited mobility of Pork Chop's hind legs and difference in energy levels make separate walks and meals most ideal, giving each pup our undivided attention, while meeting the needs and stimulation of both of our dogs.

Release Some of Your Pup’s Pent Up Energy

Eager and energetic, young pups possess endless energy. Make sure your pup has ample outlets for releasing energy, none of which involve pestering your senior dog before both pups have mutual playtime. Some simple ways we found helpful were:

  • Taking long walks and jogs
  • Engaging playtime
  • A sturdy, stimulating chew toy that will help with teething and excess energy

Supervise Socializing Time (Or Any Time They’re in the Same Room)

Having a puppy and senior dog in the family is similar to having a grandchild in the same room as their grandparent. Most children aren't aware of boundaries and are full of bouncy and boundless energy. Seniors, humans and dogs are well-versed in the language of etiquette and social structure, familiar with boundaries, and have established patterns and habits. Most grandparents wouldn't enjoy a screaming child jumping all over their sofas and on their laps, but would perhaps very much prefer sitting quietly and building something together. Same goes for your senior dog. Like grandparents, senior dogs enjoy social interactions that are predictable.

Puppies lack communication skills and aren't familiar with the established social structure and language with which medium aged and senior dogs are familiar. Playtime with a senior dog allows your pup to learn doggy dynamics, language, and etiquette.

Be sure to supervise playtime between pups, allowing your senior dog to teach your young pup. Snarls, growls, and gentle snapping are all natural and a part of doggie language, so allow your senior dog to express himself. Keep a close eye on playtime, noticing if your senior pup's getting pushed past the point of mild annoyance; if your senior pup's language gets aggressive; or if your pup's playful ways are over-the-top and exacerbating. Pay attention to any squeals and yips from your pup, which is his way of submitting. If you notice any of these, it’s time to separate them.

Create Predictable, Set Separate Quiet Time

Whether separate quiet time means designating playtime in separate rooms and/or training your senior pup to retire to his room, area, or crate to enjoy a treat and alone time when he’s ready, be sure to include individual regularly scheduled quiet time. It provides both pups with a healthy, balanced break from each other, helping to contribute to a positive relationship.

While all this contributes to and promotes a healthy relationship between siblings, we admit that at times, Murray still annoys his older brother Pork Chop, as siblings naturally do. But on the whole, through consistent commitment to and incorporation of these 4 tips, Pork Chop and Murray enjoy a happy, healthy, fulfilling relationship.

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