Q: We have just recently added an English springer spaniel puppy to our family consisting of my wife, myself, and an existing adult springer. Overall the puppy is pretty good at getting trained and we have been able to potty train him. He has also learned sit, up, down. We are still working on stay and leave but seems to be coming along well. However, he demand barks with our other dog to play and seems to play aggressively with her, biting her ears and tugging. She doesn’t really correct him; she seems to want to play at times and others just doesn’t want anything to do with him. We realize that he is a puppy and will grow out of most of this behavior, however, we would like to be sure we’re on the right track.
A: Congratulations to you and your family on the addition of your new springer spaniel puppy. We certainly appreciate your concern with getting started early training your pup and wanting to find out more about whether his behavior toward the adult dog will eventually change.
One of the key aspects of the Way of Life method is doing things in stages. Let’s talk about the stages involved in training, socializing, and integrating a new puppy.
Beginning with training, while you are right to want to get started early, keep in mind that the premature and early training and behavioural conditioning of our dogs is one of the reasons they can develop reactivity down the road. Instead of training early, we need to focus on managing early – creating an environment, a way of life, where the pup can grow into a sound, strong, and spirited dog. This means managing and playing with your pup as opposed to training it.
A pup who just left his mother and littermates could not care less about sit, up, or down. All they need at this stage is to sense that you are running things in a way that makes the pup feel safe and see you as a credible authority figure. Once you have trust and a growing teenager on your hands, that is a good time to start formalizing your training using commands and asking the maturing dog for greater discipline.
Regarding the socialization and integration of your two dogs, your adult dog is showing YOU respect by not wanting to correct the pup. She is right to see that it is our job, and not hers, to be managing and regulating the new puppy instead of giving him free reign. She also knows that a pup this young should not be disciplined. By ignoring him, she is asking that you integrate the puppy gradually and when you do, not only will the pup be less aggressive but your older female will also be more willing to take him on.
Create a relationship foundation between you and your puppy first and allow him to bond with the humans before you bring a dog into the picture. Work in stages and you will be rewarded with dogs who not only like each other but respect you as well.