Getting a puppy is a very exciting, from when you choose your puppy to collection day! However, in the excitement we tend to overlook the implications our new addition will have on the home environment. Sometimes when we consider getting a second dog, we can forget to consider how our older dog will cope having a young puppy bouncing around the house.
Our older dogs aren’t meant to be puppy sitters, and depending on each dog they might either have heaps or very little patience. Before we decided to get Po, we had to consider whether Izzabella could cope with the additional noise, energy and stress that comes with a puppy (Side Note: For those who haven’t meet Izzabella aka Izzy, She our 2.5 year old Border Collie x Huntaway). We considered that with her personality, her progression in terms of maturity and training; that with supervision and time she could cope with a puppy in the household.
Fast forward three months, with Po confirmed as coming home at the start of September, we needed to start our desensitisation work with Izzy. Collies tend to be creatures of habit and routine, so we wanted to start slowly introducing small changes now to give her time to adjust to the new normal. Our plan for desensitising Izzy focused on three key exercises:
1 – Setting up the puppy bedroom before Po arrived: Once we received confirmation that we were getting Po, same day we went and brought pour play pen and crate. Firstly, we set up the crate in the corner of our dining room, and inside we put a stuffed dog. A couple days later, we set up a small version of the play pen around the crate. Couple days later, we extended out the play pen to its full size, completing the set-up of the puppy bedroom. In the following days after each change, we gave Izzy the time to explore and get used to each change before changing something else. Inadvertently, while she was adapting to the changes, she was passively learning that she couldn’t enter the bedroom, and with time would lose interest in the set up.
2 – Desensitising Izzy to puppy noises: Once we had the puppy bedroom set up, we started focusing on desensitising Izzy to noises that puppies would make. We moved the stuffed dog to sit in the middle of the puppy bedroom and placed our UE-Boom behind it. When we were ready to do some training, we would play puppy noises while trying to get Izzy to focus on us. For the sound, we chose to use puppies crying, and started with the volume being very soft, and would slowly increase the volume with each exercise.
If Izzy was struggling to focus on us, we knew the volume was to stimulating, and we would go back to the previous level for a while; before increasing the volume slightly again. My recommendation for this exercise, would be to spend a maximum of 10 minutes each session, doing a couple session in day. This way we knew Izzy was getting enough exposure without us overloading her senses. As time progressed, we could see an improvement in how she handled the puppy noises and we were super impressed with her.
3 – Practicing calmness while Daniel/me were in the puppy bedroom interacting with the stuffed dog: The next exercise was focused on getting Izzy used to us handling the stuffed dog. For this exercise it’s really important to break down the different types of interactions into small steps, so we can gauge where our older dogs are comfortable zone is. This is a very important exercise for us, as Izzy does have a protective streak, so this was the perfect exercise to work on that! Firstly, we started with Daniel sitting next to Izzy (holding her collar) and sharing his calm and prepared to get her focus on him intermittently.
Meanwhile, I opened the pen door and stepped inside, stood there a second, before turning around to step back out. As Izzy was cope well with that exercise, in the next session, I moved into the pen, bent down and patted the stuffed dog and before turning to step back out.
Throughout this exercise and many similar exercises, we focused on: putting water/ puppy food in the pen, picking puppy up, puppy jumping around the pen making noise. For Izzy to sit quietly and calmly throughout the exercises was amazing, and we were so impressed with her progress! My recommendation is for this, to spend a maximum of 10 minutes for each session, doing two sessions in a day.
All in all, when we consider getting a new puppy, it’s important to think beyond our excitement and consider the impacts a puppy can have on your household. If you do decide to get your second/third/fourth puppy, take the time before puppy collection to make sure your older dogs are well prepared for the new addition!