Preventing Problems Between Puppies & Older Dogs

There are many reasons why families who have older dogs want to add a puppy or young dog to their lives! There is a lot of value in the older dogs "teaching the puppy" the routine of your house and often a new addition can add a little "spark" back into your elder pup - getting them more active and playful/curious!

With all the exciting things that come with adding a new pup to your pack, there are also some very important elements of introduction that keep your older dog and puppy safe. Being involved, knowing what to look for, and advocating for each animal (not just dogs, but other pets like cats, horses, birds, etc) during the interactions between your puppy and others can prevent conflict later down the road. 

As a dog trainer, a very common story is one of a family with two dogs who are fighting. These dogs are often fighting between each other (even though their may be other dogs in the home) and - here's the kicker - used to play all the time. ðŸ˜£

So what happened? Why would dogs who got along for so long start to fight? Why would dogs who've known each other since one was little have such conflict?

The reality is, that as fun and playful as puppies are, they can be very rude, persistent, and annoying to other dogs who are not puppies (and even some dogs who are)! Puppies tend to not know how to respect boundaries very well and have playtime constantly on their mind...which is perfectly normal! However, how we as the owner handle, what we allow them to do, what we teach them, and the maturing temperament of our puppy can set up these inter-canine relationships to succeed or fail.

Many people make the mistake of letting the dogs "work it out" and expect their older dog to lay down the rules for the pupper. The problem with that philosophy is that many puppies don't take the hint the first time...or the 10th! Unless your elder dog is simply the most socially sound, bomb proof, fair but firm, puppy raiser for life kind of dog, carrying the burden of being the one disciplining and correcting is hard and can become emotionally draining/frustrating. There is a TON of value in older dogs correcting puppies (and the pups need it!) but your older dog should not feel like they are constantly policing and entertaining the puppy...and that's what often ends up happening, unfortunately.

When an older dog is constantly being egged on to play, chewed on, climbed on, barked at, having their space invaded, having their food/resources compromised, and over and over issuing corrections (that are increasingly getting firmer) but NOT seeing the puppy back off (some pups when really worked up think the other dog is playing 🙄) your older dog will become more and more frustrated and before you know it you have one of two things: a shut down and uncomfortable older dog OR the beginning of a long run of dog fights.

It's an unfortunate reality, but the "let them work it out method" is just really unfair to your older dog. Eventually the older dog over corrects or actually bites the puppy, and then gets labled as aggressive or the problem - when really, they wanted to avoid this trouble so long, but were not advocated for by the humans around them. Even in dynamics where they have a playful relationship, most older dogs tire our and arn't always game for play, but puppies are - those moments where pup keeps going and older guy has to correct constantly can often build tension and frustration. Dogs develop grudges towards each other after a while, and when the puppy begins to start into adolescence (around 8mos +) the fights start to become more frequent and intense because pup is now pushing boundaries, more comfortable in the relationship, and trying to establish a stronger role in the pack as he matures. Basically, they get tired of cranky old man giving them crap when they want to do something, so they lay it right back into him...and before you know it you have doggie grudges causing explosive fights with even the slightest look, any excitement in the house, resources around, or too close into each other's space.

Dog trainers see this A LOT, unfortunately - not just with puppy and adult dog dynamics, but any pack dynamics where dogs are putting too much pressure on each other and a human is missing the signs.

So, what can we do to prevent this stuff from happening?

- Don't share resources: allow your dogs to eat, take treats, chew bones in peace. No dog should be pressuring the other and going into their bowl and taking their things. I suggest feeding inside of their kennels so everyone has privacy.

- Crate train your puppy: Teach your puppy how to settle down and rest comfortably in their kennel. Your older dog will need a break from feeling like a baby sitter, and just like an over-tired human baby, your young pup needs nap/down times. Your puppy should have it's OWN crate, not sharing it with your other dog(s).

- Never leave your puppy unsupervised with another pet. Keep a long line/lead on your puppy when around other animals so you can easily remove them/pull them away if they are overwhelming others. Develop a great recall and then you can get rid of the long line :)

- TRAIN YOUR PUPPY! Puppies will become obsessed with the other dogs in the house because the love to PLAY - make sure you are becoming a valuable role in their life by spending time alone with your puppy. Be careful of creating a dependency on the other dog by having them together all the time. Training everyday together, walking just the two of you, etc helps build your bond. It also allows you to start teaching things like good manners and the Place Command (which will allow you to start to teach your pup to practice impusle control and stay calm, in their spot, for a duration of time...again, giving your dog a break).

- Puppy Playtime: Find a local trainer, friends with other well balancrd young dogs, or a good doggie daycare that will give your puppy an opportunity to be rough and rowdy once a week! This saves your older dogs (your cats, you, and your kids!) from being that outlet for them :)

- Read your older dog: How do they feel about the puppy? Can you seem them getting annoyed, tense, trying to get away? Advocate for them and remove the puppy (most likely) very frequently. This will show your older dog you are aware of their feelings AND you can start to show puppy boundaries through cause and effect (obnoxious pup = no play. Tense old dog = move away).

The more your older dog sees you taking the reigns and making the puppy listen, become more predictable, and respectful, the more gracious they will be that you are their leader. Both puppy and older dog will find trust, predictability, and respect for you because you are helping them be a calm, respectful, and peaceful existing pack :) â¤

**Puppy in this context can be talking about dogs anywhere from 8 weeks old to 2 years old! It's referring to those with that wonder and playfulness we love, that also drives everyone crazy at times! ðŸ˜†**


One dog at a time!

One of the more challenging things for a person trying to train their dog is trying to train more than one at a time. It's really important that each dog learn individually first, in low distraction, with lots of proofing (challenging them to have success and mistakes) before you add another dog to the mix.

Make your job easier (and your dog's learning more successful) and build a solid foundation individualy (over days or weeks) and then start to integrate the group together, as your dog handles more distractions.

Juggling one untrained dog is hard enough - put the other pups in their crates while you train :)

Owning Littermates is really hard

Dog Training Cat Tip of the Day: Bonded relationships between dogs is special, and with littermates or puppies who are close in age growing up together we often see that closeness. It's important to keep in mind that these guys need individual time, too - families often make the mistake of sharing crates, food bowls, and constant sharing of space. The downside to the inseparable bond relationship between dogs is that they tend to be dependent on each other, instead of the relationship with their owners. In addition, these dogs will struggle emotionally in the future if they ever have to be seperated. For instance if one has to leave the house for a vet visit and the other must stay home, or if something unforseen or tragic happens to one of them these bonded pups can really struggle.

Often littermates, if unchecked, can also develop rivarly and even aggressive behavior towards each other. Growing up, these duos often play frequently, and owners struggle to keep the play to appropriate times and at an appropriate level of arousal - over time the constant rough housing and growing intensity can turn into scuffles and/or fights. As well, they eventually start to work out their positioning in the pack, and with the limited believable owner influence due to the fact the dogs bonded more with each other than the owner, it can be hard to represent that leadership role to influence calm and keep things peaceful.

To help prevent troubled waters with littermates, make sure to work on separation, not constantly sharing attention, space, food, toys, and crates, as well as create individual relationships with each dog by doing things without the other. When there is a healthy balance of these things, the relationship between bonded pairs can be so you are and important part of their relationship! That said, if you are looking at puppies and considering getting littermates - remember raising one puppy is a ton of work, so raising two AND focusing a ton on the delicate relationship dynamic to prevent problems is even more work! Ask any dog trainer, and they would highly recommend not having litter mates, and staggering puppy ownership by quite a few months (or a year) so you can build a strong relationship with each! - Cenicero, #dogtrainingcat

littermates take the lead

Anxiety: The biggest factor to behavior issues, the most reinforced behavior

If you have a dog with separation anxiety, a serious set of nervous behaviors, or tense/anxiety related aggression or frustration you've probably realized your dog is anxious. You've seen the destruction when you leave home, their explosive emotional behaviors, stressed/panicked reactions, and restless mannerisms.

What you may not realize is how deeply your day to day interaction with your dog is feeding that state of mind. If you follow my page, you are likely familar with the concept of leadership - and are trying to apply it - but your dog may not be perceiving your efforts in a way that changes behavior.

The best advice I can give anyone who is struggling with an dog who has anxiety is to go back to basics - make everyday a predictable routine, with lots of set boundaries, rules, guidance, and very little affection. This does not mean you won't pay attention to your dog - on the contrary, you will be very involved in every move he makes for a while, including structured walks, duration place command, designated playtime, designsted crate time when you are not home/overnight/randomly during the day, designated feeding times, and clear expectations of behavior (making sure your dog is not barking, growling, whining, jumping up, pacing the house, etc) through non-negotioable rules.

Anxiety develops in the uncertainty of life, the unpredictably, and the addiction to their owners/attention/dependency on constant closeness. A dog who is anxious is often given a lot of affection/accommodation by their family to make up for the dog's struggles, but in the end that constant softness (while much enjoyed by you and your dog) feeds their dependency. I know the concept of loving through leadership seems far fetched, but it is the best medicine for any troubled dog - without it, you may be unintentionally nurturing a super dependent, anxious, and unstable state of mind for your pup. 

Lack of leadership also leads to many other behavioral issues like an entitled, pushy, and demanding dog that almost always with a dash of anxiety to boot. Play a little hard to get, set clear boundaries, show your dog they can make it through uncomfortable things through with the help of structure and predictability, and you can try to stay out of an unhealthy relationship :)

P.S. There are definitely some dogs who can handle all the spoiling and freedom in the world without any behavioral issues or problems! However, most of the dogs we are asked to help, and most families who are struggling with their dog, are experiencing complications due to being a dog who is not super solid, and very vulnerable to the fallout of dependency and anxiety. When you mix a dog like that with a super accomidating and over affectionate environment, you can end up with a messy situation quickly!

seperation anxiety

Kids & Dogs: Preventing Dog Bites

FOSTER DOG FRIDAY EPISODE #9 | Kids & Dogs: Preventing Dog Bites

The idea behind this video series is to help people who are struggling with their dog find answers, and to help rescues by giving foster families the tools to help create well behaved dogs for their forever homes!

My goal is that with the right information more dogs can stay in their homes, rescue groups can have more successful adoptions (and less returns back to the program), and foster homes can have a game plan to create well behaved, adoptable dogs!

Episode #9 talks about an important topic - Preventing dog bites and the relationships between dogs and kids. I believe if we can educate more people on dog body language and appropriate interactions, as well make sure we place energy and temperament compatible dogs in homes with kids, we can have a win-win for everyone!

Dog bites can be easily prevented when you know what you are looking for - my hope is that we can start to change the way we interact, and teach children to interact with dogs, so that all members of the family stay happy and safe! Most dog bites are from a family pet, so it's important to realize the importance of respecting a dog for being a dog AND teaching out kids how to properly interact with them! Countless children are injured by dogs, and often dog's are put to sleep for things that may have been preventable if an adult knew about proper interaction between species.

In the news recently, there was a very heartbreaking story of a child bitten by the family dog, 10 days after being adopted, when the toddler went to take a toy from the dog's mouth. Accidents like this can be so easily prevented with better education and understating on how to properly introduce a dog into a home, especially one with children. Understanding and respecting the limitation of a dog in regards to compatibility with a family with kids must always be taken into consideration when adding a pup to your pack.

Most dog bites to kids actually happen infront of an adult, so it's not a lack of supervision - I believe it is a lack of understanding what appropriate interactions are with animals AND respecting the fact that these are cute, fluffy, predators in our homes!

If we become PROACTIVE instead of REACTIVE, we can see trouble before it starts and keep dogs and kids safe :)

Stay tuned for the next episode! Happy Foster Dog Friday!

Be a Lifeguard in a Sea of Dogs: Dog/Dog Socialization Mistakes

Have you ever watched footage of a lifeguard in action, diving off of their stand into a crowded pool of people to save someone? A few months ago, I watched about 20 videos on YouTube of these rescues -- a lifeguard overseeing a crowded pool full of people and notices the one person/child who quietly started to struggle in the water, immediately diving in and saving them within seconds. It was simply amazing! I would have to rewatch each video to see where the distress happened, becuase the signs of drowning are so's typically not someone screaming for help and flailing their arms around, it is actually a very fast, silent, and frantic thing that could go unseen if you weren't watching close enough. These heros are trained to save people, enforce the rules, and prevent problems while everyone else is simply there to have fun. If a lifeguard was too busy chatting up the guests or flirting with the cuties in their bathing suits, they could miss something that could be the difference between life and death.

The same thing goes for dog socialization (between other dogs or between people and dogs). There are a lot of subtle signs when dogs are interacting with each other (and people) that can be missed and conflict can arise. When I am out in a social group of dogs, you will very rarely see me stopping to kneel down and give lots of affection, pets, and belly rubs to the dogs. In fact, I don't often do much petting at all - the only direct interacting the dogs get from me are some obedience commands to add a level of voice control to the activity in the yard. Our#Saturplay posts are some of the most popular videos because people love to see the dogs in action running and playing, but if you look closely, you will also see me on the move - watching, regulating, enforcing the rules - being a lifeguard in a sea of dogs.

A common mistake people make when they are around multiple dogs is that they stand still and start to share alot of affection. I totally get it - being in a yard full of playing dogs is any dog lover's dream! However, what most people don't realize is that while most human friendly dogs would gladly be pet and want your attention (and in a one on one setting it wouldn't be an issues, besides being jumped on), in a group setting sharing attention often creates a bottleneck of dogs crowding you for some petting/affection. All of a sudden, you and your attention become a valuable resource, which can create a guarding/ownership situation and you have multiple dogs with excited/aroused energy bumping into each other creating tension, conflict, and completion: all which can be the perfect storm for a dog fight.

During socialization, I am always walking around - keeping the dogs in motion, using my body language, or a dressage whip as an extension of my body, to help make space and avoid conflict. I rarely share affection with dogs in the yard, and if I have one crowding me and asking for it, I will own my space by making the dog move away via my body language/spacial pressure or moving into or walking away from the dog. If you don't become something a dog can be possesive over (by sharing soft, only affection based energy) and instead are someone to be respected and listened too, you won't be unintentionally encouraging competition to develop in the dogs. 

I watch closely for each dog's proximity to the others - moving into them, away, having them follow me - I am always moving through the sea of dogs, dispersing them like I am trying to keep the water "cloudy" - when the water settles, that means dogs are being still, and unless the whole groups is tired and resting, stillness can mean crowding, which means tension could be developing about dogs being in each other's personal space. Crowding happens when people are not moving (like all the dogs greeting someone sitting in a chair) or where things bottle neck (like doorways or entering/exiting a gate). Most dog park fights happen right at the entrance to the park, when dogs enter the gate, if play gets too rowdy/too fast, or a dog is overwhelming another who isn't interested in playing/being bothered. Most house fights happen when someone is stationary and sharing affection, or dogs are in close proxomity to share space and compete for something they want (like the best view out the window, who goes out the door first, sharing the water bowl, interest in the same toy/food/bone). If the dogs are at all excited, hyper, or aroused during any of this (which 99% of the time they are) you have the perfect storm for bad things to go down, and dogs/people to get hurt...all because the dogs were "happy and having fun." (There's a reason there is no running or horseplay allowed on the pool deck, right lifeguards?!)

Keeping the arousal levels low (not letting play get too high energy, interrupting dogs getting into belligerent excitement, avoiding high impact dog/dog play or adding a toy/food into an active group of dogs) and making sure all dogs are respecting each other's personal space is VITAL to keeping multiple dogs safe around each other in a social setting. This goes for 2 dogs or 20 dogs sharing the same space - the more chaotic and uncontrolled the group is, how little they listen to the human in charge (if there is one!), and how much they respect that human and their personal space plays a huge role in how things will pan out. (If a dog is constantly jumping on your, crowding you, pawing you, or barking at you they don't have much respect for your personal space bubble, which means they won't have much respect for what you have to say in a social setting. They likely won't "move out of the way" when you walk through, because they are so used to moving in on you whenever they way! This is a relationship issue you must work on outside of social time and establish boundaries privately first!) Tension, conflict, and crowding don't just happen around people who are petting dogs/standing still - it can happen at the water bowl, if two dogs are sniffing the same area, if someone has a toy and the others want it, or if a dog is pressuring another too much and not reading body cues that say "I am done being sniffed by you, I don't want to play, I don't want to share, etc." 

As the lifeguard to your sea of dogs, you're not just out there to "be with all the puppies" - you are enforcing the rules and watching for trouble in a group full of predators 😈 (cute, fluffy, complex, dynamic, perceptive, and emotional creatures with teeth for tearing flesh)! I CAN NOT stress enough that when multiple dogs are together, especially when they are not that familar with each other (like a newly adopted pet or just somewith a history of tension/competition with each other or other dogs in general), that is NOT the time to share affection and have a soft, coddling presence. Keep moving, keep the dogs moving, keep arousal down, and don't allow crowding of space or bullying of other dogs. Don't be someone for dogs to be possessive over, be someone that is listened to. It's time to be a lifeguard and keep your eyes and ears on your "pool" to keep everyone safe. Don't flirt with the cuties, or you could miss the subtle signs of trouble brewing!

🏊If you're curious, here is the channel of the Lifeguard Rescues! It is amazing to watch:

Dog Socialization

Friendly dogs can cause fights

As we work with Rocky and Colby more, we are seeing a common trend. Colby, the older dog, really doesn't want trouble and finds Rocky, the younger dog, annoying and makes him unsettled. The reason he is uncomfortable around Rocky is because the young guy gets in his space, is pushy, and is constantly pestering him. For Colby, Rocky' s pushiness is stressful and unchecked Colby will eventually correct Rocky (which in the end developed into fights). After a couple fights where you got chewed up, you'd feel pretty tense around a dog who doesn't take the hint without fighting back and always comes back to get in your space. 

Many folks look at young playful dogs interacting with older dogs (that snap) and say the older dog is the aggressor, where in the end it was the obnoxious youngster that upset the apple cart. When a pushy dog ignores the signals and body language cues from another dog too much, eventually the pushed around dog acts out...and if that happens too much, it can lead to a fight and to a grudge :/ People often miss the signs because they think one dog is being playful, and one is being cranky where in the is being overbearing and one is being tolerant. For Rocky and Colby's owners it is going to be their job to step in and correct Rocky's pushy advances so Colby doesn't have too. When Colby sees them have control, with solid household management and Rocky on "speedial" of calm behavior, Colby will trust his family can take care of things. On the flip side, Colby will not be allowed to go out of his way to correct Rocky either - things must be in balance, so that starts with existence and acceptance, through human leadership advocating for each dog.

Here is an amazing video from our friend Christina at Balanced Life K9 Training that breaks down the "overly friendly, pushy dog" problem. P.S. this is why most fights happen in dog parks, and is one of the main reasons for reactivity and aggressive tendencies to develop...bad energy, too much pressure, no human advocating, and the dogs have to take it into their own paws! This stuff sneaks up on you too, as it is not always obvious what is fair play/positive interaction if you arn't familar with dog behavior or looking for warning signs. Things can shift quickly within a pack when one dog feels too pressured by the other too often:

Stay tuned as we continue working on helping these boys build a new and more comfortable relationship together and teach their owners how to be the advocate and leader they need!

dog aggression

Possessiveness Gives Them Something to Fight About

When it comes to dogs fighting with each other or biting people, it's important to remember that the fight or bite is actually not the problem (although, obviously it is a huge and dangerous issue). What I mean, is that the aggressive situation is a symptom of problems that have been festering for a while in your pack - most often the relationship you have with your dog, and the resulting dynamics based off of it. 

When my dogs were fighting, it was a no brainer to say "they obviously don't see me as the Pack Leader...duh!" The simple part was identifying the lack of leadership - the hard part was doing something about it because I had no clue. The more I began to learn about dogs, the more their behaviors made sense to me and the more prepared I was to advocate, teach, guide, set boundaries for, and correct my dogs. 

In my pack one of the biggest triggers leading up to a fight was possessiveness. Once you live with a possessive dog (one who claims or acts like they "own" a person, space, or item) you quickly become very aware to when and where those moments occur. One of my dogs was extremely possessive of resources (food, toys, space) and people (anyone who was petting him or being close to him was "his"). Basically, if the corgi had something he deemed was valuable, the greyhound was in trouble if he came too close OR if the corgi was getting pet by someone, the greyhound could not come close without getting bitten. To this day, I am always very on alert when multiple dogs are gathering to receive affection from someone - more often than not, unless the relationship between dog(s) and human is in the right place, various levels of possessiveness will appear. It could be one dog bopping or blocking the others out the way with their body, a quick snap or growl, or a full on dog-fight. The "right" relationship for multi-dog affection means all dogs respect the human and their space, have clear and believable boundaries set by that human, understand the rules and consequences in play, and feel that person has strong leadership. Unfortunately, these are things most human/dog relationships are missing, especially in this multi-dog scenario, because it's likely a person petting and playing with multiple dogs at the same time, which is often a high pressure/not-such-a-good-time-to-be-doing-that situation, often only shares softness and affection in general. It's the formula for problems!

Possessiveness is really very common in the dog world and really easy for us, as humans, to nurture- which means with possessiveness often comes entitlement. Many dogs don't start out really possessive of people/items (granted there are genetic resource guarding tendencies in certain breeds), but without clear boundaries and expectation set they start to make their own rules. You'll see dogs taking more control and an active role of where people can walk in your house or where you can sit (again through body language, pushy behavior, growling, barking, biting) and where the other dogs can move about, where they will position themselves on furniture and in proximity to you and other dogs/people. Again, without your dog being in a behaviorally productive relationship with their humans, they will see their people with lots of softness and accommodating tendencies, that are fun to dish out from the humans POV and appreciated by the dog, but not holding up to the task of keeping the chaos and competition at bay...thus, troubled waters!

A good indicator of relationship issues, which will likely lead to conflict in your pack and trouble with your dog, is if your dog is possessive over you - not just toys, food, and space, but YOU their human (or other members of your family). A dog who "owns you" and denies any one or anything close to you or your property (unless you have invested trained protection dog doing its job...and most pets are NOT that by any means) is likely anxious, stressed, and rather entitled. They've learned through unintentionally encouragement (like petting a barking/growling dog in a lap and them being allowed to practice that behavior often), self reward (guarding something and moving people/other animals away with that behavior), AND lack of consequence (never being told "no" you can not act like that, in a way that is valuable enough to change how they behave in that scenario). Do you think your dog may have possessive issues?

The good news is, once your realize that's an issue you can start working on your relationship, and your journey to be the Leader your dog needs! You'll know you're moving the right way when your do is not acting possessive of you! But how do you get there? You start by building a new relationship - based on a teacher-student principle (and not the easy teacher- the one who was really hard and made you do your work, graded tough, and made you WORK to pass!) of teaching and learning, with set boundaries and expectations, rules, and consequences. If you haven't already, cut back on affection and intimate moments like furniture privileges and sleeping in bed. By keeping your possessive dog out of your personal space bubble, you are not empowering those tendencies. Instead, teach your dog to be OK standing alone - holding place command, and respecting the boundary so that guests can give you a hug when they come inside. Teach your dog to rest calmly and quietly in their crate, so that they arn't growling at your spouse to come back to bed or are growling at you for bumping into them. Don't give them a seemingly "soft" person to guard - instead, show them that you are the strongest in the relationship and are the one to keep all of you safe.

Remember, that un-earned affection is one of the most challenging things for dogs to have from you and see you in that role of control. Affection, however, is one of our FAVORITE things as people to share with our dogs! If you can redefine how you share affection and love with your dog - in a way that moves your relationship, your pack dynamic, and their behavior in the right direction, instead of just softness, petting, free roam, un-earned rewards, and accommodating behaviors on our end. There will be plenty of time to share affection and be buddies with your dog, ONCE they are making better choices and you are being the leader they need. Until then, make them safe and comfortable so that they can keep living their best life with you.

Also, please exercise caution when sharing affection with multiple dogs, giving food resources to multiple dogs, greeting yourself or someone else with a dog pretty contently in their personal space bubble, or interacting with a dog who is feeling empowered on furniture or with a food/toy/guardable resource. Changing the mind of your dog and adjusting your relationship is a process that takes time, and remember that if there are other people interacting with your dogs, that will affect and influence behavior as well. You may be tough as nails and strict to the T with your dogs and what they are allowed to do, but if someone soft is sharing affection or involved with/engaging with them, it's still an easy opportunity for guarding to happen because of the immediate leadership gap relationship. Dogs are not dumb - they asses the other people and animals around them immediately to see what their role needs to be to be most comfortable, safe, and productive...and if that means taking control because someone soft is around, that's what they will do! Be smart, be safe, and please get help from a professional if things are becoming dangerous (or before they do)!

Becoming the leader my dogs needed, and learning what to look for in scenarios where possessiveness was prime to take place made me a better dog owner, a more knowledgeable dog person...and in the end, a dog trainer, too! :)

dog fight