Puppies can be a real handful when they are young, and getting them trained can be a painstaking, time-consuming process. There is no substitute to spending quality one-on-one time working with your puppy. But have you ever wondered if there is anything else that you could do to help the process?
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If you already have an older, well-trained, calm dog at home, then they can be a real asset in the task of training your puppy. Not only can they be a soothing presence during a time of upheaval in a puppy’s life, but they can set a great example for them. Older dogs can help with day-to-day etiquette (like eating and toileting) as well as social skills and even obedience training.
A Calming Influence
The first few weeks of a puppy’s life in their new home are full of changes, and new experiences and sensations. Dogs are pack animals. So puppies will naturally pick up on the emotions of other dogs (and humans) around them when trying to understand their new world.
A calm, sensible adult dog can help to show a new puppy that your home is a comfortable, relaxing place to live in. And they can also help soothe any anxieties over their new surroundings. If your adult dog is relaxed about traffic, or the postman, or the presence of small children, then this may help your puppy to learn that these things need not be frightening.
Setting An Example
Older dogs can also help with training puppies. This includes basics like house training, where young dogs often naturally follow the example set by older ones. In general, dogs are clean creatures; so they do not like to deliberately urinate or defecate near where they eat, sleep, or play. However, sometimes a puppy may be unsure about where the right place to urinate is, or even find their own spot in the house and decide to toilet there. An older dog can set an example by demonstrating where to urinate. And will also naturally make the garden smell like the correct place to go.
You can also use your older dog to help with obedience training for your puppy. All you need to do is regularly ask your older dog to perform commands (such as “sit”) when your younger dog is present. And then reward your older dog for doing them. You can then ask your younger dog to do the same thing. And reward them if they can manage to mimic it, even if it is not perfect.
This is not a substitute for doing one-on-one training with your puppy. It works best when using commands that they have already been taught.
Learning Social Skills
As well as learning household etiquette and starting their obedience training, young puppies need to learn the social skills necessary to interact with other dogs. This starts even before they leave home, learning through rough-and-tumble play with their siblings. However, adult dogs communicate and play differently to puppies, and their social skills need to mature as they do.
An older dog with good social skills should be able to set good boundaries with a puppy. So they can learn how to initiate and when to leave another dog alone. As they grow bigger and stronger, they need to learn how much is too much when it comes to rough-and-tumble.
When It May Not Help
Each dog is different, and some adult dogs may be more suited to helping train puppies than others. Dogs who are naturally anxious, easily startled or reactive to other dogs, may teach a puppy to react poorly to stressful situations. Similarly, adult dogs who struggle with housetraining may also lead a puppy into poor toileting habits.
When training two dogs alongside each other, you must also be careful that the older dog does not become frustrated with the younger one, or protective over any food reward. This can turn the training session into a negative experience for the puppy; meaning they are less likely to respond well to training in the future.
Training a puppy is an important part of bringing them up to be a healthy, well-balanced dog. It takes time and patience to accomplish, and is usually most successful when done with a qualified dog trainer. Having a well-trained, calm older dog around can help to smooth a puppy’s transition to adulthood and speed up their training. But is still no substitute for time doing one-on-one training. However, some adult dogs may be more suited to help bring up puppies than others.
If you are thinking about getting a new puppy, always consider how this might affect your existing pets, including any adult dogs.