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Eight years old Basset Hound is too old to accept a new puppy in the house?

Is my dog too old to accept a new puppy in the house? We have an eight-year-old Basset Hound named Dexter. Earlier this year our eight-year-old Fox Terrier, Jack, died of renal failure. We had gotten the two dogs within a week of each other, and Dexter had always been with Jack. Now Dexter seems really lonely and wanders from room to room, as if he were looking for the other dog. We are considering getting another puppy, a female Basset Hound, but we don't know if Dexter is too old to accept a baby sister. What is your opinion? We would really love to get another puppy, but don't want to further stress Dexter. Thanks in advance!

Unless Dexter is particularly territorial or crotchety toward other dogs, I don't think a new puppy should be a problem. Introducing a puppy to an older dog can work wonders by bringing out the "inner puppy" in a senior pet, provided the two dogs are compatible. Because he has always been a part of a team, I'm sure Dexter is lost without his brother dog. I think a second dog might be just the thing to put a spring back into Dexter's step, as long as he isn't springing for the other dog's throat in an aggressive attack! If Dexter has a very dominant nature or shows aggression toward other dogs, introducing a new dog of any age into your home may cause trouble. What you do not want to do is introduce an antagonistic, annoying rival for rank.

However, if he seems to tolerate other dogs well, the best route to success would be to introduce a puppy of the opposite gender (in other words, a new little "sister") with a low dominance drive. The best way to determine which puppy would be most compatible is to bring Dexter along when you begin your search for a companion. Introducing him to a puppy on neutral territory, without any other dogs present, will let you observe how they relate. (Of course, you shouldn't even consider this if you have the slightest doubt about the puppy's safety!) Positive body language cues that indicate a submissive demeanor from the puppy include approaching Dexter with a lowered head, a tucked, wagging tail, submissive licking with the tongue pushed forward through a closed mouth, rolling over onto her side or back, spreading her back legs to expose her genitals and possibly even wetting. Also look for Dexter's interested, nonaggressive investigation of the puppy (sniffing of genitals, ears and mouth). Less gentle investigation is all right as long as Dexter is controlled and deliberate. Posturing over, vocalizing, mouthing, pawing, rolling, pinning and "rough housing" are all appropriate ways Dexter lets a subordinate know that he is the "big dog" in the family, provided he shows deliberate inhibition of his bite. Assume that play-invitation postures, such as "bowing" or rolling onto his back to lure the puppy into interaction, are positive signs as well. Normal adult dogs are very gentle with puppies, even when they are seemingly "playing rough." If he seems indifferent but tolerant, don't worry; she'll probably grow on him!

Problems in multiple-dog households often stem from unresolved battles for dominance between equally matched dogs--usually those of the same gender, size and strength. Dogs of equal tenacity who have strong drives to lead rather than follow are the most likely to get into serious fights for rank. Another big factor in intercanine aggression problems occurs when owners accidentally undermine their dominant dog by trying to treat their dogs as "equals." Although two dogs may occasionally get along on equal terms, most don't. Usually one dog is the "top dog"-he or she claims perks and privileges at the other dog's expense. Although the subordinate dog may be perfectly accepting of lower rank and its fallout (loss of toys, bones and food to the more assertive dog), humans have been known to bristle at these seemingly unfair canine rules of fair play. Inflicting human rules, such as undermining the more dominant dog by taking back stolen possessions and making the dog "share," can lead to increasingly vicious attempts by the dominant dog to reestablish rank when the sabotaging owner is not around. Because most dogs accept either a leading or following relationship with one another, sometimes even trading back and forth, they are usually able to get along without big problems. Rough play is how dogs most often test each other and establish rank. Allowing this is not only healthy and entertaining, it allows the dogs to work out their relationship nicely without bloodshed.

Because some members of the hound group tend to be aggressive toward other dogs in the presence of food, it would be a good idea to feed the dogs separately. I think a new puppy will be great fun for all of you. Puppies tend to be very easy to train with the help of an older dog who "knows the ropes" to lead the way!


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