Dalmatian Merlin lost his soul mate, a female goldie, a couple of months ago. The two dogs had been inseparable for eleven years of Merlin’s life. Without his friend, Merlin’s confidence has dipped – particularly on walks.
After a lot of research and reading in order to do things right, they have just brought home a Black labrador puppy, Millie, to keep him company. Millie is just over eight weeks old.
Unfortunately this isn’t the match made in heaven they had hoped for. From the outset it looked like Merlin would kill the puppy if he got the chance. Hindsight is a great thing but information gleaned from breed-specific books and the internet isn’t always the best as circumstances differ, so the actual method by which the two were introduced could have been made easier for him.
Millie had been there for just one night only when I went to see them yesterday.
Basically the puppy is very bad news so far as Merlin is concerned. They now need to change this so he begins to see the new puppy as good news instead.
I eventually want to help with Merlin’s confidence issues on walks in particular and with puppy parenting for Millie, but before we can do anything the two dogs have to be able to coexist. Any further outbreaks of snarling and barking that drive Millie to run, screaming, to the back of her crate will do her own future confidence no good at this sensitive stage of her development.
The logistics of the house are tricky and management at this stage is the first priority. It’s ‘belt and braces’ so that Merlin is simply unable to get into the same room as Millie, even if she’s in the crate. They can’t rely on even a high dog gate in the doorway because Merlin, a door-opening Houdini, can leap any gate (even at eleven). Consequently, both dogs are crated and both crates had been put in the same room. I suggested on the phone that they immediately cover Millie’s crate so Merlin can’t see her and so that she won’t be intimidated by him.
Actually visiting a house introduces new possibilities. I could see how a gate could work if Merlin wore his harness all the time and they doubled up with an anchor cable attached to the stair rail so he had free roam of the room but would be unable to leap the gate into the kitchen. The two crates should be kept apart in separate rooms so that every encounter between the dogs is under control and so that at night-time both dogs can relax without smelling and hearing the presence of other.
All the time I was there we worked on Millie becoming ‘good news’ to Merlin.
I had brought with me cooked chicken which we cut up into tiny pieces. Merlin doesn’t usually get chicken, so it’s special.
Whenever Merlin is anywhere near to Millie or when he hears her or looks at her, the ‘chicken bar’ opens. So we fed him. We sprinkled chicken on the floor around Millie’s covered crate. We lifted the cover for a short while and continued with the chicken – throwing occasional pieces in for Millie too but being careful that this didn’t upset Merlin. I repeatedly walked him out of the room and all chicken feeding stopped. I walked him back in and the chicken bar opened again.
When Millie had to come out of her crate to be taken outside or simply because she was bored and getting noisy, Merlin had to go back into his. However, we kept dropping chicken into his crate when Millie was about. We called it a day when he began to show more tension, but there was not one growl or bark in well over two hours.
This is going to be hard work, but with the two crates a couple of rooms apart and with a gate and anchor point, all encounters can be under control. We will need to tweak things as we go along, but I’m sure that if they don’t push it and take their time, older dog and new puppy will soon be happily touching noses through the gate.
NB. The precise protocols to best use for integrating your own new puppy may be different to the approach I have planned for Millie and Merlin, which is why I don’t go into exact detail here as to the methods I have suggested. Finding instructions on the internet that are not tailored to your own dogs can do more harm than good. One size does not fit all. If you live in my own area I would be very pleased to help with strategies specific to your own dogs (see my Get Help page).