Your Senior Dog and Pack Order
You Decide to Get a Younger Dog
Dog packs. You’ve had your dog for several years, she is part of the family; you haven’t had any trouble with her. Now, she’s aging, and you decide to get a younger dog. Your hope is that the younger dog will encourage her to play more, and keep her company. You’re finding out however, that not all is well in paradise. Consider the following tips about the importance of pack order.
1. You are the alpha of the dog pack
In the wild dogs live in packs. Domestic dogs also live in packs, although those dog packs don’t tend to look exactly like those of their wild brothers, which means, your dog lives in a pack. I know, you’re thinking, it’s just my dog and me; there is no pack involved. Wrong. You are part of your dog’s pack. In fact, you are the alpha of the dog pack. In the wild, dogs tend to live in a pack where there is a dominant female and male. The alphas are the dogs in charge of the pack. They are responsible for discipline. You are the pack member responsible for discipline. You keep your dog safe, you feed your dog, you tell your dog how to behave; you are the alpha dog.
Your senior dog, no doubt, after living with you for most of her life, understands this. Your new puppy however, does not know this. It is imperative that your new puppy learns you are alpha, not only for your sake, and the puppy’s sake, but for your senior dog’s sake as well. If you do not determine proper dog pack order many things can occur. To begin, your puppy might challenge you all the time. The puppy may decide she is the alpha. Aggressive or destructive behavior can come of this. This can also negatively affect your senior dog. Your senior dog knows you to be the alpha, and she may not take kindly to the new puppy taking that roll.
While it may seem alien to us, dogs need a pack order. That order gives order to their lives. Dogs who do not know their pack order can become flustered or stressed. They can act out out of fear and misunderstanding. When your new puppy is introduced, it is imperative that you, the alpha set the pack order, for both of your dogs, and your, sake.
2. Displaying the alpha of the dog pack
As mentioned, your senior dog most likely understands, and very well, that you are alpha. Your puppy probably needs some education. There are many ways to display your alpha stature. Training is a great way to do this. When you train a dog, the dog learns that you are in control. Training your dog simple commands such as ‘stay’ and ‘sit’ help re-enforce that you are the one in charge. When you say ‘SIT!’ your puppy sits. Positive re-enforcement is encouraged. If your puppy sits, you may reward her. Show her affection, or give her a treat. If she doesn’t sit, discipline. Her tell her ‘BAD DOG! I SAID SIT!’ Don’t give her what she wants until she does what you want satisfactorily. My dog tends to follow commands poorly if he knows I have a treat. I find the best way to train him is to give him affection after he does something well. Find what works best for your dog, and remember, many dogs like treats, but as with humans, too many treats can be bad for your dog.
There are many other ways to show your new dog that you are the alpha. Perhaps your senior dog is allowed on the couch. Do not let your puppy on the couch unless she is invited. Put limits on what she wants to do. Many animal trainers employ the Nothing is Free, or There is No Free Lunch strategy. Your puppy must learn that all actions have consequences. Your puppy cannot disobey your commands and then expect to be rewarded. Your puppy can obey your commands and expect not to be disciplined however.
3. Your senior dog’s rank in the dog pack
While it may go without saying to you that your senior dog ranks higher than your puppy in the dog pack, such logic is not always clear to your dogs. You, as the alpha, should help re-enforce the pack order to your two dogs. Your senior dog should rank higher than your puppy, and there are ways that you, the alpha, can show this.
Food is a big deal in the dog world. Do not feed your dogs at the same time. Your senior dog should get her food before the puppy. When your senior dog gets her food first, your puppy and your senior dog have a better understanding of pack order. This does not mean that you love your senior dog more, it just gives order to both dogs lives, and they like that.
You can follow this same principle for many aspects in your dogs’ lives. You should let your senior dog out first, invite your senior dog onto the couch first, and say hi to your senior dog first. Do not forget your puppy; just make sure that your senior dog and your puppy know the pack order.