As a pet owner, you might observe some behavior shifts in your senior dog when a new puppy joins your household. This period of adjustment can be exhilarating as they acclimate to the newcomer.
One notable change could be your older dog frequently licking the new puppy. Initially, this might appear endearing or insignificant, but with time you might find it happening more often and wonder about the reason behind it.
Why does my older dog constantly lick my new puppy?
The simplified response to this query is multifaceted. Your older dog might be licking the puppy either out of habit or due to sensing an underlying problem that may be invisible to you.
Your senior dog might have developed a habitual licking behavior as a stress coping mechanism, which becomes more noticeable with the new puppy’s arrival. They might fixate on a particular area on the puppy – the ears, paws, or even the genital area.
If there are no health concerns, you’ll observe this behavior around the same time each day when the dogs are relaxed and close to each other. The routine might become so ingrained that the puppy begins to anticipate it.
If the puppy has a minor infection you haven’t identified, your older dog might sense it and lick the area to cleanse it. Even though your senior dog isn’t the puppy’s parent, they still retain parental instincts and the ability to detect illnesses that might not be visible to you for some time.
If your older dog suddenly starts licking the puppy when they hadn’t before, it might be linked to the puppy’s health. It would be wise to schedule a veterinary check-up and mention the sudden change in behavior.
Is your older dog dedicating a lot of time to the puppy’s ears? This could be a grooming instinct. Dogs can’t clean inside their ears and rely on regular external cleaning. While you as the owner will handle this, your older dog’s instinct might lead them to maintain the puppy’s ear hygiene.
This mutual grooming fosters bonding and builds the relationship you wish them to have for a harmonious cohabitation.
Why does my dog lick my puppy’s privates?
Another behavior you might find disconcerting is your older dog licking the puppy’s private parts. While initially unsettling, it’s quite normal and common in dogs. Essentially, the senior dogs are attempting to groom the puppy, teaching them cleanliness habits by example. This mirrors the older dogs’ self-grooming habits.
Despite the good intentions behind the licking, excessive attention to the genital area can lead to hot spots on your puppy. These areas can be uncomfortable and, due to persistent abrasion from the tongue, can quickly become breeding grounds for bacteria and potential infections.
How to discourage my dog from pestering my puppy?
If you’ve ruled out health concerns for your puppy and the older dog’s attention is causing undue stress, you might want to discourage the older dog from this behavior.
Firstly, consistently interrupt the behavior and make the licked area unappealing. Applying a well-mixed solution of apple cider vinegar and water to the targeted area can discourage the older dog due to the unpleasant odor and taste. As long as there are no hot spots on the puppy, they will only experience the unwanted vinegar smell. Other deterrents could include honey or a spicy substance.
Should I separate my older dog from my puppy?
If the licking becomes excessive, you might question whether keeping the dogs together is a good idea. While separation isn’t ideal as they need to learn to coexist, increasing physical activity for both dogs can serve as a distraction and deter the older dog from licking the puppy.
Ensuring they expend all their energy and receive adequate exercise promotes the dogs’ health. Keeping both dogs engaged and active can help keep your older dog’s attention off the new puppy.
How long will it take for my dog to adjust to the new puppy?
This is a complex question, and the answer can vary, but typically, most dogs and puppies reach some level of mutual understanding after approximately 1-2 months of cohabitation. Your older dog may exhibit signs of anxiety with the arrival of a new puppy, but it’s crucial to assure them that they are still valued and that the new puppy is now a part of the family.
Tips for Introducing a New Puppy to an Older Dog
Introducing a new puppy to an older dog in your household necessitates careful planning and execution. Here are a few tips to help ease this process:
- Neutral Ground Meeting: First introductions between the old dog and the new puppy should ideally occur on neutral ground, like a park or a friend’s backyard. This can help minimize territorial behaviors and make the initial meeting less stressful.
- Controlled Interaction: During their first interaction, keep both dogs on leashes, but don’t restrict them too much. Allow them to sniff each other, which is a natural way for dogs to gather information.
- Observe Body Language: Pay close attention to their body language. Positive signs include wagging tails and relaxed postures. If you notice growling, stiff postures, or staring, these are signs of aggression, and you should calmly separate the dogs.
- Gradual Integration: Don’t rush the process. Allow the dogs to gradually spend more time together under supervision. Over time, they should start to become comfortable with each other.
- Maintain Old Routines: Try to keep your older dog’s routine as unchanged as possible to minimize potential stress. This includes feeding times, walk times, and playtimes.
- Separate Resources: Make sure each dog has its own set of resources – food and water bowls, toys, and beds. This can help prevent resource guarding and promote a sense of security.
- Training and Socialization: Continue training your new puppy and encourage positive interactions with the older dog. Praise both dogs for good behavior to reinforce the positive association.
- Patience and Consistency: It’s important to remember that building a harmonious relationship between your older dog and new puppy takes time and consistency. Be patient, provide plenty of love and positive reinforcement, and soon your canine companions should adjust to their new living arrangement.
Is It Necessary to Intervene?
As long as both dogs appear comfortable with the licking and it doesn’t become excessive, it’s generally harmless to let it continue.
However, you should step in and limit the licking if you observe any of the following signs:
- The dog being licked displays signs of discomfort, such as growling, baring teeth, or snapping.
- The licked dog attempts to move away, but the other dog persistently follows.
- The licking dog is spending an increasing amount of time on this activity and seems unable to calm down.
- The licking dog begins to show this behavior with every dog they encounter.
- A dog attempts to lick another dog’s wounds.
In such cases, it’s important to interrupt the behavior and, if necessary, separate the dogs.
Licking as an Obsessive Behavior
Licking can be a soothing activity for dogs, similar to sniffing and chewing. Some dogs discover the calming effect of licking and may start to engage in this behavior obsessively.
This behavior can be directed towards the dog’s own body – often the paws, which can lead to raw, sore areas requiring the use of a cone. It could also be directed towards humans – their hands, faces, or ears – or objects, commonly doors or windows.
In some instances, dogs may excessively lick another dog’s face. In these situations, immediate and firm intervention is required. It’s unfair for any dog to endure obsessive licking, and it can negatively impact their relationship over time.
How to Interrupt
If you observe one of your dogs obsessively licking the other’s face, gently draw him away using a cheerful voice. You can also offer treats to both dogs.
Scolding the licking dog is not advisable because licking is a pacifying signal. If the dog senses your displeasure, they might respond by licking even more.
Using a positive tone and treats can help you break the licking cycle in a positive and effective way. Following this, you can separate the dogs – one can be put outside and the other indoors, or they can be placed in separate rooms, one in a crate or an exercise pen, etc.
If your dogs have never been separated, it’s crucial to start practicing this. As a dog trainer, I often encounter owners with two inseparable dogs (typically, one dog is highly attached while the other is more independent). This makes life and training challenging, and inevitably, there will be a day when they need to be separated, like for vet visits, grooming, training classes, etc. It’s better to start familiarizing them with separation now rather than delaying the inevitable!
1. Why does my older dog keep licking my new puppy?
The older dog might lick the new puppy for several reasons. It can be a form of social bonding, a grooming habit, or an instinctive response to perceived health issues.
Older dogs may also lick to show dominance or establish their place in the hierarchy. It’s important to observe the frequency and context of the licking to understand its implications better.
2. Is it normal for my older dog to lick my puppy’s private areas?
Yes, it is normal and common in the canine world. Dogs often lick each other’s private areas as a form of grooming and cleanliness. Mother dogs do this to their puppies to stimulate urination and defecation.
However, excessive licking can lead to irritation and potential infections, so it’s necessary to keep an eye on it.
3. How can I discourage my older dog from constantly licking the new puppy?
You can discourage the older dog by redirecting their attention whenever you notice the behavior. Use commands, toys, or treats to distract them. Consistency is key – every time you see the behavior, redirect. You could also consider using a deterrent spray on the areas being licked excessively, provided it’s safe and vet-approved.
4. Should I separate my older dog and the new puppy if the licking gets excessive?
It depends. If the licking is causing distress or leading to skin irritations, temporary separation might be beneficial. However, long-term separation isn’t advisable as dogs need to learn to coexist. You can consult with a dog behaviorist or a vet to determine the best course of action.
5. How long does it usually take for an older dog to adjust to a new puppy?
The adjustment period can vary greatly from one dog to another. On average, it can take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months. During this time, it’s important to give both dogs their own space and time for individual attention, while also encouraging positive interactions.
6. What should I do if my older dog’s licking turns into biting or nipping?
If the older dog starts biting or nipping the puppy, it’s a sign that the interaction is no longer positive. You should intervene immediately to prevent any harm. Consult with a professional dog trainer or a behaviorist to understand why this is happening and how to correct it.
7. Can constant licking be a sign of a health problem in either dog?
While licking is a normal canine behavior, excessive or obsessive licking could be indicative of an underlying health issue, such as skin irritations, allergies, or anxiety. If you notice any changes in your dog’s licking behavior, it’s best to consult with a veterinarian.
8. How can I ensure a harmonious relationship between my older dog and the new puppy?
To foster a harmonious relationship, give both dogs time to adjust to each other, maintain a balanced attention, and facilitate positive interactions. Regular exercise and mental stimulation can help alleviate potential stress or anxiety. If behavioral issues persist, consider seeking advice from a professional dog trainer or behaviorist.
Introducing a new puppy to an older dog can be a thrilling yet challenging time. It’s essential to understand that each dog has its unique personality and adjustment time. Observing your older dog licking the new puppy frequently can be a sign of bonding, grooming, or a response to an underlying issue.
While some licking is normal, excessive licking should be monitored and addressed appropriately to ensure a harmonious cohabitation. Encouraging positive interactions, providing balanced attention, and consulting professionals when necessary can significantly contribute to creating a happy and healthy environment for both dogs.