Adding an Australian Shepherd Puppy to a House with Other Pets:
It has been over 10 years since I have raised a puppy, and Maple, my new Australian Shepherd puppy, is only the second puppy I have ever owned. All of my previous dogs other than her and Raina came to me as adults. As stated in an earlier post, Maple is very different from how Raina was as a puppy. Raina was a very easy puppy, and Maple is quite the handful. Here are my experiences so far with introductions and how I plan to deal with some issues I am currently experiencing with Maple, along with things I wish I would have been aware of before bringing her home.
Maple and the Cats:
While Maple is my first Australian Shepherd puppy, she is not my first herding-type dog. Lady was a herding mix, and she adjusted to life with our cats very well, but like Maple’s interactions with the cats so far, it wasn’t always smooth sailing. Maple wants to chase the cats in the worst way, and I think this is an important point to make. Much of what I read of Aussies said that they do well with cats for the most part, but I really think it depends on the dog and the cat. I think Maple would be doing well with a neutral cat, but Tiger, the elderly calico, goes out of her way to get in Maple’s face, and then swat and hiss at her, so it has been tricky to teach Maple to leave her be. Here is what I have been doing and what I plan to do:
- Management: this is honestly the biggest part. Maple is just starting to seem to have some impulse control development at 15 weeks of age, so up to this point when Maple is out, Tiger is away, and when Maple is in the crate Tiger has free run of the house. Thankfully, Tiger is not as active as she once was, so she sleeps most of the day anyway. She has a bedroom that is her room that the puppy is not allowed to enter. This is SO important for other pets in the house, especially older cats and dogs.
- Teaching “leave it:” This is going reasonably well with using a toy as the object Maple must leave. I have mostly been doing this motivationally up to this point, and I have avoided using it when the cat is present simply because I think Maple does not have enough self-control to comply.
- When Maple matures a little, I am going to introduce leash corrections to enforce the “leave it” command. I plan on using a prong collar when she is old enough to wear one.
While it has been tricky dealing with Maple’s desire to chase cats, Lady was also very insistent on chasing every new cat that came to live in my home, and she learned to leave our cats alone. Almost in the same way, Raina wants to chase cats she doesn’t know, but she is very good with the cats of the house, and is friends with one of them. So at this point, I think the combo of Maple being a herding dog and being an immature puppy is making things difficult, but I am confident she will learn the rules of the house. Still, I would recommend people wanting to add an Aussie to the family to be aware that they WILL try to chase cats, and potential owners must be ready to manage the environment and make sure their cat has a safe space to escape to that is completely off-limits to the pup.
Maple and Raina:
Maple wants desperately to play with Raina, and she flat out ignores Raina’s growls to back off. This means that in addition to managing Maple’s access to the cats, her access to Raina is also managed. Here is what I have been doing so far:
- When Raina is around Maple, I give Maple a high value chew, and this keeps her pretty occupied most of the time. As with all things, when Maple is overly tired this really doesn’t work, and at that point the only thing that will calm her down is a forced nap.
- This is something else to keep in mind when introducing a puppy into a home with an older dog. Raina is 12, and she really doesn’t want to put up with an annoying pup in her face. It is imperative the older dog can escape the puppy. Raina likes going in the basement, and the puppy doesn’t go down there. I know, it might seem weird, but between the de-humidifier and other appliances down there, there is plenty of white noise to block out noises such as gun fire, fireworks, and thunder, and Raina has many noise phobias, so the basement is a place she goes on her own. Also, my room is a favorite of Raina’s, and the puppy doesn’t go in there. These escapes are so important.
- Along with Raina’s own space, I also spend time with Raina without the puppy around so she knows she is still my best bud. I was originally planning to walk Raina everyday, just her and me, but the slipped disc stopped that until a couple days ago when the vet gave her the ok to go on short walks again.
- Raina always comes first. When I get home, I greet Raina first, and I have visitors do the same. I feed Raina first and put her out to potty first.
- Note: with going out to potty, I would take them out at nearly the same time early on since Maple had a bit of a weak bladder. Now that she is a little better at holding it even when excited, she stays in her crate while Raina goes in the yard when I get home from outings, except for first thing in the morning. At that time, I wake up earlier than when I just had Raina, and Raina likes sleeping in, so for this trip, Maple technically goes out first most mornings, but Raina has no objections.
- When I take Maple out for socialization, I give Raina a food stuffed toy or chew-type treat to keep her busy.
Something important to keep in mind is that your older dog may suddenly become very needy when a new dog is introduced. I felt comfortable introducing a puppy to the mix largely because Raina has been very independent most of her life. I often joke she is like a cat that needs a daily walk. Sure, she would previously want to walk, want to play a bit, and want some petting, but she was always the kind of dog that would get up and walk off if petted for more than a minute or two. Raina is rarely cuddly, preferring instead to simply be around me, but she has never needed to be in my lap. Since bringing home Maple, Raina has become very needy, and she constantly gets in my face and wants lots of attention. So, even if you have an independent dog, expect their needs to escalate when bringing home a new puppy of any breed.
Overall, Maple is making improvements from her first week home, but we still have a long way to go. Don’t let your pup be obnoxious to your other pets, and make sure all pets have safe spaces to escape. This stands true for any puppy, but can be extra important when raising a head-strong Australian Shepherd pup!