Doggo or Pupper
December 2, 2019 8:14 AM   Subscribe

We are ready to bring a new canine companion into our household. We are all ready to go...except we're stuck on one point: Doggo or Pupper?

We are a household of three: myself, Herr Duck, and Luce, a very spry 11 years old German Shepherd Dog mix. We have been considering a second dog for a while and it looks like now is a good time for it: we humans have flexible schedules for the next few months and we have no vacations planned, so we both have the time to deal with the new canine.

I raised Luce from a pup (10 weeks old) and Herr Duck joined the household when she was about two. He has never raised a puppy. I'm up for the challenge and he's game. We will most likely get another GSD mix because that's what we're used to, and there seems to be a glut of them to choose from at local rescues. Part of the reason that we're getting a second dog is that there's overlap when Luce passes on. For that reason, we're not interested in another older dog. Luce is also very good with other dogs - we spent hours a day at the dog park when she was younger and she goes to doggie camp several times a year when we go on vacation. She's never had any trouble with other dogs, and in particular she's good at playing with smaller/younger dogs at their level. She's a super good doggo in general and we're hoping that she'll pass along some of the good habits to the new dog, leading by example.

But we're stuck on whether to get a puppy-puppy or a young dog (1-2 years).

1. We're lucky to have a good Canine College a few blocks away so the new dog will be in training right away. So from that perspective I'd like to get a puppy and start with puppy classes, rather than have to undo any bad habits first and then build from there. I'd like her to be a Canine Good Citizen and also good with directions (I would LOVE to take up skijoring with the new dog...a dog that is a good listener and obeyer of commands is required!).Also: GSDs have a trait in which they tend to take direction from their #1 Human only (this is why they make good police dogs...they listen to their partner and not the criminal with the Pupperoni) and it might be an uphill battle to establish myself/Herr Duck as top of the chain of command. Do you have experience training both puppies and young dogs? Is there anything we should consider?

2. Luce is a very sweet but submissive dog. My biggest concern is that if we bring in an older dog with even a middlingly dominant personality, the new dog will just bulldoze her. We want to establish that Luce is the dog leader of the pack and I feel that would be easiest to do with a puppy. The only reason why we would ever return a dog to the rescue would be if the new dog was making Luce miserable. We already are preparing to do things like greet Luce first, make sure new dog waits while Luce gets her treat/scritches/etc, etc. Do any of you have any advice for making sure a new dog feels welcome while making sure the old dog doesn't feel like this?

One area I don't want to get into is the ethics re: dog vs puppy. Please assume that I know that puppies are more likely to be adopted than older dogs and that older dogs are just as loveable as younger ones. I'm also aware of things like "puppies have sharp teeth" and other general stuff about puppy-rearing. I'm hoping for some practical advice and tips drawn from personal experience about the differences between raising and training a young dog vs puppy, and about bringing a new dog into a house that already has one (very sweet and submissive) older dog. Thanks!

Luce's Dog Tax
posted by Gray Duck to Pets & Animals (16 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Luce is a very sweet but submissive dog. My biggest concern is that if we bring in an older dog with even a middlingly dominant personality, the new dog will just bulldoze her. We want to establish that Luce is the dog leader of the pack and I feel that would be easiest to do with a puppy.

It won't necessarily play out like that. An old and submissive dog isn't likely to end up the leader of the pack, even if you start with a puppy. Part of the natural way of things is younger dogs pushing out the older alpha.

If you adopt an older dog, you'll have a good read on what their temperament is while a puppy is an unknown. There's plenty of older dogs in shelters that are mellow and just want to spend their time hanging out with a buddy rather than pushing another dog around.
posted by Candleman at 8:21 AM on December 2, 2019 [4 favorites]

You can get a young dog that isn't a puppy and skip the teething and 4x a night toileting!

But just to put your mind at rest we foster for a rescue here in Ireland and we never foster pups, only adult dogs. Because there are not enough homes here in the Puppy Mill Capital of Europe, we send some of our dogs to Sweden via a Swedish rescue that has families on a wait list. Several of those adult dogs have gone on to do Search & Rescue or that thing where they run obstacle courses with their new Swedish families -- the trainability is in the dog, not the age.

Also, in my experience, except for lead pulling or food aggression, dogs don't really bring their habits with them. A new home is a fresh start, so start as you mean to go on.
posted by DarlingBri at 8:29 AM on December 2, 2019 [2 favorites]

Something to keep in mind: there seems to be some evidence that there's more of a risk of incompatible dog politics with 2 female dogs, than any other combination. I can't find it now to link to, but I did see a study that seemed to confirm that and certainly anecdotally all the times I have come across households with really fraught doggy politics it was between 2 female dogs. Of course there are many examples of when that combination works fine, but maybe just something to keep in mind. (Sorry to answer a question you didn't actually ask!)
posted by Zumbador at 8:35 AM on December 2, 2019 [2 favorites]

I dunno, I feel like it can go either way with a puppo or a doggo and they each have their advantages and disadvantages but since Luce is a lady you might have better luck bringing in a boy rather than another girl. I've found that dominance games tend to happen more frequently between dogs of the same sex.
posted by onebyone at 8:37 AM on December 2, 2019 [2 favorites]

In your text, I'm not seeing any reasons not to get a puppy.
posted by amtho at 8:44 AM on December 2, 2019 [1 favorite]

Anecdata: I got my dog at 6 months old (German Shepherd, purebred) from the SPCA. The advantages were seeing more of his personality, housebreaking took 2 days, and he was over the mouthy stage so I didnt have to puppy-proof my house or block him off in one room.

Disadvantages were that core skills did take a few months longer to train than they would have if I'd gotten him younger. Also I missed seeing the cute tiny puppy he surely was. Overall I am happy that I got him when I did because he is the very best dog.
posted by ananci at 8:51 AM on December 2, 2019 [1 favorite]

Depending on how submissive she is, even a puppy will bulldoze her. Maybe even especially a puppy. I had a submissive female and brought in a male puppy and his youth was in no way a mitigating factor. I exhausted myself trying to make things right for both of them but she ended up with no small amount of antipathy toward him.
posted by HotToddy at 9:26 AM on December 2, 2019 [1 favorite]

We brought a female puppy into our household at 4 months (my first night of panic Ask is here--I got a lot of great advice) and, once she gained some confidence, did start to bulldoze our elder male dog. A training specialist we saw explained it as, roughly, she sees him as an old and useless member of the pack who's taking valuable resources. So to let her know that Old Dog was and is a valid user of resources (food, snuggles), we make a point to feed Old Dog first, give him treats first, etc., and that seems to have worked. She still roughhouses with him, but it's not as vicious as it used to be. She accepts that his food dish goes down first (in a separate room) and patiently waits in her room for her food dish.

Pairing dynamics aside, I would say the biggest factor between pupper/doggo is: how much time and energy do you have? If you've got a lot, get the pupper. If you're juggling a few other things in life, go for the doggo.
posted by witchen at 10:00 AM on December 2, 2019 [2 favorites]

I don't know how common this is, but I imagine very if it was freely available at our local humane association. When we got our second dog, the most important thing to me was that it get along with our other dog and our cats. Our dog has some relatively mild jealousy issues. We had previously brought home a dog that was a complete and utter disaster, and ended up having to take her back which was heartbreaking. The next time, I called in advance and was able to set up an appointment with a behaviorist. He met with the humans and discussed what we wanted, and then he met our dog, and then he picked out three dogs based on those meetings. We met with each dog starting with just the humans and then together with our dog at the humane society dog park and he watched their interactions (and taught us all about what he was seeing). We ended up with a dog that I would never have picked out otherwise (he's a basset hound mix, and he looks like Frankenstein's Doggo). He is without a doubt the sweetest, best natured, friendliest dog I have ever owned. Also, this sounds like a huge undertaking but it probably took three hours total.

The only caveat is the dog/puppy question- we wanted an adult dog, and through this process, we ended up with a puppy! He was a little older and therefore out of the super cute insta adopt phase, but still young enough to need a lot of work and training. But it's totally worth it.
posted by Missense Mutation at 10:39 AM on December 2, 2019 [2 favorites]

Perhaps work with your local foster/rescue group, explaining in advance what you'd like to achieve; every one wants to have a good outcome resulting in a forever home. Worst case scenario, you foster until someone fits in with your crew (and it would do those dogs a great service in the meantime!)
posted by NorthernAutumn at 11:32 AM on December 2, 2019 [1 favorite]

I'm currently about three weeks into life with a four month old rescued Belgian Malinois puppy (very similar to a GSD) and a thirteen year old shepherd husky mix. They are both female.
Our motivations were quite like yours, and our older dogs also sound similar.

Our older dog has always gotten along well with other dogs, and was initially enthusiastic about the puppy, but once she realized that the pup was here to stay, she cooled considerably. She has become much more vocal and territorial, growling and barking when she thinks we're giving the puppy too much attention, or when the puppy gets too close to her when she's cranky. There are a lot of jealousy issues, even apart from the puppy constantly trying to steal all of the food and toys. The puppy is just really annoying to the older dog--pup always wants to play, and doesn't read older dog's "I'm not playing" signals very clearly.

We're hand feeding the puppy for now, and giving her her food as part of training. The older dog also wants to demonstrate that she knows "sit," "down," etc., so we're having to adjust her food so that she can get some rewards without overeating. It's a bit of a problem because in this, too, older dog does not want to share our attention or resources.

The puppy could run all day long without seeming even a little tired; old dog is energized by this, but also having a hard time keeping up--once we get the little one into doggy daycare for the few hours when we're both at work, this will probably be less of a problem.

They are getting used to one another, and when they're getting along it's heartwarming. Older dog is smart and well behaved and lovely, and I think she will be a good role model, even though things are difficult now.

I'm glad to have the opportunity to train the little one at this point in her life, when she is learning so quickly. Between her extreme mouthy-ness/bitey-ness, some PTSD from her life before us, her high needs for exercise, and her toilet training and other training, she's a lot of work; while I was prepared for that, I'm not sure I adequately anticipated just how much more work it would be to help older dog through this transition. I'm still glad we got a puppy, though.
posted by Edna Million at 12:11 PM on December 2, 2019 [1 favorite]

Thank you all! I appreciate your responses. I'm going to show the responses here to Herr Duck and we're going to figure this out soon. We're hoping to have the new family member soon, I will pay the Metafilter dog tax at that time.

One of my best friends brought home a second dog and it was a disaster. It was nothing that could have been known beforehand, an otherwise happy and friendly first dog became confused and sad when the happy and friendly second dog was introduced. After refusing food for four days, my friend took the poor old dog to the vet and the vet recommended returning the second dog. My friend was heartbroken but what could she do?

I actually applied for a puppy through one of the rescues a few weeks ago (the pup was adopted before my application even got there) and one of the questions was "Are there any reasons why you would return a dog to the rescue?". I wrote that the only reason I would do it is if the pairing was such an utter mismatch that my old dog's quality of life was drastically reduced, or if there was aggression. I'd hate for it to happen but I owe it to Luce to make sure that her senior years aren't stressful or uncomfortable.
posted by Gray Duck at 12:38 PM on December 2, 2019

We want to establish that Luce is the dog leader of the pack

Yeah, that's not going to be up to you. That's up to the dogs. Many of the things we think help with dog-dog interaction actually cause big problems. Dogs speak better dog than humans do.

Also "alpha" and all that jazz has been pretty thoroughly debunked, group dynamics are fluid, and dogs aren't wolves. The best prospect for harmony is opposite sex and at least 4-5 years apart in age, and similar in size or with the new one being a little smaller. But ultimately, Luce and the new dog will decide for themselves who goes where, don't interfere in that stuff.
posted by biscotti at 3:32 PM on December 2, 2019 [7 favorites]

Hi! I just did this with my 11 year old dog Perdita because she was so very unhappy after her life partner died in April. I had already decided on doggo vs. pupper because Perdita has always regarded puppies (and human children) with a mixture of wary incredulity and downright fear / loathing, so clearly I was not going to do that to her. Thus I was looking for an older dog but none of the older ones at the local shelter seemed just right. Then I met Harvey and fell in love.

Harvey is probably between 2 - 3 years old. He was neutered the morning I picked him up - I live in a very rural county in Oregon; our shelter is old school; there is no fostering or trial periods or etc.; probably you are in a more up to date place so YMMV. He was half starved and utterly miserable. Perdita was wary but accepting; Harvey was bouncing off the walls but friendly. And three months later that's still the dynamic, more or less, although they have grown pretty close and Harvey is slowly slowly getting better at basic good dog stuff like not bouncing off the walls 24/7. It took some time and a couple of scary moments (dogs who are sorting themselves out can sound terrifying! But there was never an actual injury) for them to get really comfortable together but now I feel good about them together and - miracle of miracles - Harvey is even cool with the cat!

I adore Harvey and Perdita and I think they care about each other BUT if I had it to do over again I would wait until a calmer, older dog arrived at the shelter. Harvey is too much for her. She can't keep up. When they're off leash at the beach he plays too rough a lot of the time. She is pretty good about letting him know and he is (usually) pretty good about letting her be but the energy level difference is just so stark. Also, her arthritis suddenly exponentially increased, so she is much less mobile than she was even six months ago. There was no way to anticipate that but unfortunately, it often happens that way, so keep it in mind.

Harvey has also reinforced some of Perdita's less awesome habits, such as disappearing into the woods on a hike. During her few months as an only dog she stayed near me hiking but now she just takes him off too, so I have to be super careful where they go off leash. She has also taught him to bark at other dogs from the window, yay, and I have watched her egg him on to argue with other dogs. This was all unexpected! Also, she was very much in charge of our other dog and now with Harvey she stands back a lot and lets him make the call.

On the plus side she has been more active than she otherwise would have and so have I! And she is happier: she has never been an only dog and she really didn't like being one. But he needs much more exercise than she does and I am feeling guilty that all this walking is exacerbating her arthritis. I am now getting to a point where I think I'm going to have to walk them separately, or walk them together, circle back to the house, drop her off and then take him for a longer walk. This is messing up my mornings and making me cranky and Perdita sad but I see no way around it. However! There is love, here is a feel good moment: this morning towards the end of our walk I noticed Perdita was limping. Oh no, I said, and we stopped to look at her paw. Harvey immediately came over, licked her paw and then licked her nose. I melted. Everyone got treats and we took the short way home.

TL/DR - based on my experience I would say look for a dog who is between 5 and 8 years old and yes, what everyone else is saying, opposite sex and about the same size. Good luck!
posted by mygothlaundry at 1:30 PM on December 3, 2019

Pupdate: we met a 5-month old black lab mix that we really loved. Everything was going swimmingly until the pup and Luce met at our house. They were okay for a while...but then Luce went behind the couch and remained there, skulking and softly whining, until pup and the foster mom left. She spent the rest of the evening pouting. This is what we were worried about! We (humans) were concerned about this and after a long talk, we decided not to pursue a pup at this time. We're going to revisit the option of getting a middle-aged dog this spring/summer...but there's a good chance that Luce will continue to be an Only Dog.
posted by Gray Duck at 8:20 AM on December 12, 2019

Something else to consider - why exactly do you want to get a second dog? I've found that the human idea that dogs want and need dog companions in their family doesn't always fit reality, especially with older dogs who have become used to being the only pet. And not only then! I had two dogs with an age difference of about four years between them. They got along really well. But when my older dog eventually died, the younger one kind of blossomed. He'd always been quite jealous of any attention I gave the older dog, and once she was out of the picture there was no doubt he LOVED being the only pet. It wasn't just in my head either, other people commented on the difference in his personality. He'd not been miserable before, but his style had definitely been cramped. That made me decide not to get another dog while he was still alive. Especially as he got older. Older dogs get set in their ways, and even small changes upset them. I would think carefully about why you want to get a new dog. If it's for your older dog's sake, then maybe it's not really what she'd like? If it's to make the transition from older dog dying easier for you, that's another thing, and you'd have to weigh up her needs vs yours.
Of course, this doesn't mean that your dog will inevitably hate having a young companion, and even her hiding behind the couch might just be her reaction to Weird Stuff Happening OMG and she'd get over herself. You know your dog best - trust your intuition.
posted by Zumbador at 7:51 PM on December 13, 2019

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