Older Dog Depressed with New Puppy – How Can You Help?


While it is always an exciting time when you welcome a new puppy into your home, it can take a little bit of time for your existing older dog to adjust to the change. 

While everyone hopes their older dog will adjust quickly and welcome the addition of an energetic pup, some older dogs find the change quite challenging. If you have noticed that your older dog’s behavior and attitude have changed since you brought home the new puppy or that your older dog even appears somewhat depressed, you are not alone. 

How Can We Help?

This is a common reaction when an older, established dog has to adjust to a new puppy. Fortunately, there are many ways you can help your older pooch feel more comfortable with the change and even learn to love their new buddy. 

To discover why older dogs often appear depressed when you bring a new puppy home and learn what you can do to help, read this informative guide!

Table of Contents

Why Would a New Puppy Make an Older Dog Feel Depressed?

Dogs can be surprisingly stubborn creatures, especially as they approach their senior life stage. Any sort of abrupt change to their environment can take a while to get used to. This can include everything from moving to a new house to welcoming a new puppy into the home.

On top of their tendency to react poorly to sudden environmental changes, elderly dogs can also be quite territorial. Not only do they like to feel as if their space belongs to them, but they can also be stubborn about sharing the affections of the humans in their lives.

This is why it usually works out better to slowly introduce a puppy to an elderly dog rather than suddenly make a significant change to their environment and routine. For the most part, an elderly dog can adjust to a new puppy quite well if the introduction is done gradually. 

Patience is key. Your old dog may take some time to adjust, but if you do everything you can to help your old pooch, they should be able to bounce back from their post puppy depression and lethargy quite well.

What Are the Signs That an Older Dog Is Depressed Due to a New Puppy?

While each dog is different and symptoms will always vary, there are a few telltale signs that a dog is feeling down due to the introduction of a new puppy.

The following are just some of the symptoms canine behaviorists notice when an older dog is feeling depressed as a result of the introduction of a younger dog:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Downcast head and eyes
  • Lethargy
  • Pacing 
  • Whining and moaning
  • Withdrawn or distant behavior
  • Insomnia and nighttime pacing

While you will always know your dog better than anyone else, there is a good chance that your dog is having difficulty adjusting to the new puppy if you notice any of the symptoms mentioned above.

For more information about dog depression, consider reading the following guide from FETCH by WebMD – Depression in Dogs – Symptoms, Causes, and Treatments.

How Long Will It Take for Your Older Dog to Adjust to a New Puppy?

If you are patient with your older dog and ensure the puppy respects certain boundaries, the adjustment period should last between a couple of weeks and several months.

Suppose you find no improvement in your older dog’s mood. Even after months have elapsed, you might need to speak with a veterinarian about potentially putting your dog on some anxiety medication.

You could also consider speaking with a professional canine behaviorist. Most will be able to work with your older dog and help them overcome any animosity they may have towards the new dog or their struggles with adjusting to a new dog in their perceived territory.

What Should You Do to Help Your Older Dog Adjust to a New Puppy?

While each dog is different, there are a few general things you can do to help your older dog adjust to the presence of a new puppy. The following are some of the easiest and most effective things you can do to help your canine companion:

1. Make Sure You Are Not Giving Your Older Dog Less Attention

One of the main reasons dogs feel uncomfortable when their owners bring a new dog home is the same as why many older children feel uncomfortable when their parents walk through the door with a new baby.

The dog could feel neglected and may even resent the attention the new dog is getting. If your older dog has only ever known a life where they are your only dog, they could resent the attention the new puppy is getting.

To overcome this issue, you mustn’t reduce the attention you give your older dog. While puppies can certainly be demanding, you mustn’t ignore your older dog in favor of the new pup. If anything, you should be making an effort to give your older dog even more attention than they received before you brought the new puppy home.

The older dog must not feel like they are being cast aside in favor of a new puppy, as this will only increase their resentment. Consider taking your older dog on solo walks and playing the same old games you enjoyed together before you brought the new puppy home. 

Your continued affection can help your dog through this phase.

2. Give Your Older Dog Some Space

While you certainly do not want to neglect your older dog, you mustn’t force the dog to spend time with the new puppy. 

Always make sure the dog has the option to go into another room or sleep separately from your new puppy and the people in your household. 

A new puppy can be very overstimulating for an older dog, manifesting in annoyance, depression, and even aggression if the older dog feels like it cannot escape the commotion. 

You should also ensure that the older dog has access to their favorite areas in the house. Do not give the new puppy your older dog’s favorite spot on the couch, and make sure the new puppy is not playing with your older dog’s favorite toys.

3. Make Sure You Are Being Patient with Your Older Dog

As mentioned above, patience is vital when helping an older dog adjust to a new puppy. Let the older dog socialize with the new puppy on their own terms, rather than forcing the two together.

If you are lucky, your older dog’s curiosity will improve, and they will begin socializing with the new puppy within a few days. Don’t worry if the older dog is not instantly best friends with your new puppy. The closest canine bonds sometimes take months to establish.

4. Create Positive Associations with the New Puppy

Once your older dog is comfortable with the presence of the new dog, you can begin working on forming a stronger bond between the two.

One of the easiest ways to do so is to generate positive associations with the new puppy in your older dog’s mind. You can offer treats and praise when the older dog chooses to go near the new puppy.

You can try bringing the new puppy to your older dog’s favorite park. Remember, you are trying to create the connection between the new puppy’s presence and enjoyable situations, so don’t be afraid to get creative.

That said, you should not force things. Let the older dog come to the new puppy on their terms. 

What if Your Older Dog Still Seems Depressed?

 older dog’s depression

If you followed the advice outlined above, but your older dog still seems distant and depressed, it could be time to seek help from a professional.

Most veterinarians will be able to offer advice that is tailored to your specific dog’s needs. If your dog’s depression is severe, they might even be able to recommend an appropriate medication to help it feel less anxious and depressed.

You might also want to consider reaching out to a professional dog trainer. They might be able to work with your two dogs and figure out a strategy to help them bond.

For More Information

If you want to know more, consider reading the American Kennel Club’s guide – How to Introduce a New Dog to Your Current Dog.

The Puppy Academy also offers a guide filled with helpful information – Puppy Introductions – Introducing a New Puppy to Your Other Dog.

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