The Old Trainer: Old dogs need time to adjust

December 15, 2012 

Dear Old Trainer: Last week we adopted Socks, a 12-week old Lab mix, as company for Charley, our 8-year-old Golden Retriever. Charley loves all dogs, but every time Socks comes close to him he growls. Socks bounces around trying to play with him, but Charley won't let him. What should we do?

-- Stan, Atwater

A: Don't worry. Charley is jealous a new guy is getting attention from the humans in the pack and annoyed that Socks is not showing enough respect.

Charley is like Al Pacino in "Carlito's Way" when he bristles at the young upstart gangster, Benny Blanco. His friend says, "It makes no sense you should hate this guy, because this guy is you, 20 years ago."

Charley forgets he once acted just like Socks acts now. Give them a few days and let them work it out. Charley will accept Socks and be glad he has a canine pal.

Dear Old Trainer: I am taking my kids to the shelter just before Christmas to pick up a female German Shepherd puppy. We have all your columns on training, but at what age do you start to train a puppy?

-- Brad, Santa Fe, N.M.

A: Congratulations on teaching your kids that adopting from a shelter is the best way to find a dog.

A puppy is capable of learning at six weeks, so start training her on the ride home from the shelter. Call her by name, pet her, let her get to know the family. Patience and love are the main things you need to train a pup. Use plenty of both.

Concentrate on the three puppy basics: housebreaking, coming when called and learning what "no" means. Keep the sessions short. Thirty seconds is a long time for a puppy to concentrate.

Take her outside as soon as you get home. If she goes to the bathroom pet her and praise her. If not, take her outside every 15 minutes until she does, then pet her and praise her.

When she does it inside, forget the old "rub her nose in it" theory. That was nonsense from the day some rube thought it up. If you see her start to go, say "no," pick her up and take her outside. If she goes and you discover it later, just point at it and tell her "that's not allowed," then take her outside. Use her name every time you interact with her.

When she falls asleep, explain to the kids she needs her rest and they are to leave her alone while she naps. Put a rug or towel down in that spot and let it become her refuge.

Hold off on the formal training until she learns the puppy basics and gets used to her new home. For now, spend your time loving her, playing with her, and making her feel confident. Show her where the water and food is and prepare a bed where you want her to sleep (the best place is in the room with the kids).

Jack Haskins writes as The Old Trainer. A trainer for more than 30 years, he has rescued, trained and placed more than 2,000 dogs. Send questions to

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