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Unusual Behaviour problem as new puppy comes to live with grieving dog -help needed please

I have an eight year old boy Irish Setter, Sebastian who lost his two elder setter brothers within the last year and a half. He coped with the first loss fine as the two younger boys were always very close. There didn’t appear to be an obvious leader between them. However when his ten year old brother died just 4 weeks ago (from cancer diagnosed only 3 weeks previously) leaving him alone he became very clingy with my husband and myself ,wanting us both to be around at all times and not as happy and adventurous when out walking.

He has always enjoyed the company of other dogs and readily let them into his garden and home, happy to share his territory and even food. Out walking he greets other dogs facing them sideways on, wagging his tail. I presume to let them know he wants to be friends.

We thought about things and decided it would be good for Seb to have another Setter companion and as a result a 12 week old setter puppy came home to stay on Christmas Eve. Things have not gone too well since then.

Seb met his new brother on the garden and wagged his tail slightly but didn’t seem too interested. Once in the house he wouldn’t stay in the same room as puppy and would grumble if he came near but didn’t bear any teeth at all. We knew it was early days and tried to keep everything light but Seb wasn’t sure about eating in the same room. Additionally, Seb sleeps upstairs and there was no way he was going to sleep if the puppy was anywhere near. As a result either my husband or I have slept downstairs with the puppy since then leaving Seb his space upstairs.

Puppy cant go out for walks yet with Seb as we have to wait on inoculations. Obviously puppy keeps pestering Seb, sometimes jumping up at him etc. as puppies do. A few days ago to help to give Seb some space we bought puppy a crate to sleep in and he has taken to it wonderfully going in to sleep by himself during the day as the door is left open and we have found that Seb will now at least stay in the same room. However, as the days have gone by things have not got any better in fact they seem to have got worse for Seb.

Out of the blue he will not go onto his own garden. The last time I saw him on the garden he was just smelling along the lawn, he did not have a wee anywhere but came in and then at bedtime he would not be coaxed out of the back door for his last wee he will go as far as the door but no further. We left well alone hoping that by morning he would have forgotten whatever it was that had bothered him.Not so next morning he showed no signs of wanting to get up and when he did having not had a wee for 13 hrs he would still not go out even though puppy was clearly in his crate. I tried to push him out whereby he ran to the side gate which leads on to a country lane, hugging as close as possible to the house along the back wall and down the side wall to the gate. His route back in was the same keeping close to the brick walls. We now have to take him out of the house through the front door and onto external land for his wees.

Even if we put his collar on to signify walkies he will wag his tail but will not step onto his garden to get to the gate. I have never left him alone on the garden with puppy and I know nothing has happened to him out there. It seems to me that it is the smell of the puppy out there which has him spooked in some way.

I rang and spoke to a dog behaviorist who says she thinks that Seb is terrified of the pup and said it may never work out. She said some older dogs are terrified of puppies and no one knows why. Now today after his walk he didn’t even want to get out of the car to come back into the house at all we had to carry him in. We are distraught we seem to have made our poor boy more miserable and as he has bloated on more than one occasion in the past we are worried what all this stress might do to him. Please please can anyone help and advise what might be going on here and can anything be done to help.


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Oh gosh how awful for you and I am sorry this is happening to Seb and really hope someone can help you. Have you tried another behaviourist and get them out to the house to see Seb's behaviour. He is obviously very insecure with the new arrival but I just wanted to post and say I hope you get some good help to sort it out.

Well dissected Fran  I would set everything aside and look at the whole picture. Even if Julie is going to speak to Danny Mills she needs to have clear impressions in her head of what is going on so that when she is questioned she can say what she has been seeing.

Has anyone suggested vet check for Seb?  He is an eight year old setter, he may have one of the eye issues. being found in setters these days and nobody noticed it before. Previously he had been comfortable with the other dogs and familiar smells in his garden and then when new smells are introduced he loses confidence.


Then again "carrying him in from the car"is he a good manipulator.


I think there is only half a story here so far and while I wouldnt leave the two unsupervised I would cetainly not be calling in the behviourist yet, I am presuming Seb has never seen another puppy for a long time? Its an alien omvasion from the dark side of the moon as far as he is concerned and he needs your undivided attention .... quick... to make it go away!

Puppy in the crate is a good thing and let them get to know each other Seb has had a crisis of conficence. Stop and look at him. Setters are very good at lettinn you know whats wrong. Spend the next couple of days observing him and dont underestimate the magic of a puppy either. They can often understand what they need to do to make it right.


It takes time though Try to stop worrying. Distraught is never a good emothion with dogs!

Hi Julie

I see you are going through a troubled time with Seb and your new puppy. I have some experience as a dog trainer and have to deal with behaviour problems. I have come to the conclusion that it is rarely a good idea to give recommendations without having seen the dog and the owner's behaviour... I say that tongue in cheek, as you will gather by what I am about to say that I consider most problems more human related than dog related. I am not belittling your cry of help, far from it! But I would like to help you understand that Seb's behaviour is by no means unusual and quite understandable. You will be able to cope with it far easier when you understand what is going on.

First of all, here is a link to an animal bahaviour website, best to get in touch with people who are trained behaviourists.


Then here are some hints as to what is actually happening.

Your dog had always been part of a team of dogs, he has never lead the life of a single dog. Nor has he been in contact with puppies at a regular basis since he became adult - except maybe for the odd puppy met on your walks.

The first death of the older dog did not affect Seb's behaviour. Why not? He still had his other pal. But when his pal died, Seb became insecure - understandably, as so far in his life he had always felt the safety of the team and had older dogs to rely on. His clinginess shows that he has not yet learned to feel secure on his own. Dealing with this problem would have needed time and training.

Understandably, you felt the need for another puppy. Nothing wrong with that!

Seb, however, is showing the normal and instinctive displeasure (a kind of fear maybe) that older dogs with no puppy experience often display. This is not unusual!

Puppies fresh from their dam and littermates smell and act very different to adult dogs. Their wee smells very different - which is why Seb is now avoiding the garden, as I bet that is where you take pupy for his wees...

In their own pack puppies would with time learn to respect and keep a distance to the older members of the family. Your puppy has not yet learned this behaviour. Being on his own with no litter mates to play with, your puppy sees all other big red hairy dogs as 'mum': welcoming, sometimes playful, but also allowed to growl when the puppy is too full of himself. At the breeder's this is no problem as the puppy can play with his litter mates and not pester the older dogs.

An elder will prefer his peace and will not like to be pestered. They will often avoid all contact until the pups grow into teenagers.

How can you go about to make things easier for Seb and the puppy and yourself? Sue Humphrey has given you some excellent suggestions. I would go a bit further in some respects.

First of all, let puppy and Seb meet up outside the house, on a small walk. Please, do not get hysterical about not being able to take your puppy out. I am sure he has had his first jab at 8 week? Ask your vet if any risk of parvo or other infectious disease is your area and I am practically certain they will confirm that is not the case. (Just an aside: no other countries are as hysterical about not taking a puppy out to socialise as people are in the UK. I know british behaviourists are saying that this is counterproductive for general socilisation)

Walk Seb off the lead in a safe area and have your husband come towards you with the puppy on the lead. Do not let the puppy off the lead but allow Seb to interact or ignore the puppy as he wishes. Back home, put your puppy in a indoor puppy run and give Seb the run of the house. The puppy will be tired after his outing. Do not use the garden as the place for Seb to run and play, take him out for his walks and again, have your husband take the puppy on the lead for the first 100 yards and then turn back, but meet up with you again when you come home.

Puppy socialisation classes would be an excellent thing for your puppy.

Let Seb decide when he is ready to great the puppy. Put no pressure on him. Give each of your dogs 'quality time' separately.

I am sure things will work out if you give Seb the time he needs.

Hi, thanks very much for responding to me, it does all make sense and 'cos I feel the same as Seb over the loss of his brother I'm not helping him deal at all. Can I just ask a bit more about the puppy and his inoculations.

 I forgot to mention in my intial note that at the point of Rudys death he had developed kennel cough most likely from the steroids he was on lowering his immune system and he had passed it on to Seb. Seb was poorly for about 10 days immediately following Rudys death and because of this recent virus we asked the breeder to keep puppy until after he had had both injections, which was at 10 weeks and 12 weeks. So in theory he should be able to go for a walk. However on day 6 after his second injection 27 dec we decided to walk him with Seb in an adjacent farmers field to see if this helped to socialise them together. The walk went quite well but on returning home puppy started to go mad biting all of his feet, scratching the carpet with force and running around whining.(obviously Seb saw all this as well and freaked him even more) We washed puppies feet again and again but it didnt change. we ended up at the vets who concluded that he must have walked on some pesticide or maybe it was the rock salt around. We gave it 2 hours to see if it passed but it didnt and because of his very distressed state the vet said it was best to give him a steroid injection. The vets are now saying that they have contacted the injection pharmaceutical company and they say puppy will need his second injection again and that he must wait 2 weeks after the steroids before he can have it then further 10 days before walking him. that will be 20 Jan ! Im concerned about giving puppy a further jab as I know there have been alot of issues/thoughts on these. It doesnt help our situation not being able to take puppy out either with or without seb as he needs the exercise but he has had a steroid injection and i dont want to risk him catching anything. As you can see we do seem to be up against it here. thanks again Julie

Julie, it seems you are really up against problems, sorry! I really can't advise about the vaccination issues. All I would ask you to consider which is the greater risk: the puppy actually catching an infectious disease (my vet would know if there is anything around at the moment and I'm sure yours would too) or the risk of you having to part with the puppy because of Seb's behaviour issues?

Here in Switzerland all puppies go out immediately once they are in there new homes. The first jab is given at 8-9 weeks, the second at 12 weeks. Pups go to there new homes aged 10 weeks and go to puppy play  school immediately and are taken out for short walks. No problems there but we are fortunate that in general people DO vaccinate there dogs so the risk is minimal.

The vet will advise if there is an acute risk for contagious disease in your area. Avoid places where there a masses of unknown dogs (like dog shows or similar). You should not have a problem and it would help ease the pressure on you and Seb.



Totally agree, Susan!

OMG!! I promised I would behave this year!!! There IS only half the story as I said!


You were right to walk the two together good idea. you identifdied rightly that the odd behaviour has undoubtedly made Seb uncertain


what was in the field you were walking on? You are describing I think an allergic reaction and the quickest response to that is an antti histamine. I seriously question the reason behind a steroid injection.... and I would be uncertain about a double whammy vaccination.

Will the steroid knock out the first vac. VET nurses please?????


Sorry Julie sometimes I think the vet sees you coming!! .

Do establish waht was in the field as it may be that your pup will have a reaction to that and at least you know.


You have all had a crummy start.  Have you thought that Sebs feet might also have had a reaction to whatever the pup had and that might make it tender for him to walk on the grass



I have heard about sweetcorn and also old shale workings which have an oily deposit that some dogs react to.


I always have Piriton anti histamine in my tool kit and I would start to feed a slice of raw black pudding to the tender footed dog every couple of days in its diet,. Its an old greyhound trick for toughening up feet. Needs to be the food black pudding made with blood!

Steroids will affect the body's immunity build-up, this means the vaccine can not take effect due to the body not being able to give the right response.


There is one way you could find out: have the puppy's titres checked for parvovirus. It is possible that the previous vaccines had enough effect and the pupy already has a high immunity. Then there would be no need to re-vaccine either.


I do not know if there are any passive vaccines available against parvo for puppies? That would mean an immune-suppressed individual (which is the case when on steroids) could still be protected.


These questions need to be answered by a vet.




Hi, the puppy was injected with 1.1 ml Voren Suspension on 27/12/10. His vaccines were Nobivac DHPPI and LEPTO2. given twice 7/12/10 and 21/12/10. My vet thought the vaccines would still cover him but contacted the pharma company for assurance. They advised that I need to wait 2 weeks from 27/12 and then repeat his second injection. Then I guess a further wait (10 days?)before he can go out. My vet thinks its overkill but that the pharma company are acting on the cautious side and that its up to me what I do. Will the second injection be completely void even though it was day 6 following it? Not sure why the vet went for steroid perhaps 'cos it was a bank holiday and she didnt want to be called out again if the antihistamine hadnt worked. The field is a barley- plants about 4 inch high but the ground was frozen and covered in snow. puppy didnt cross the field we walked around the outside on the grass path but I guess pesticide blow everywhere. seb goes on that walk every morning and isnt affected at all.

Some very good advice has been given and I feel sure Seb will come to befriend the puppy given time. However in deciding on a reason for Seb's behavior I would first eliminate a deficiency in his eye sight. His problems started pre the arrival of the puppy, perhaps having lost what may have been his guide dogs, he transfered his dependancy to you and your husband, the puppy's arrival confuses the issue. It's worth having his eyes tested at one of the many BVA eye clinics. Many people only find out their dogs have a sight issue when they move house or rearrange their furniture, and find the dog starts bumping into things, there is also the home eye test, this link goes to a previous topic concerning LOPRA an eye condition affecting dogs later in life. The instructions are printed here.  http://irishsetters.ning.com/forum/topics/new-eye-problem-in-irish?...

Hi Julie

I'm curious as to how things are working out for you. Has the situation calmed down? I do hope so!





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