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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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Hi, not got back to you before because things seem to change daily with Seb and I was waiting to see. Basically yes things arent as bad, Seb will now go out into the garden but still not very enthusiastically he needs alot of coaxing. He still avoids puppy some days to a great extend then others he might let him lay near and I have seen them drink out of the same water bowl together (until he realises that is). He grumbes at him alot but then as you can imagine puppy is so excitable, thinks hes great and jumps at his face alot. But I have noticed he looks for him and gave him a quick sniff the other day when puppy had been to the vets for his injection. Puppy will be able to go out from this next weekend so im hoping they will enjoy that. well see..........

 But Seb is sill unhappy most of the time hardly ever wags his tail when we speak to him etc. You can see his sparkle is missing even when we go for a walk (which is still without puppy ) but he seems quite fit and still has the stamina for a good walk. He also isnt interested in his food. We are supplementing with tasty tuna, pilchards etc but he would take it or leave it. He has been that way since Rudy died. He is sleeping on our bed and seems to need both my husband and I in the house together before he can settle. I have bought him a dab infuser and some zyclene tabs but 5 days on i wouldnt say it has made much difference. I have spoken to the vet and am taking a water sample in tomorrow to have a bacteria check done. What I havent metioned is that Seb has had tonsilitis, and then a urine infection (bleeding from tail) which didnt resolve with the first antibiotics so hes just finished another 14 day course all this since 24 Nov (the day rudy died). The vet knows I am worried it could be prostrate trouble which is what Rudy started with but says I couldnt be that unlucky!  Ive asked for a scan but he thinks im worrying unecessarily because the bleeding stops almost immediately the antibiotics are given but then last time it came back again. He wants to run the urine test first. But really thanks for your interest I will let you know further developments.

I'm very glad to hear that things are beginning to look up a little.


You and Seb have had a very tough time recently and it must be exhausting to have all this going on. My thoughts are with you and I hope that now improvements have begun, it won't be long before happiness returns to your household. Big hugs to Seb and Puppy.


Best wishes, Dawn and (nephew) Rory.

Ive just realised you originate from Doncaster Uk which is not too far away from Chesterfield, Derbyshire (just below Sheffield) where I live. How did you come to move to Switzerland? Did you have setters whilst you were here also? 

Hi Julie

Pleased to hear that Seb seems to be a bit more relaxed. And I agree it is best to get him checked that there is no underlying health problem that is causing his depression.

He may just be one of those dogs that dislike puppies and who will be perfectly happy once Puppy is around 6 months old. Being able to take both out for walks will certainly help.


As to my leaving Doncaster: Actually, I had no choice... my father was offered a job for two years & that was in '69 - the family never returned. Nobody asked for my opinion;o)

Still, I'm not complaining;-)

First setter joined us in '75.

Many thanks for asking I will post a picture to show them now but this is the story....


Sebastian continued to be withdrawn but after a while started to venture into the garden again but with very little enthusiasm. He had no interest in venturing downstairs in a morning despite not even having gone out for a last we. He wouldnt eat his normal food and we tried lots to tempt him. We took him to the vets to make sure all was okay and following blood and urine tests and examination was assured he was fine. He went onto a veterinary sensitive canned food and he would eat this JUST. So we tried to follow all the lovely advice given on this site and we started each day with a walk just for Seb and took pup out later. We put in place a dab diffuser and gave him zylkene anti stress tabs for dogs. We made sure we took time out each day to groom him and to play with him and introduced him to half an hour of Bulls Pizzles each night (I found these with great thanks to sue britton). He began to pick up puppy's toys and seemed to enjoy parading them in front of him whilst grumbling loudly but he had always been so placid. We darent leave them for a minute. Then..... 4 weeks to the day of puppys arrival he got up in the morning and came straight downstairs (where puppy is in his crate) he somehow seemed alot brighter in his eyes but still ignored puppy. I took Seb for his usual walk and then came back to give puppy his turn. Normally Seb would have gone onto the sofa at this point and sulked but this time he didnt. He wanted to come back out with us. I didnt take him but went out onto the adjacent back field just me and puppy but left the back door open so Seb could come and go as he pleased into the back garden. Seb howled from the back garden the whole time we were out. I knew something had changed. When we came back he sniffed at puppy and that was that. Things have just got better and they play and lay together now. Seb is back to eating his normal diet and seems much brighter in himself. They maintain separate sleeping arrangements and Seb still gets his morning walk alone. Now they run around the house like mad dogs sometimes Seb with puppys neck in his mouth and vice versa till someone yelps! (puppy still has first teeth). We now have the task of training puppy as this seemed to go on the back burner but at last we can look forward to the future now, I was so worried I didnt think we could keep the puppy but weve just booked our first holiday together in Cornwall for June lets hope it doesnt rain. Many thanks to everyone I dont think we would have got through this without you. Julie & Seb x

Oh what a relief, I'm thrilled to hear that things are now so good. Seb is clearly a very sensitive soul. I'm glad he has accepted the puppy as the friend he is meant to be.

What did you decide to call the puppy? I saw your recent photographs, and he looks gorgeous, just my type.

Regards, Dawn R.




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