Generational Learning

by Denise Mazzola, CPDT – KA

Is there a second dog in your future? 

When is the best time?

Have you watched the Secret Life of Elephants on National Geographic? It’s an incredible show that underscores the importance of generational learning. Elephants live in Matriarchal family units where information about survival is passed down from generation to generation. 

Most human families have generational learning as well. My mother made it her job to teach my brother and I good manners, to be polite, understand etiquette, the importance of handwritten thank you notes, which fork to use, how to set a table, you get the idea. 

My parents explained the world to us; mortgages, savings accounts, stocks, cooking, freezing food, canning food, so many things that they are ingrained in who I am. Now, my job as a parent is to teach my daughters how to function in the world, good manners, being polite, how to think critically etc. Even now, as adults my role is the same, to teach, educate, and help them sort out and navigate this phase of their lives, children, marriage, homeownership etc. 

Our dogs need this same kind of education.

The worst time to bring a second dog into your home is while your first dog is still an adolescent. Many people mistakenly bring a second dog home while their first dog is still sorting out life, meaning under the age of three. It would be like having a 12-year-old child taking care of a 2-year-old child without any parental guidance, without any adult around. 

It would be chaotic at best, but completely unsafe with disastrous results.

Some dogs will breeze through adolescence and life in general regardless of whether there is an older dog to show them the ropes, but other dogs will suffer without this guidance. 

When I brought Gio home, he was 11 months and Jubilee was 7 years wise. He was just beginning to feel his adolescence. She was the perfect age to teach him the ropes of life in a home. He came from a kennel with limited human access and home life. Jubilee was a great rule setter. She was clear in her communication from how Gio could play with her (i.e., don’t jump on or straddle her) to how we walked, hiked and what the feeding routine was. She was calm and confident in life, which helped him tremendously. 

Now, Gio is 8 years wise and Minty, our new dog is 2 years young. He is her mentor, teaching her the ropes. His calmness and confidence in life are a great role model for her. In new situations she looks to him for guidance or she just parks herself next to him. As if she is saying “Hey Gio, can I hang out with you until I’m comfortable with this circumstance?” He has modeled the crate at night routine. She fussed a night or two but calmed down quickly with Gio crated right next to her. On walks she was more comfortable with her big brother along. 

Sometimes I think we forget how stressful it is for puppies to leave their litter, or for older dogs to move in with us or for rescued dogs to learn the ropes, trust us and feel comfortable, but with an older “sage” dog at home to show them the way, we can implement generational learning and set our puppies and dogs up for success. 

Certified Professional Dog Trainer Denise Mazzola is the owner of Denise Mazzola’s Everything Dog. She has been working with people and training dogs for over 30 years. Everything Dog provides services to clients throughout the Monadnock Region of NH as well as online services to clients throughout the United States.

Denise has been published in the trade journal, Chronicle of the Dog, and writes a monthly column for Everything Dog’s Monthly Newsletter. She also contributes to AtHome magazine, and APEX award winner. She has been an expert witness for dog attacks. She also hosts a monthly “Ask the Trainer” radio show on WKBK. Denise lives in Keene with her life and business partner, Amy Willey CPDT-KA, and they share their home with two dogs. She has three adult daughters and two grandsons!

For more information, visit On YouTube at Everything Dog.

Denise Mazzola

Denise Mazzola


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