Learn How To Introduce A Puppy To Your Dog In 4 Simple Steps
Bringing in a puppy is an exciting time! A new squishy baby to love and care for. A tiny terror to boost the energy of your household and provide endless laughter. Everyone is happy when a new puppy is around…except for your old dog! Yes, a new puppy can indeed disrupt the careful dynamics of your household that your dog has grown to love over the years. How dare this tiny intruder steal food, attention and care from the OG dog of your home?
Well, your job is to reassure your dog that everything is going to be fine. This article will help you do just that! We’ll teach you how to introduce a puppy to your dog including the potential issues, practical tips and what to do if it’s not going well.
Preparing To Introduce A Puppy To Your Dog: Mindset Tips
If you’re reading this article, you probably fall into two camps.
- I’m preparing to bring a puppy home and I don’t want my current dog to eat him!
- I’ve introduced a puppy to my dog and it did NOT go well.
So you’re either being super cautious or had a great shock when it wasn’t as easy as you thought it might be. No matter which camp you’re in, there are a couple of things to understand about dogs before you start this process.
1. Dogs are territorial animals
Dogs naturally have an instinct to protect what is theirs. Your household becomes a pack and they know their place within those ranks. So when you introduce an outsider, all kinds of territorial behaviours can flare up. Even the gentlest of dogs can have a mean streak when they feel their dominion or family is being breached by a stranger.
2. Your dog's temperament can change within the home
Your dog may be the loveliest teddy bear to dogs in the dog park, but at home, it could be a different story. This isn’t always the case. My dog Blue has always been a welcoming dog to all who cross the welcome mat. She welcomed new puppies, kittens, chinchillas and all!
On the other hand, Pip is much more defensive with strange dogs around the house as opposed to when he is walking at the dog park. So introducing your new puppy to your dog at home is a recipe for disaster. Even if your dog is a nice pup to everyone outdoors, you are putting the puppy at risk bring them into the home without a neutral meeting first (but we’ll get to that in the next section).
3. Your dog can sense your anxiety
The final point on mindset is to remember how sensitive your dog is to your emotions. They can sense your anxiety if you are fearful. Remain calm and confident throughout the process. Ask for support if you need it too from another adult as an extra chaperone. Your dog will be more attuned to your mannerism and emotions than the puppy will.
Your new puppy doesn’t know you well enough yet and also hasn’t developed certain social skills that they’ll gather later in life. So if they sense danger or fear, it’ll affect how they act in the interaction.
How To Introduce A Puppy To An Older Dog: Practical Steps
Now that you’ve got your mind right and you are prepared for this fateful meeting, it’s time to set it up. The first thing to say is not to panic! There’s a good chance this will all go fine if you follow the steps. If it doesn’t we have tips for that too. Let’s dive in.
Step 1: Make sure your dog is exercised, watered and fed
You know the feeling when you’re about to head into a high-stress situation and you’re feeling off. Your mood affects your behaviour. It does for dogs too. If your dog is hungry or unhappy in any way, don’t expect this meeting to go well! Make sure they’ve had some good exercise and food before the meeting to avoid any off moods.
Step 2: Choose a neutral space
Remember what I said about territorial behaviour in the home? We’ve come full circle. You don’t want to trigger any unwelcome aggression from your older dog when the puppy “invades” their sacred space.
“An unknown puppy barging in the front door can seem like an invasion to even the friendliest, most mellow dog. If taking the older dog along isn’t an option, the dogs should still meet outside of the home and walk-in together.” writes the editorial team from American Kennel Club. (1)
So potential ways of doing this:
- Bring your older dog to the rescue shelter or breeder where you are collecting your puppy and let them ride in the car together. However, make sure they are in separate crates and both have comfortable environments. Once you reach your home, go for a walk around the block/neighbourhood before walking them through the doors together. This will allow them to adjust to each other’s presence before entering the home.
- Arrange a meeting with the puppy before you bring them home in a public park or area where you can allow both dogs to meet safely.
Step 3: Letting the dogs talk to one another
Your dogs will likely smell each other. Puppies can be excitable which can annoy the older dog or delight them. It depends on their temperament. They may even start a playful interaction with each other which is great to see.
If the puppy crosses the line in any way, your older dog will likely growl at them. This is completely normal and shouldn’t be chastised unless it’s paired with aggressive action. Puppies need to learn canine social skills. Now that the older dog is in their lives, the older dog becomes the de facto mentor and guide as to how the puppy should behave with other dogs, family members and strangers. So your dog is just notifying your puppy what is okay for them to do.
PRO TIP: While your dogs are sussing each other out, keep their leashes on. This will allow you to intervene safely if they start fighting or show distress.
Step 4: Acclimating the puppy to your home
When you’re ready to enter the home, start with the garden space (if you have one). Allow your dogs to be in the garden together with leashes on and explore. Then you can progress to allowing the puppy to explore the home with a leash on as well.
The first couple of weeks to a month together are the most fraught and tense. You should be around to supervise your dogs during this delicate time.
How NOT To Introduce Your Adult Dog To Your New Puppy
Avoid these traps at all costs:
Troubleshooting: What To Do If Your Dog Won’t Accept The New Puppy
My puppy and older dog are fighting
This is a tough situation. It’s very distressing to see your old dog and your new dog butt heads. A few key things to note about breaking up a fight.
- Your dogs are most likely to fight when they first meet each other. This is why it’s important to not hold either of your dogs when they meet. You also should have them on a leash throughout the first meeting and exploration of the home so that you can break up a fight quickly.
- Note the difference between play fighting and a fight. A fight will appear aggressive and tense. Ears will be pulled back and the sounds made will be louder. Playfighting will include loose body language. They will wag their tail and put their rear in the air which denotes relaxation and fun. (2)
- Distraction is the best way if you can gain their attention. Use a loud noise or citronella spray their faces to distract and separate the two dogs. Use crates or baby gates to keep them in separate spaces until they seem calm again.
- Physically intervening is a last resort. If so, keep your hands away from their mouths. Many dog behaviourists recommend the wheelbarrow technique to separate two dogs but you need an adult helper to do this. This involves grabbing the hind legs of each dog and walking them backwards away from each other. (3)
My puppy and the older dog won’t play together
Allow your dogs to acclimatise to each other over time. Forcing them to play together could cause more problems than solutions. That said, you can play a group game like fetch or frisbee to encourage play as a family unit. You can also step up the frequency of outdoor outings to dog parks and hikes so that there are more neutral spaces for your dogs to interact.
But overall, just be patient. Your dogs will find their footing.
My puppy is distressing my older dog
Potentially a controversial answer but it’s best to leave them be here too. Your older dog can handle themselves and will let the puppy know if they are being annoying. As long as your older dog isn’t aggressive, it’s perfectly fine for them to set their own boundaries and they will.
Sometimes your older dog will find it better to walk away from the situation and that’s perfectly fine too. As long as you don’t spot any signs of depression such as lack of appetite or unwillingness to exercise, then your dog is fine. (4) If they do show signs of depression, consult your vet for advice. Otherwise, just be patient with them.
My Final Thoughts
If you follow the steps above and heed the advice in the troubleshooting section, you’ll manage the situation without a bloodbath. But the key thing to remember is patience. Some dogs and puppies become firm friends within a week. Others can take months to acclimatise. That doesn't necessarily mean they’ll be at each other’s throats. More so that they may not be best friends straight away. As with any bond, it takes time to develop and warm to each other.
Be patient and kind throughout the process and your dogs will surely develop a relationship that works for them.
- “How to Introduce a New Dog to Your Current Dog”. March 23, 2022. Americal Kennel Club. Retrieved April 9, 2022. https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/training/how-to-introduce-dogs/
- Stregowski, J. January 19, 2019. “Why Do Dogs Fight?”. The Spruce Pets. Retrieved April 9, 2022. https://www.thesprucepets.com/why-do-dogs-fight-1117893
- Gibeault, S. “How to Break Up a Dog Fight”. American Kennel Club. Retrieved April 9, 2022. https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/training/stopping-dog-fight-confrontation-fighting-dogs/
- Howe, S. November 29, 2021. “Dog Depression: Signs, Causes, and Treatment”. PetMD. Retrieved April 9, 2022. https://www.petmd.com/dog/behavior/can-dogs-get-depressed