How Do I Introduce My New Puppy to My Older Dog?

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Getting a new puppy is so exciting! Even though we love our current dog, a new pup is so much fun. He explores the world with such wonder. 

How To Introduce A New Puppy To Your Older Dog - Older black labrador standing next to sitting black lab puppy.
How To Introduce A New Puppy To Your Older Dog

We feel energized and even youthful playing with our new furry addition. But our current dog probably isn’t so delighted.

The newcomer has no manners. In playing with his former littermates, he could jump on them and, despite some minor corrections, the littermate was probably ready to romp too.

I just got Millie, my Aussie mix rescue four months ago. She was 11 weeks old and full of energy. 

I have five other dogs. Each has his own personality and temperament. But all are very dog friendly.

My seven-year-old sheltie Murphy, six-year-old rescued golden Riley, and three-year-old Lhasa apso Ralphie weren’t too happy at first with the new addition. They looked at me as if to say, “Are you kidding?”

However, for my three-year-old sheltie Gracie, it was love at first sight. My 15-year-old rescued shih tzu wasn’t introduced to the puppy at first because she would have been too much for him.

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Consider Your Current Dog When Choosing a New Puppy

Is your current dog friendly with other dogs?

Even very sweet dogs may not like being around other dogs.

He may ignore them but not be fond of them. If your current dog has shown indifference to other dogs, it may work out depending on the other puppy and how the introduction and living conditions are managed.

Other dogs may be very friendly to many other canines. They may wiggle with excitement, tail wagging, and even engage in a play-bow. 

These dogs may also welcome a puppy if the situation is properly managed, as discussed below. But be aware a puppy is different than a calm doggy playmate.

Then there are some dogs who don’t like any or most other dogs. Generally, these dogs aren’t good candidates for a puppy playmate. 

If in doubt, I recommend hiring a behavior specialist to help determine whether a new puppy would be a good fit.

What’s your current dog’s age, size, temperament, and health? 

A senior or older dog generally isn’t welcoming to a young pup. Puppies’ rough play style and lack of manners can be difficult for an old dog to adjust to. 

But a canine-friendly older dog can adjust to a puppy if introduced properly and if the home situation is carefully managed.

A toy or small breed may feel that a rambunctious much larger young puppy is too much for him. Whereas a calmer, smaller breed or mix may work out better.

A very playful, friendly dog may more easily accept a puppy than will a more reserved dog.

An older dog that has some health issues, like arthritis or joint pain or the impairment of vision or hearing, might not be a good fit for a young puppy.

What’s the temperament and size of the new puppy?

If you have a very outgoing dog, a puppy with a similar temperament may be best. 

Whereas if your adult dog is more calm, shy, or laid-back, it might be best to get a puppy that isn’t like a tornado on four legs. Although a healthy puppy usually has more energy than an older dog, some puppies aren’t as pushy as others.

Preparing For Your New Puppy

Preparing your home for the new puppy is key. You don’t want to just bring the new pup home and just let him loose. It’s important to do the following:

Have a crate, exercise pen, gates, or separate area ready for the new puppy.

The new puppy should have his own retreat where he has some down time.

QUICK RECOMMENDATION: We recommend the Midwest Life Stages Crate. We got one for our first puppy, Linus over 15 years ago and use the exact same crate with all of our new puppies today.

This also helps the adult dog have some alone time too. Both need to have ample time apart so that they can relax. Then, they’re more likely to have a better relationship when they’re together.

Also, training a puppy to use a crate is important to help house train him and keep him safe when you can’t observe him.  

Have separate bowls ready.

You probably wouldn’t want to eat from your new roommate’s dish. You dog doesn’t want the new housemate to either.

Having separate food and extra water bowls also helps prevent resource guarding. I also recommend picking up the used dishes when they’re not eating from them.

Pick up all toys and bones prior to the puppy’s arrival.

I’ve found that, in the beginning, it’s better to have these picked up so that there’s no resource guarding from the resident dog.

If your current dog does resource guard items, it’s best to work through the issue with a qualified behavior specialist prior to getting another dog.

Have the new puppy’s food, toys, and other necessities like grooming tools ready.

You’ll want to have special food formulated for a puppy and his own toys ready. 

Trade scents.

If possible, get a blanket or similar item with the puppy’s scent from the rescue or breeder a week before getting the puppy.

Having the puppy’s scent and placing the item where your current dog’s bed is can help your dog accept the newcomer when he comes.

Introducing Your Puppy To Your Older Dog

It’s important to plan how you’ll introduce the new puppy. NEVER just bring a puppy in and place them together, assuming that they’ll “work it out.” A proper introduction is more likely to lead to a compatible relationship down the line. First impressions matter!

1. Introduce the dogs on neutral territory.

It’s usually best not to let the dogs meet on the resident dog’s turf. So don’t introduce them in your house or your yard.

The dog may feel territorial and that the pup is encroaching on his space.

So where should you meet? At a friend’s house or yard, a park (not a dog park), or a similar place that the dog doesn’t believe is his turf.

The rescue I adopted Millie from required that my current dogs meet with her prior to the adoption. They met one at a time at the rescue’s facility and all went well.

2. Have two handlers–one for each dog–and walk parallel to each other.

Have each dog on six-foot leashes, each with a separate handler. Walk each one about 15 feet apart to start.

Then, as they get more used to and comfortable with each other, move a little closer, still walking. Don’t let them meet yet.

It’s usually best to have both the puppy and the dog on harnesses. A tight leash on a collar might convey that something’s wrong.

The motion on the walk will help both focus on the walk and not on each other. 

Another bonus is that the walk will take the edge off so that the puppy shouldn’t be too energetic for the older dog. And the older dog should be less stressed after a nice walk.

The walk shouldn’t be too long because a long walk would be too much for a puppy. 

For a very young puppy of eight weeks or so, the walk should be only a few minutes. Then take a break and do a few more minutes as long as things are going well.

3. Read the dog’s body language.

It’s uber important to read your older dog’s body language. If at any time the older dog seems too stressed, end the walk. Some stress signals are:

  • Ears pulled back
  • Whale eye where the white of the whole eye shows
  • Drooling
  • Raised hackles
  • Tense body
  • Tail tucked under body
  • Lip licking
  • Moist pads that leave a paw print when it’s not hot out
  • Whining
  • Staring at the puppy with a hard stare
  • Shedding dandruff

If a dog seems too stressed, he may become aggressive toward the puppy. You know how your own dog usually reacts in such situations. If anything seems too extreme, I would end the walk and try later. 

Or, if the older dog seems to get aggressive by lunging, baring teeth, or barking at the puppy not in a friendly way, STOP THE MEETING and get help from a canine behavior specialist.

If the dog seems stressed only as you move closer to each other, move further apart again and continue if the dog doesn’t seem too stressed.

If all goes well and the dog’s relaxed, have them meet briefly for a few seconds with a “say hello” cue. Then each handler should say “let’s go” and walk away from each other.

Do this three times as long as all’s well. Now you’re ready to have them meet in your house.

Our New Puppy Is Home. What Happens Now?

Hold the puppy’s leash while he’s on a harness so that he can’t pounce on the adult dog. Have another person bring the adult dog in the room on leash on a harness. 

As in all dog training, we’re always training to set the dog up to succeed. By having the leash drag, you can always grab it and say “let’s go” and walk the older dog away calmly.

If at any time the dog senses stress, he may become reactive. I know that it’s hard not to be on edge at least a little because there’s some uncertainty about how they’ll get along. Just try to maintain a calm, upbeat presence though as much as possible.

Some small bumps in the road are to be expected. But if you see overall progress, that’s all we can ask for. A harmonious household can exist, but it takes work!

1. Have them meet with the puppy’s leash held.

The adult dog can be loose with the leash dragging so that you can grab it if need be. After a few minutes, calmly tell them each “let’s go.” Have each handler walk them away from each other.

Have them meet for a few minutes. End on a positive note. Keeping them together too long could lead to some reactivity.

Eventually, over days or weeks, depending on their progress, they can each have leashes dragging. The dog has to accept the puppy before leading to this step. 

Always end while the dog is still happily accepting the puppy or at least not stressed by the puppy’s presence.

They can also meet through a gate as long as both do well. Again, have them meet for minutes not hours.

Over time, of course, they can be off-leash together in a secure location like a room or fenced yard. 

It may take weeks or even months for them to get to this point. When my current puppy Millie arrived, it took about three weeks before my Lhasa apso would play with her.

At first, he didn’t want anything to do with her. After many introductions and positive interactions, they’re now BFFs and romp around chasing each other and happily tugging on toys together.

Always look for stress signals the dog’s sending, as stated above. Separate them before the dog stresses if possible.

2. Exercise the puppy and the dog before they meet.

To help the puppy not be too rambunctious, exercise him with a game of fetch or short walk before meeting the dog.

It also should help relieve stress levels in the adult dog for him to be exercised prior to being with the puppy.

But don’t overdo it. If either’s too tired, they may be cranky.

3. Give frequent breaks.

Even when you get to the point that the puppy and dog can be together for a while, say 30 minutes, I would give breaks from each other before things become tense.

4. Have a schedule.

It’s important to be organized and have a schedule of when the puppy and dog will eat, play, take walks, sleep, have down time, receive separate attention, be together, and train.

Dogs are creatures of habit and generally will be better behaved  when they know what’s going to happen and what’s expected. 

Generally, it’s best to basically maintain the older dog’s schedule, working the puppy into that schedule. A puppy can adjust. Just add a meal time for the puppy if needed and work out the other details.

The dog will benefit by realizing that his life didn’t otherwise drastically change.

5. Give the puppy and dog some separate attention.

Of course, the puppy and the adult dog will be together sometimes so that they begin to adjust to each other. But it’s important that each receives individual attention.

Doing so will help the dog realize that he’s still important in your life and that he shouldn’t feel threatened by the puppy. 

Giving the puppy your individual attention will help you bond with him.

6. Train each dog separately.

It’s important to train the puppy and dog separately. They’ll each be able to pay attention and learn the commands.

Once they’ll perform the commands individually, then you can have them each perform them together.

7. Give each canine separate areas to retreat to.

Each dog will need to relax and have down time. The puppy’s crate can be such a place.

It’s important that you train the puppy to enjoy going into his crate even on his own. Having a cue for him to enter it, such as “kennel up” can help when you want to diffuse a situation. 

It’s also important to train the dog to retreat to his area without the puppy’s interference.

8. Feed each separately.

It’s best to feed the puppy and the adult dog separately. This will help prevent any squabbles over space or food. Each should be relaxed while eating.

9. Have a way to redirect the dog and puppy away from each other.

Before getting the puppy, if you can have a method to call the dog away from anything–including the puppy–it can help.

For example, before things get too unruly, call your dog back and the other handler can call the puppy. A great recall or emergency recall can help.

You can also teach that to the puppy. If each learns the “touch” command, where they learn to touch their nose to the palm of your hand, you can call them back by that cue.

10. Introduce toys and other goodies together over time.

Of course, have separate toys for each dog and play with them separately. 

Start introducing toys when the dogs are together after the adult dog starts accepting the puppy. I like to introduce toys that the older dog doesn’t really care about, so that there’s less chance that he’ll object to the puppy playing with them.

I introduce five or so toys at once, tossing them all on the floor, so that there’s less chance of disputes over them.

For a long time depending on the dogs I don’t give chew items like bully sticks while they’re together. The puppy may try to take the high-value chew. This can potentially lead to a dog being aggressive to a puppy.

They can have them when they’re apart. 

11. Reward positive behavior.

It’s important to calmly praise good–positive–behavior. When the dog or puppy are behaving calmly, praise (“yes! Good dog!).

    Behavior that’s rewarded will repeat itself.

12. Get Help From A Certified Professional Dog Trainer

If things aren’t progressing, if you see any aggression, or there’s any unresolvable problem, get professional help.

A savvy, experienced positive-reinforcement trainer or behavior specialist can evaluate the situation. And hopefully she can help resolve any issues.

Don’t Try This At Home

There are certain things that shouldn’t be done when working with the dog and the puppy. 

1. DO NOT leave the puppy and the dog ALONE together.

Even if they really seem to get along, don’t be tempted to leave them alone together. Things can escalate quickly if something goes wrong

After they’ve been together for many months and all’s going well, you can test them by briefly leaving the room and returning. Eventually add time when all’s going well.

2. DO NOT correct the older dog when he growls at the puppy.

It’s really tempting to tell our dog to stop growling at the innocent puppy.

But doing so could really backfire. Growling is communication. It tells us that the older dog is stressed. It’s best to separate the two and give each a break.

Suppressing a growl can also teach the older dog to not let you know he’s stressed. But it didn’t change his mindset–he’s still anxious. And, he may even bite.

If, at any time, you see that the older dog is too stressed in many interactions with the puppy, get the help of a behavior specialist.

3. DO NOT expect the older dog to tolerate all behaviors by the puppy.

Puppies can be obnoxious in an older dog’s view. They have no manners. An older dog shouldn’t be forced to tolerate being jumped on, having ears pulled, or any other puppy antics that we may find to be cute.

Give each break before things go over the top and the dog needs to harshly correct the puppy. Redirect each to a command such as going to a place.

4. DO NOT allow the adult dog to bully or be aggressive to the puppy.

Some adult dogs know how to correct a puppy. My sheltie Gracie gently put her paws over puppy Millie’s back, gently pinning her, telling her “you’re being too rough!”

Gracie would immediately release the puppy. Millie understood the correction and the two continued to play–with a less annoying puppy.

I know my dogs know how to correct a puppy without being aggressive.

If your adult dog who gets along with the puppy sometimes corrects the puppy by growling when the puppy is too rough and the puppy backs off, things are probably fine.

But if you see any aggression (biting, lunging in a non-playful way)  or if the puppy doesn’t back down from an appropriate correction by an older dog, you should seek help from a behavioral specialist.

Final Thoughts

So, in introducing your adult dog to the new puppy, take your time.

As long as the dog is dog-friendly and the proper puppy has been chosen, they can have a happy relationship. And double the fun!

Have you introduced a puppy to your older dog?

If so, tell us about your experiences in the comment section below.

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How Do I Introduce My New Puppy To My Older Dog? - Adult Black Labrador Retriever standing next to a sitting black Lab puppy
How Do I Introduce My New Puppy To My Older Dog?

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Debbie DeSantis
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How Do I Introduce My New Puppy to My Older Dog? was last modified: December 6th, 2020 by Debbie DeSantis



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