To introduce your puppy to the dog you’ll need to begin with an enclosed neutral area, with plenty of supervision. Be ready to move on to a walk or other joint activity if things go well, and stop the session if either dog becomes stressed or unhappy. Plan ahead and remove sources of conflict such as food or toys. Read on for our behaviorist’s top tips on when, where and how to introduce your new puppy to their future companion.
Tips & Solutions
When Can My Puppy Meet My Other Dog?
So puppy fever has struck again, and you want to know when to introduce your new puppy to your older dog. Most people want their older dog to meet the new puppy on the very first day, along with the rest of the family. And the good news is, that’s okay provided you take some precautions.
It’s important that both dogs are healthy and well, and especially that your older dog has all their vaccinations up to date. Small puppies shouldn’t be in close contact with unvaccinated adult dogs until their own vaccinations are complete.
From a friendship point of view, there’s no magic trick to knowing the right time to introduce a new friend to the dog you’ve already had for a while. But there are some important precautions you can take to make the transition as smooth as possible. Let’s look at some great strategies you can follow to ensure your dogs will be best friends forever!
Introducing a Puppy to an Older Dog
Introducing a puppy to an older dog is more likely to go smoothly if you set yourself up to succeed by following these top tips:
- Swap scents
- Use a Howdy crate
- Meet in a neutral area
- Take parallel walks
- Play training games
- Help adversaries become allies
Problems between your older dog and your new puppy are also less likely to arise if you use these additional ‘downtime’ strategies:
We’ll look all those options in more detail below (you can use those links to skip to them if you want to) but first let’s just think ahead.
An Ounce of Prevention…
Let’s make sure that you are completely ready to introduce your new dog to his future friend, safely and calmly. In general, the most commonly cited advice for introducing a new puppy to your current dog is this: PREVENTION, PREVENTION, PREVENTION! And a close runner up is SUPERVISION.
By thinking a few steps ahead of situations in which problems are most likely to arise, you can prevent a lot of the common difficulties of introducing a puppy to an older dog. As you follow the tips below, the biggest hurdle to overcome will be the difference between the characteristics and needs of your new puppy, and your older dog. For example the high energy of a new puppy may be hard to balance against an older dog’s lower energy, preference for his old routine, or any past injuries or pain. This can make playtime between these dogs tricky to manage.
Supervision is vital in the first few weeks. You’ll soon become a bit of an expert at reading your older dog’s body language. When your older dog shows the signs for, “I’m tired” or, “Leave me alone!” you’re better off intervening to nip any potential fights in the bud. Be especially alert to your older dog growling, snarling or raising the fur on the back of his neck. These are signs that he has long since had enough! And it’s time for you to step in and separate them, or use up some of your puppy’s energy and enthusiasm in a structured way. If you need some help with that, you’ll find a link to Pippa’s online training courses below.
Tips for Introducing Your New Puppy And Current Dog
If you’re scheduling your new puppy pick-up in advance, and you already know which puppy you’re getting, you can ask the breeder, owner, or shelter manager for a piece of cloth that has been rubbed on the pup. Let your current dog smell it back at home to start making a mental map of the new family member coming his way.
Use a Howdy Crate:
A ‘howdy crate’ is a term zookeepers use when introducing a new animal into an exhibit with other animals for the first time. By putting the new animal in a crate in the exhibit, the animals can all say, “Howdy!” to one another through the safety of the crate walls. Use the same concept at home by putting your new puppy in a crate in the front yard or living room so that your older dog can spend some time getting to know the new pup’s scent and sounds.
Neutral Territory Meet & Greets
It is a good idea to introduce dogs to one another in a completely neutral area, like a park or a friend’s house. Make sure the space is fenced-in so that you can let both leashes drag loosely on the ground. If any problems come up, you can easily grab the end of the leash and separate the dogs safely.
A great way to keep things moving is by going for a walk together. Simply going for a guided walk can reduce tension, anxiety, and fear in dogs. It also helps establish familiarity with other dogs in a natural canine social behavior. Both dogs are distracted from the introductions by physical activity and the sights, sounds, and scents of the world around them. Remember – it’s not safe for your puppy to be put on the ground in public places, until her vaccinations are complete. This is usually at around 16 weeks old. In the meantime she should not walk anywhere that any unvaccinated dogs could have access.
To do an effective parallel walk, two walkers each have one leashed dog. Throughout the walk, the walkers rotate through positions – the older dog could start in the lead, about 10 yards ahead of the puppy. Then after 10 minutes, the positions are reversed. After another 10 minutes, the dogs are brought side by side with only a yard or two of space between the now parallel-walking dogs. And don’t forget to stay relaxed, and avoid tension in the leash.
You can apply the same intent behind parallel walks to keep the dogs active and distracted from antagonizing each other by playing training games with both dogs near each other during early introductions. Instead of simply turning both dogs loose in the backyard and watching what happens, you can run them through a series of simple cues and tricks.
For example, grab your treat pouch and your clicker (if you use one) and stand in the middle of the backyard, occasionally calling out a cue that your older dog knows. Sit, high five, turn in a circle, target your hand or a target pole, etc. Run through a few commands that will earn your dog some treats and distract him from the new dog.
Have a second handler working with the puppy, introducing some basic training games for puppies. Both dogs will be preoccupied, with intermittent sniff and greets in between mini sessions. Finish your short training sessions with a big burst of excitement and playtime with both dogs. Run around the yard together in a game of chase, romp, and roll! If you’d like help getting started with basic positive training for your puppy or your older dog, you might like to join one of our online training courses.
Notes on Training Games as Introductions
It’s worth noting that I usually have a hard time getting a dog to lie down when there are other, unfamiliar dogs around. My theory is that lying down creates canine body language associated with vulnerability and submission. In a situation with an unfamiliar dog nearby, my dog would rather ignore my training cues than put himself in a position of vulnerability.
It’s probably best to avoid asking for a lie down in this early parallel training session. You should also be very cautious of food-based aggression, as you give out treats. So if you notice either dog getting tense or aggressively stealing treats from the other, then end this game. If this happens you may need to consider working with a professional trainer on how to train two dogs at once without developing treat aggression.
Adversaries Become Allies:
Take both leashed dogs to unfamiliar territory for walks, such as a park or busy public place. The scents of other dogs will become the focus of their attention, and they will suddenly be allies against the world!
Tips on Avoiding Problems
The above activities are all great ways to help your older dog and your new puppy to bond. But they do all require active supervision and engagement from you. So what about when you aren’t able to play with, exercise, or train your dogs? Follow these top tips to avoid problems between your new arrival and his future friend.
Separate Corners (or Rooms)
If your house is a boxing ring, give each dog their separate corner. Crate them in separate rooms (or close the door to the room where puppy is crated) when they are not being supervised 100%. This is absolutely the simplest but most effective thing you can do when you are getting a puppy with an older dog already in the house.
Supervised Chew Time:
If you want to give your dogs a bone or chewable treat each, great! Just make sure to offer each dog a treat, and be sure to separate them to opposite sides of the room. Remove whichever dog finishes first to avoid a fight.
Help – My Dog Hates My New Puppy
Ok, so you’ve followed the tips above for bringing a new puppy home with another dog waiting patiently back home. You’ve done neutral introductions and taken both dogs for walks together. You’ve played with them equally and tried some training games to show the dogs that they are a team. But you’re still having problems. Here are some additional troubleshooting ideas if your new puppy and older dog are still not getting along.
Puppy and Older Dog Not Getting Along
Puppy Biting Older Dog
Biting and chewing on each other’s face is part and parcel of puppy play and getting to know other dogs. To a certain extent, I’m comfortable letting a puppy be a puppy for a few moments, nipping and snapping gently at the older dog to initiate play.
Either the older dog will give in to a bout of play, or he/she will snap at the puppy to let Pupper know, “I’m NOT in the mood, kid.” Since this is exactly how a mother dog would teach her puppies bite inhibition, I tend to let dogs speak their own language to one another to sort out mild differences.
If, however, the older dog becomes VERY aggressive and looks like he could really harm the pup, then by all means, intervene. You could do this by clapping loudly or calling one of the dogs over to you out of harm’s way, and crating him for a period of cooling down.
Puppy Annoying Older Dog
Even if the older dog isn’t aggressive with the pup, but the pup is relentless in his play biting, you’ll need to separate the dogs. Don’t give the older dog a chance to hit his threshold of patience. Give your puppy a chew toy that he can take his obsessive chewing behavior out on instead of your senior pooch’s ears. And give your older dog some space to recover and relax!
Older Dog Attacking New Puppy
If this is the case, you need to be a bit of a watch guard for your new pup. When the dogs are loose around each other, keep an eye on their body language. The minute you see what makes your older dog aggressive to puppy, step in.
When the older dog shows signs of arousal or tension, for example if you catch your dog growling at puppy, break things up. Use a cheerful voice to distract them, or a deep tone of voice calling, “HEY,” to disarm your older dog.
Be sure that both dogs have a space of their own to retreat to. The puppy needs a place to calm down when he gets overly aroused and gets too energetic or aggressive with you or your other dog. Your older dog needs a space of his own to have quiet, peace, and no nipping puppies chewing on his face.
Older Dog Jealous of New Puppy
It’s hard not to be anthropomorphic about our pets. Scientifically speaking, we shouldn’t impart our human emotions and ideas onto our pets. But if your older dog constantly steals toys away from your new puppy, growls if the puppy approaches when you are giving affection to the older dog, or gets more protective over his toys or your attention in general, it could seem like he is jealous of the new pooch in town.
Do your best to spend quality time with both dogs. Don’t abandon your one-on-one walks with your older dog. And do reward your older dog any time he approaches the new puppy nicely. Give him a treat and praise if the puppy comes near without any incident.
Remember that dogs probably do not share our understanding of possession, and puppy toys left lying around will seem like fair game to your older dog, so try to make sure that there are enough to go around.
Older Dog Depressed By The New Puppy
If your older dog seems to have less energy, be less playful, spend more time away from you and in the other rooms of the house, or hide in corners or under furniture, he may be more than just a little jealous. He might be full-on depressed at the changes in the household routine. Dogs really benefit from routine and structure, so the sooner you can get the whole household back into a routine that resembles what your older dog was habituated to, the better his mental state will be.
The Labrador Site Founder
Pippa Mattinson is the best selling author of The Happy Puppy Handbook, the Labrador Handbook, Choosing The Perfect Puppy, and Total Recall.
She is also the founder of the Gundog Trust and the Dogsnet Online Training Program
Pippa's online training courses were launched in 2019 and you can find the latest course dates on the Dogsnet website