Introducing A Puppy To An Older Dog – Getting Off On The Right Paw

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Older dog and puppy introduced outdoors

Introducing a puppy to an older dog doesn’t have to be stressful. With a bit of planning and preparation, you can introduce your new puppy to any other dogs that already live with you, safely and calmly.

The best puppy to dog introductions take place in 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. Prevention is key, so 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.

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.

The good news is, it’s up to you! Provided of course that both your dogs are healthy and well, and your older dog has all their vaccinations up to date.

There’s no magic trick to knowing the right time to introduce a new dog to one you’ve already had for a while.

But whenever you decide to take the plunge, there are some tricks for making the transition as smooth as possible.

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:

Problems between your older dog and your new puppy are also less likely to arise if you use these ‘downtime’ strategies:

Let’s take a look at all these options in more detail, so that you are completely ready to introduce your new dog to his future friend, safely and calmly.

An Ounce of Prevention…

In general, the most commonly cited advice for introducing a new puppy to your current dog is this:

PREVENTION, PREVENTION, PREVENTION!

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.

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.

You’ll need to 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!

If you’d like to use up some of your puppy’s energy and enthusiasm in a structured way, you might like our online training courses.

Tips for Introducing Your New Puppy And Current Dog

Swap Scents:

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

Training expert Patricia McConnell recommends introducing 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.

“Dogs can feel any slight amount of tension in their leash, and it gives them an overall feeling of tension in their body, too,” she says.

If any problems come up, you can easily grab the end of the leash and separate the dogs safely.

It’s important the first time to have a second person around to help separate the dogs.

And keep an eye on that body language!

Stay relaxed and playful, while always gauging the situation.

Patricia recalls a particularly difficult introduction of a high energy new dog to an elderly dog of her own.

“Whenever they did begin to sniff each other, and one dog looked tense, I’d cheerfully say, Let’s go on a walk! Keeping things moving is probably the most important thing anyone can do to help dogs become comfortable with each other.”

Parallel Walks:

A great way to keep things moving is by going for a walk together.

Some behaviorists observed that 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.

introducing a puppy to an older dog

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.

Training Games:

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.

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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.

introducing a puppy to an older dog

Toy-Free Zone:


Put away all toys in the house for a few days to prevent a common form of aggression called resource guarding.

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

How to deal with a new puppy and an older dog not getting along will depend on what your dogs are doing, and why.

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.

Your 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.

Introducing A Puppy To An Older Dog

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.

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 Handbook by Pippa Mattinson

Introducing a puppy to an older dog

We really hope that these tips can help ease your anxiety about introducing a new puppy to your older dog.

Don’t be afraid to ask your friends and family for help throughout the process.

A second pair of hands and eyes can be very important during critical moments of the introduction.

Keep in mind that it will be stressful, because everything about your home life and daily routine, as well as that of your other furry family members, is being disrupted.

But it will only be temporary!

And you’ll have lots of puppy kisses and furry snuggles to make the time pass quickly!

Let us know how you get on in the comments below!

References:

The Other End of the Leash: Why We Do What We Do Around Dogs McConnell, Patricia. Ballantine Books, 2003.

Increasing Affiliative Behavior Between Zoo Animals and Zoo Visitors. John Charles Coe. AZA Convention Proceedings, 1999.

Effect of affiliative and agonistic relationships on leadership behaviour in free-ranging dogs. R Bonanni, S Cafazzo, P Valsecchi, E Natoli. Animal Behaviour, 2010.

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

8 COMMENTS

  1. Hi we brought our puppy home yesterday,
    And have crated him the the living room where our older dog has access to but sleeps under the stairs. Our older dog can get funny with other dog when we are out on walks, if I keep things moving she is normally quite good. We have put a gate between the kitchen and hall way where the older dog sleeps so we can let the puppy roam safely. But I am unsure when to let them both free in the same room. So the puppy can get very close. The older dog got a little inqusertive and came over when I had the pup on a lease then had a growl. Just feeling a little unsure if keeping them segregated to long not be good

  2. My gsd is 11yrs old, he has been fantastic with a whole range of family/babies and children and pets that have lived with us all, puppies birds,cats kittens un neutered male dog female dogs…we have introduced him to our new member of our house,she is a female 8 week old Doberman pup, Kane instantly took a very bad liking to her and has attacked her more than twice..badly..and for no reason apart from her puppies ways she is extremely obedient for her age and knows not to push playing too much,he seems to corner her and attack within split second when out of eye sight with me, like if we walk into house from garden he will turn on her or when following me in,or when she walks past him…I’m getting him vet checked but lost all trust when he then growled right up to my child’s face which has never happened before and after mailing the puppies three times now causing injury…Please what help or guidness is there to offer as I have tried a lot so far with bad results.i really home someone can help as I love my dogs they are my best friends.

    • Yes, do get your older dog checked out by a vet. Maybe he is in pain. Growling at children is of great concern. Next step is he will bite. Good luck and hope you have a good outcome. Andrew

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