How To Introduce Your Puppy To Your Older Dog
Tips for adding a new puppy to the family 🐶
If you’re adding a new puppy to your family, you might be a little worried about how your older dog’s going to take it.
But don’t worry — you’re not alone. Tons of families have been able to make the transition and go on with their happy, dog-filled lives. It’ll take a little patience — and definitely some smart planning — but it can absolutely happen. (Just think about all those double snuggles!)
The Dodo spoke to Dr. Zay Satchu, cofounder and chief veterinary officer at Bond Vet, and Russell Hartstein, a trainer and founder of Fun Paw Care in Los Angeles, to find out how to safely introduce a new puppy to your dog.
Let your dog smell the puppy
Before taking your puppy home, give your resident pet something that smells like your new puppy, like a toy, blanket or bedding, and let him sniff it so he can familiarize himself with the puppy’s scent. This will help your dog recognize your new puppy when he gets home.
Find a neutral area
Let your puppy and dog meet for the first time in a neutral space, like a park. Your dog thinks of your house as his, so you don’t want him to act aggressively toward your puppy if he thinks his territory’s being threatened. While both dogs are on leashes, let them smell each other and interact.
“Go very slow, and it's best to meet in a neutral place, such as a friend’s fenced-in backyard,” Hartstein told The Dodo.
Watch both dogs’ body language to make sure they’re getting along. If there are no fights, you can take both of your pups home.
“If they hit it off (with loose body language, play bows and a back-and-forth play style with no winners or losers) and have a good play session, then you may proceed to walk home together,” Hartstein said.
You can also try parallel walking your dogs, which means walking them on leashes side by side, to let them get to know each other.
“Keep both dogs on leash, and walk one of your dogs and have a friend or family member walk the new puppy,” Hartstein said. “You can start by parallel walking in a large open field or backyard, far enough away from each other to gauge their desire to interact.”
Let your puppy in the house first
When you first bring your puppy home, it can be helpful to let your puppy in the house first, then have your dog come into the house. If your dog’s in the house when the puppy comes in, he might get territorial.
For the first few weeks, don’t leave your puppy and dog alone together. You should be with them any time they interact so you can observe if either one shows signs of stress or aggression.
“Tail up and ears forward body posture is an indicator that dogs are at ease and accepting of their current environment,” Dr. Satchu told The Dodo. “If the tail is tucked or the ears are pinned back, this is a sign of fear or discomfort.”
Maintain your dog’s schedule
Try to keep the same routine with your older dog that you had before you brought the puppy home. And even though getting a new puppy’s super exciting, keep giving your dog attention so he doesn’t feel left out or get jealous.
“One of the best things you can do is try to maintain your existing ‘pre-puppy’ schedule and routine with the older dog and maintain the same amount of attention that they've always received from you,” Dr. Satchu said.
Feed them separately
Give your pups separate food and water bowls, and feed them away from each other so they don’t feel like they’re competing for food. And if you give one dog a treat, give the other a treat so no one gets jealous.
If one dog finishes eating before the other, you should also remove him so he doesn’t try to eat the other dog’s food.
It’s a good idea to keep toys away when your pups are first getting to know each other. Dogs can get aggressive if they resource guard, which is refusing to give something up, like a toy.
“Snapping and growling are likely to occur in the presence of food or toys,” Dr. Satchu advised.
Don’t punish your older dog for setting boundaries
It’s totally normal for your older dog to teach your new puppy how to act around him, so you shouldn’t punish him for letting your puppy know that he’s frustrated.
This might look like your older dog completely ignoring your puppy in the beginning and giving off some cold behavior — like snarling or growling — if the puppy gets too close or acts too energetic.
In general, most puppies will learn to understand when a dog’s setting boundaries, but if your puppy keeps bothering your older dog, separate them for an hour or two.
How long does it take a dog to get used to a new puppy?
Every dog will react differently to having a new puppy around all the time. Some dogs will require no time to adjust, while others may take several weeks.
To help your dog adjust when your puppy first comes home, give him plenty of space away from the chaos that a puppy brings by giving him his own crate and bed in a separate area. Don’t force them to interact or to hang out in the same room.
Even once your older dog gets used to the new puppy, they may not be BFFs since older dogs and young puppies have very different energy levels. “It’s important to understand that older dogs don’t typically like to be accosted by an exuberant (annoying) young teething puppy,” Hartstein said. “Some older dogs will tolerate them more than others, but tolerating is different than enjoying the company of a young puppy.”
What should I do if my puppy’s bullying my older dog?
If your puppy just won’t leave your older dog alone and is driving him nuts, there are some things you can do to help.
First of all, if your dog gets annoyed with your puppy jumping on him or playfully nipping at him, then you shouldn’t allow your puppy to do it. Your puppy thinks it’s fun, so he won’t stop on his own. Most dogs will stop puppies by growling or showing their teeth (setting boundaries, as mentioned above), but if your puppy won’t stop, you should separate them.
Give your puppy lots of exercise so he won’t constantly try to play with your older dog. Take him on walks and give him interactive toys that’ll tire him out.
Teach your puppy cues, like “no,” “come” and “down” so you can stop your puppy from annoying your dog.
What should I do if my older dog’s depressed with my new puppy?
If your dog’s been the only child for his whole life, he can get jealous of the new puppy and might not be sure what’s going on, especially if his routine’s been disrupted. And all these new changes can make him depressed.
If your older dog has been acting way more sluggish than usual since your puppy came home, he might be depressed. Signs of depression in dogs include eating more or less than usual, changes in sleeping habits, a lack of energy and losing interest in playing.
If you think your dog might be depressed, you should separate your dog and puppy until you can talk to your vet to figure out how to treat your older dog.
“Management is very important until you can get some professional help to understand why your dog is either depressed or aggressive [toward your puppy],” Hartstein said.
What should I do if my older dog’s attacking my new puppy?
If your older dog’s attacking your puppy, the first thing you should do is separate them so your puppy doesn’t get hurt, and then find a dog trainer.
“Call a positive reinforcement certified dog trainer and behaviorist,” Hartstein said. “Also, never use a trainer or behaviorist that uses or recommends choke chains, pronged collars or vibration/shock collars [since they hurt your dog].”
Learn to recognize your dogs’ body language so you can tell when your dogs are getting stressed or angry with each other. You should also become familiar with the difference between play-fighting between dogs and actual fighting. Your pups might just be playing with each other and not actually getting aggressive.
“Some dogs are vocal when they play, and that is not a concern,” Dr. Satchu said. “If they have a happy tail, relaxed face, and are using postures like a play bow, it's likely their vocalizations are friendly in nature.”
Giving up your older dog is definitely NOT a good solution if he’s acting depressed or aggressive around your new puppy. You’ll be able to work out a solution by talking to your vet or a trainer.
It might take some time and effort to introduce your new puppy to your older dog, but it’ll definitely be worth it, as long as you follow these tips to help them safely get to know each other.
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