Introducing A New Puppy To An Older Dog

Think long and hard before adopting a puppy as a companion for an existing dog. If your existing dog is elderly or ill then seriously consider the pros and cons of bringing a new puppy into the home.

If you feel that adding to your canine family is right for you, your family and existing dog then aim to create a safe, social and positive introduction between new puppy and existing dog. You will need to invest significant time and employ sound management during the introduction phase; this will save you in the long run.

There is no fast golden rule about how to introduce a puppy to the existing household dog and this is because every dog’s personality, coping skills and social skills will vary you need to monitor your existing dog’s reactions and act accordingly.

Your goal is to teach the existing dog that the presence of the new puppy is going to be of benefit to them. Understanding how to implement positive reinforcement based introductions and the ability to manage existing resources will be of benefit.

Resources are things that are of value to either dog at any given time. Remember the value on something can increase or decrease depending on the situation. Existing resources include family members, attention, space, bedding, water, food, toys and anything that is deemed of value by either dog at a given time. Your job is to manage those resources to ensure there are enough to go around so that either dog never feels the need to hoard or guard items. Having two food bowls, two water bowls, and two beds and so on will help.

Some common problems can include food guarding, stealing, the older dog giving out to the new puppy, fear on the part of the existing or new puppy. It is important that you set boundaries for the puppy and make sure the existing dog feels safe in his own home. The same rules should apply to the new puppy as the existing dog.

Crate training your new puppy is a must, not only for toilet training purposes but the crate can provide a secure place for when your puppy needs some down time and your existing dog needs some space. Refer to the crate training notes in the care section. If your existing dog is also crate trained then this will also help in a huge way.

Keep things the same for your existing dog this includes feeding time, walking time, sleeping area and so on.

The Meet & Greet

Introductions should firstly be done on neutral ground and not in the home therefore adopting a puppy that has all vaccinations is advantageous. Both dogs should be on lead and in a secure area should one feel the need to flee. Leads must be kept loose with minimal pressure or tensing of the dog lead. Harnesses are preferred and you should not let the leads wrap.

Every single appropriate and positive interaction should be marked and rewarded with verbal praise. Stay calm and show your dog that you are happy with the new puppy being around and therefore they have nothing to worry about. The puppy will need more management that the existing dog. Distract each dog to keep arousal levels low and do not allow play to get too exciting for the first few play sessions.

Allow each dog to gradually sniff and investigate each other on loose leads. Only when you are confident and if you are in a secure area should you consider removing the leads.

Do not use equipment that may tighten or cause discomfort during introductions. Avoid correcting using the lead or interactively. This is because at this crucial stage both dogs are creating associations about the other. So if you were to apply a correction or either dog was to feel pain or discomfort they may associate that with the other dog and as with us humans first impressions last!

At all times, whether at home our out and about, try to manage the puppy’s interactions with your existing dog. If your existing dog needs some space make sure he/she gets it.

Things to Avoid

Never punish the existing dog for displaying distance increasing requests such as growling, moving away or barking at the puppy but rather seek professional advice as to how to remedy this. Your existing dog has every right to ask for space. See dealing with aggressive or hostile behaviour article in the care section.

Never leave the puppy and existing dog alone together until you are sure the relationship has been established and both dogs are happy in each other’s presence. Make sure that safety collars are used anytime two dogs are together. These collars snap open if either dog gets their mouth caught in the others collar during play or if the collar becomes snagged on something.

Never force either dog towards the other as this can cause a panic reaction. Each dog will display signals either to invite or deter the other. Communication between both is vital and as they learn about each other their sociability will increase.

If your existing dog has ever reacted negatively or displayed fear, aggression or experienced stress around other dogs then seek professional advice and assistance before adopting or attempting to introduce a puppy. See ‘dealing with aggressive or hostile behaviour’ article in the care section for more information.

Keep children under full supervision during initial introductions and permit only adults to hold the leads.

Finally remember that it takes some time for both dogs to become acquainted. They have no choice in the situation and are forced to live with the dog we choose for them so allowing them time to get used to each other is a must. If you notice that your existing dog becomes quiet or is acting out of character seek professional advice.


About The Author

Dog Training Ireland was founded to help dog’s live fullfilling lives in the human world. At Dog Training Ireland emphasis is on ethical training based on sound canine training and behaviour study. DTI staff are qualified and certified by reputable recognised industry standard colleges and bodies such as Bishop Burton College, the APDT UK (Association of Pet Dog Trainers) the CCPDT (Council for Professional Dog Trainers), COAPE (Centre of Applied Pet Ethology). All Dog Training Ireland Trainers have at least 2 years of training, hold national certificates, diplomas and some are studying at Masters Level. Click here for more info.


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