Bringing a new puppy home is one of the most exciting experiences a family will share together. But if you already have an older dog, it’s important you take their feelings and comfort into consideration too.
Your senior dog might not be quite as thrilled at the prospect of a puppy as you are, so introducing them carefully and respectfully is the best way to make sure they establish a positive relationship. After all, older dogs can be set in their ways and if they don’t have as much energy as they used to, embracing and keeping up with a bouncing puppy might be a challenge for them both mentally and physically.
But if you follow this step-by-step guide to introducing a new puppy to an older dog, they’re bound to get along brilliantly.
Before Introducing Your Puppy And Older Dog
Before your two dogs meet, it’s crucial to consider health and safety precautions for both pets.
- Is your older dog territorial? If so, be prepared to teach them how to share
- Is your older dog a larger breed? If so, be mindful that they could hurt your puppy
- Is your puppy a larger breed than your older dog? If so, be mindful that the puppy could harm your dog while they play
- Are your two dogs different breeds? If so, are they known to get along well?
- Are both your dogs up to date on vaccinations? If not, they could pass diseases, fleas, and ticks to one another. Puppies are especially susceptible to infections which could be passed to your older dog or vice versa.
Getting Your Home Ready For A New Puppy With An Older Dog
Before your new puppy comes home, you’ll need to get the home ready. Just because you’re already a dog owner doesn’t mean you have everything you need already.
Fresh beds, food and water bowls, and toys should be provided for your puppy not only for hygiene reasons, but also because it’s unfair on your older dog to expect them to share everything with their new family member.
Ideally, you should set up entirely separate areas for your older dog and puppy so they have a space to spend time apart. In time, we like to think our dogs will be the best of friends but this isn’t always the case – especially at the beginning of their relationship. So it’s important to give them their own space until they decide they like to hang out together.
You might want to set up a puppy crate and gates to separate your two dogs, as well as to block access to areas of your house that your puppy shouldn’t go to. This will make it easy to keep them apart when your younger dog is being too playful or aggravating and will stop them pestering during alone time.
Introducing Your Older Dog To A Puppy
Now that your home is ready for a puppy, your older dog’s vaccinations are up to date and you know that the two dogs are likely to get along, it’s time for them to meet.
- Introduce your dogs in a neutral territory that your existing dog doesn't consider to be ‘their’ space. This could be your garden (or a friend’s if you don’t have one), a room in your house that your dog doesn’t go in, or it can be facilitated by most reputable breeders.
- Keep them on a loose leash and walk them together at a distance to get used to one another
- When they seem ready to meet, let them sniff each other.
- If one dog gets too nervous or excited, give them a break.
- Let the dogs explore their environment in between investigating one another so they don’t feel overwhelmed.
- Be patient as your dogs get used to one another’s presence.
- If the dogs seem comfortable and calm and are not showing signs of aggression or fear, drop the leashes so they can play together.
- When both dogs seem relaxed and comfortable around each other, they can be introduced into your home.
- If at any point either dog begins to show signs of agitation or aggression, separate them.
- Keep the dogs apart whenever you cannot be around to watch their interactions, and supervise all their time together until they’re both totally comfortable.
Once Your Puppy And Older Dog Have Met
Be sure to give your older dog plenty of attention during this time, letting them know they still have your loyalty and affection despite this new addition to the fold. Giving the new puppy a crate to relax and sleep in and buying them their own toys, bed, blankets, and bowls will also let your older dog know that their established position in the home is not under threat.
Keep the same rules in place for the puppy that your original dog has to follow. If dogs aren’t allowed on the furniture or to sleep in bed, you shouldn’t make an exception for the puppy (no matter how cute they are!). Whilst it’s your responsibility to train your puppy, they’re also going to look to your older dog for guidance too. Seeing your older dog beg for table scraps or helping themself to trash from the bin is going to teach the puppy this behavior too.
When it comes to feeding time, make sure their bowls are far apart from each other to prevent food stealing or territorial behavior from either dog.
It can sometimes be possible for a new puppy to come into the home and everyone gets along perfectly. But, it’s more common for there to be a few arguments, especially in the beginning. It’s really common for older dogs to snap at a young puppy to help them learn boundaries so it’s very important you’re keeping a close eye so you can intervene only if you feel the older dog is being too aggressive. This behavior is very important because it not only helps your puppy learn important socialization skills but also their place in the hierarchy of their new pack.
In time, your two new dogs should be able to live together harmoniously. How long this takes will depend on the age and temperament of your older dog. Rescue dogs can be harder to socialize, but whatever your dogs’ background, introducing older pets to new puppies requires patience and affection. The most important factor is keeping both pets safe and ensuring your older dog doesn’t feel usurped.
For more challenging dog and puppy introductions, you might prefer to hire the help of a professional dog trainer or behaviorist.