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12 tips for introducing a new puppy to the older dog of the house

Jealousy and resentment over a new sibling happens with pets too - but can be avoided with a proper plan

Getting a new puppy is a big decision, and an even bigger one if there’s already a dog in the family who thinks the house is all his.

“Oh but he deserves a buddy!” you might say. It’s a nice sentiment, but your older dog is probably not as gung-ho as you about the idea of sharing his home.

Introducing a new dog - especially a feisty puppy - to an older dog is tricky, to say the least. But with these timer-tested tips, that transition can be smooth, and hopefully lead to a long relationship of canine BFFs.

Make Sure First

As tempting as a fluffy new puppy is, there are no guarantees your new dogs will hit it off. So think this decision through carefully. If your current pooch already displays territorial or anti-social behaviour with other animals, you may want to hold off.

Take note of breeds and sizes (eg. some terriers are bred to hunt little vermin; so maybe not a good fit for a tiny rambunctious puppy). Also consider that, statistically, male dogs will bond better with females. There’s a lot to consider before taking the puppy plunge.

Find a Neutral Location

The first meeting should ideally take place in a spot where neither dog has territorial connection. A park (preferably gated, quiet, and spacious) is a great introduction location. A public tennis court can be helpful with its net acting as a barrier for safe sniffing. If a park isn’t available, a friend’s house - free of both their usual smells - can work for the big first date.

Deliver the Dogs Apart

It’s best to enlist a friend for this important first meeting. Walk or drive each dog separately to keep things on equal terms. An older dog can feel aggressive if seeing a newbie come first. Think of it as a boxing match (without the boxing) where the athletes come out at the same time, from different corners of the arena.

Keep Leashes Slack

Both dogs should be on leashes the first time together. Make sure their leashes are loose enough for exploring and comfort. A tight, taut leash can signal and lead to anxiety and frustration. Reward non-aggressive behaviour with treats (for both dogs, of course!).

Recognize Body Language

Growling, circling, sniffing, and even urinating are normal dog behaviours when dogs first meet. But you should intervene if aggression crosses the line. Watch for direct and intense stares, excessive growling, tails between legs, and raised paws. Take a time out and try again.

“Protect the older dog, who may not have the ability to stop the puppy,” dog expert Bonnie Hartney of Ocean Park Dog Training tells OhMyDog!. “It’s not helpful to have the older dog ‘put the puppy in his place’ as it risks making the puppy afraid. Puppies need a host of positive experiences during their sensitive period for socialization.”

Walk the Walk

The next natural step is taking the dogs for a walk together. Again, grab a friend or family member to walk the other, and trade dogs a couple of times to keep the air neutral. Always keep a buffer distance between the two. Try walking the older dog in front first, then try the puppy as the lead. Ultimately you want both walking side by side if feelings are positive.

Organize the Older Dog’s Stuff

Before you move your furball into the tricky home turf, remove the resident dog’s things or organize them into one space. This will reduce tension greatly, especially if the bouncy puppy is prevented from messing with the older dog’s favourite blanket, toys, and food bowl.

Take the Dogs Home Separately

Now that the house is cleared of the resident dog’s possessions, bring your new puppy home to explore by herself. Have your buddy take the older dog for a long walk while the newbie aquaints herself with her new digs. It’s important to remove clutter from the home and present an open, unthreatening atmosphere.

Gates Do Good

A baby or doggie gate is highly recommended to initially separate the dogs during their first time home together. Observe behaviors through the gate’s barrier and reward positive reactions with verbal praise. If one dog just won’t calm down, remove him to another room for a break. When interactions fall into nice behaviour, remove the gate for some exploration and play time.

Beds and Bowls in Different Places

If there’s anything dogs (and even us humans) are protective of, it’s sleeping and eating routines. Make sure you provide separate beds and different food stations.

“Always feed the dogs in separate locations,” says Hartney. “Some dogs guard food or possessions from other dogs, which may not show up until another dog is in the home.”

After a couple of weeks, you can try feeding the dogs in the same room and moving the bowls closer and closer. It’s recommended you stick to the feeding schedule of the resident dog to avoid stress and conflict.

Don’t Punish Frustration

Growling and snapping are normal ways to communicate for dogs. We want them to express their emotions (see above for when aggression should be handled). Punishing dogs for growling is counter-productive, especially for a puppy who is navigating social behavior for the first time.

Be Patient

Like any big life change, there will be good and bad days. But routine and patience will pay off. Introduce new things (like toys) gradually, and give equal attention to both siblings.

On average, it will take the original dog 4 to 8 weeks to accept the change is permanent and the little one is here to stay. It can take up to 6 to 10 months for the dogs to finally settle into a bonded and nicey-nice relationship.

“It takes time for the new relationship to flourish,” says trainer Bonnie Hartney. “Be patient and enjoy the process!”


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