10 Tips For A Positive Introduction: New Puppy, Meet My Current Dog
You and your family are excited about adding a new puppy to the family! But did anyone ask your current dog about this? Even if your dog is socialized well and gets along with other dogs, introducing a new puppy to your existing dog can be tricky.
Everyone wants a happy home, especially your family dog and your new puppy! But young puppies lack social and communication skills, which means they don’t know the rules for “good” behavior and have a lot to learn.
Fortunately, we can help with that!
Introducing your new arrival to a dog who is already a valued member of your family should be done slowly and is most successful when the introduction is the last step in a process that includes:
- deciding to add a new pup and choosing the best temperament match
- planning when and how you’ll bring the new puppy home and
- knowing the preferences of your existing dog.
It’s also essential to make a positive association at a distance first.
If you plan well, your family dog and a new puppy may become great friends, learn to get along, play well, and thrive with your family!
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10 Tips For A Positive Experience When Introducing A New Puppy To Your Dog
1. Plan ahead.
Don’t just bring your new pup into the house and put her down. Your current dog may not understand, and worst case, they could get off to a terrible start! Planning will pay off with smoother relationship building.
2. Prepare your home.
Both your resident dog and this new puppy are entitled to have safe and secure places of their own where they can eat, sleep, play, and just chill out. Preparing these spaces ahead of puppy’s arrival will give your family’s dog a chance to adjust to these changes and be less stressed when you bring the puppy into your home. And your dog will not associate these new restrictions with the puppy’s arrival.
3. Don’t expect your puppy to understand dog social skills.
Puppies have a lot to learn about communication and social skills, but your current dog may not realize that. Unfortunately, puppies also get overexcited easily, and innocent fun can quickly turn to aggression when playing goes too far.
Training and proper socialization are essential. Your dogs need your supervision anytime they are together, perhaps even through the first year.
4. Timing is important.
Entering a new home for the first time is stressful for a new puppy whose senses become overwhelmed with unfamiliar sights, sounds, and smells. Your puppy no longer receives reassurances from mom or littermates in this new place.
A new puppy can take several days to adjust to her new world. So wait until she seems less stressed and both pets are calm and exercised before allowing your puppy and dog to see each other from a distance for the first time.
5. Make it safe.
Have a helper assist with the first introduction in neutral territory. And if either dog seems stressed or overexcited, keep the distance between them and try again later.
6. Keep track of their “battery levels.”
If either pet has pent-up energy that needs releasing, or if one or the other is over-tired, reschedule the introduction.
7. Have plenty of treats for both puppy and your current dog.
Lavishly reward calm behavior for a positive experience! Never punish improper behavior or reactions, which can reinforce in a way you don’t want.
8. Give each pet their own space, and don’t force them to spend time together.
Just as human family members have their own rooms, your new puppy and resident dog need to have different rooms to retreat to when they need a break. Even after they are comfortable together, the American Kennel Club recommends periods of separation from each other throughout the day to take the pressure off your adult dog.
9. Keep training sessions separate.
It’s important right from the beginning to ensure both dog and puppy sharpen their skills, particularly skills for focusing on you and controlling impulses. And this takes time with a young puppy.
10. Don’t force interactions.
Take it at their pace. Forcing togetherness before your pets are comfortable will cause problems.
5 Essential Things You Should Know BEFORE Making the Introduction
Nothing is ever perfect! New puppies are hard work and require much of your attention. And you can’t afford to allow those needs to prevent you from giving your current dog as much love and attention after puppy arrives.
1. Puppies have not learned good manners yet.
Puppies are the equivalent of a human infant and need to learn just about everything in this new life with you. While some adult dogs can be valuable teachers to very young pups, for the most part, your current dog will want your support in teaching boundaries to this new critter.
We use puppy pens, gates, leashes, and so on to teach the pup where she should be. These tools also give the older dog freedom to move around the house without the puppy jumping on him, stealing his chew toy, eating from his bowl, and walking on or biting him while he is resting.
One of the things we say most often is, “It’s fine until it’s not fine.” Until puppy learns better manners and we can fully trust our older dog to interact safely, it’s best to keep puppy in a secured area like a puppy pen when you’re not working on socializing your pets.
2. Rivalry for attention can trigger problems.
It’s important not to show preference to avoid rivalry. Instead, give your current dog plenty of attention without your new puppy around and vice-versa to enable them to settle into this new family dynamic.
3. Canine body language and how to spot warning signs
The humans are responsible for overseeing the puppy and dog’s first meeting and intervening before warning signals escalate into harmful behavior. Keep these things in mind:
- Your current dog may seem excited about the puppy until he discovers that she is staying!
- It is normal for a dog to growl or even snap and move away if the puppy approaches incorrectly.
- Even a well-socialized dog can hurt a very young puppy accidentally.
It is rare for dogs to coexist without ever having a disagreement at some point, which is why you must supervise on the first day, perhaps for weeks or months.
Your intervention is appropriate if you see:
- A long stare, lifting a lip, stiff posturing
- A growl or any bullying behavior by either
- Rolling on their back
- Attempting to escape or disengage from the other
- Avoiding eye contact
Step in to avoid escalation or injury.
As their relationship begins to grow, be very careful how you react. Being uncertain with each other isn't a bad thing – it just is what they are feeling. If we quietly move puppy away, distract her with a toy in her playpen, and give the older dog his own chew toy, we prevent that uncertainty from becoming fear or ongoing conflict.
4. Make sure your current dog has an escape route.
Depending on his age and temperament, your current dog may not be pleased with puppy’s unrelenting attention. Amber L. Drake, a Behaviorist with Rover.com suggests you create spaces in your home where both dogs can get away from each other.
Be sure your current dog has a crate or other safe space to escape when he becomes uncomfortable. And if you see him trying to get away from your puppy or displaying warning signs, move the puppy to her safe space, so your current dog can escape without a confrontation.
5. Be aware that your family dog’s behavior may regress.
Your current dog may revert to some old behaviors or seem to forget some skills while adjusting to this new family member. He needs your time, positive attention, and training to help him remember his manners and give the two of you time to strengthen your bonds and enjoy each other!
4 Ways To Prepare Your Home
Both dog and puppy deserve a safe zone away from each other where they can relax in comfort and safety. We recommend the following four tools to help you achieve this.
The crate is the best place for your puppy and dog to sleep and nap. It is a safe retreat from stimulation where they can just relax. It’s like giving your furry kids their own private bedrooms where they can avoid conflicts.
2. Play Pens
Puppy pens provide a safe place for play without direct supervision. Containing your puppy in her puppy pen lets your older dog safely maneuver the rest of the house without feeling anxious or concerned about being followed or even attacked!
We also use the puppy pen for “pauses in play.” We should actively help our dogs disengage from interacting together and redirect them away or end playtime altogether after 10-15 minutes of play. Letting dogs continue to play without pauses or periods of rest can lead to overstimulation or undesirable behaviors.
3. Safe Zones
Setting up separate zones using baby gates to block off rooms is more feasible for some homes. If you choose to use safe zones, you must ensure that your older dog isn’t able to hop over or push down that gate when you aren’t supervising. Here's a baby gate we love.
Leashes are appropriate inside the house or yard with supervision only. They can become tangled, and things can go wrong in an instant if your pup is unsupervised! A leash tethered to you is best.
WHEN to Introduce a Puppy to Another Dog
Is it best to introduce your new puppy to your family’s dog immediately after bringing her home? Unfortunately, many owners mistakenly think so, but that’s not what we recommend!
A positive experience has everything to do with choosing the best time to introduce a new puppy to your family dog. When you arrive home, your puppy will likely be tired, hungry, overwhelmed, or all three. So she probably needs the first day or even two to acquaint herself with you and the new smells, sounds, and sights of her new world.
Both she and your resident dog will hear and smell each other, even if kept in separate rooms where they can’t see each other. That’s just fine for a day, maybe two.
During that time, it’s crucial to observe your current dog’s reaction to this new activity he hears. If he seems over-excited, he may need a bit more time to be ready for this first meeting.
HOW to Introduce New Puppy to Your Family Dog
Ideally, the first introduction will be when both puppy and dog are well-exercised, and their energy levels aren’t at their peak. We want them in that sweet spot of calm behavior.
1. Choose a neutral location
They’ve smelled and heard each other. Why not let them romp together in the house? Safety first! Let’s keep that first meeting in a neutral area with plenty of space for separation.
2. Start with parallel walking
The very best way to begin is with a walk on a leash but at a distance. It will take two of you, each with one pet, walking parallel on different sides of the street. This allows enough separation that they can see but not reach each other.
As you walk, watch their body language and interest in each other to gauge if this is the best opportunity for your pets to meet. The goal here is to get them accustomed to seeing each other at a distance in a non-threatening way.
3. Move to a fenced area that will be safe for both dogs to be off-leash
Have you ever watched two dogs meet? Unlike us, they don’t shake paws and move on. Instead, if the meeting is natural, they start sniffing each other’s back end to learn about each other. A face-to-face, on-leash meeting only happens when humans force dogs to meet this way.
Should you hold the puppy and let your current dog sniff her? No, because this could be very overwhelming for a puppy and removes the ability for the puppy to retreat if nervous.
We want their initial interaction to be as natural and stress-free as possible. But the leash inhibits their ability to greet and interact naturally. So after successful parallel walking, the next step is allowing off-leash play in a secure area if both pups are interested.
A fenced area in a neutral location free of other distractions would be ideal but may not be possible in every situation. So plan ahead for a fenced yard where they will be safe off-leash and can’t get so far away that you can’t intervene quickly if necessary.
When you bring them into the neutral space away from each other, remove collars and leashes, then stand by and observe. They should be allowed to gradually find their way to each other’s bottom for a sniff.
Watch for canine body language warning signals, and be ready to distract or intervene.
4. Keep excitement levels low – yours, new puppy’s, and current dog’s
A calm, relaxed atmosphere is crucial for a harmonious introduction. If you and the other person helping you are excited, the puppy and the resident dog will also be excited. Not a good idea!
Keep your posture straight and loose, and shake out any tension before beginning the walk. Lower your voice. Move with purpose at a relaxed gait.
When you take the puppy into the yard, be soothing. Use calm, relaxed tones instead of excited high voices and squeals. Remove her collar and leash gently. The less talk from humans, the better!
5. Eliminate distractions and “prizes” that might create competitive behaviors
That means the area should be free of:
- Or anything else either dog may want to claim as their own.
Introductions should focus on the dogs getting to know each other and forging a bond through play.
6. Use frequent “play pauses” to manage energy levels
Give them “play pauses” every minute or so by intervening or distracting them. By preventing over-excitement and excessive stimulation, you can often avoid clashes. After a short break, you can choose to let them return to playing together if their excitement levels drop and they are still interested in playing.
7. Reward positive behavior
While tossing out treats right now isn’t a good idea, mark good behavior with a “Yes!” and your current dog’s name. For example, when your older dog pauses on his own or backs away rather than snap at sharp puppy teeth, give him a “good boy.”
8. Keep it short and sweet
Just a few minutes will be plenty of excitement for a new puppy. Finish by taking the older dog to the house and rewarding him with treats and reinforcement.
Once the yard is clear of distraction, reward your puppy with a treat and reinforcement. Then it’s time for a potty break before her nap in the crate. Or you may want to give her some food and water after securing her in the puppy pen.
What’s Next? – What to Do AFTER the Initial Introduction
After that first introduction, it’s your job to keep things harmonious between them and set them up for a successful life as buddies.
1. Prevent puppy from becoming a nuisance!
Ensure your current dog can count on you to run interference for him; keep the puppy from becoming a nuisance by supervising their interactions. Don’t just assume that it’s safe to leave them alone together… even after six months! Here’s why.
Sometimes older dogs give what we call a “puppy pass” until the 6-month mark, allowing the younger dog to play – sometimes roughly – and the older dog will gently correct her. We still monitor them whenever they are together to prevent incidents or fights.
However, around the 6-month mark, the older dog usually begins to escalate corrections when the puppy oversteps boundaries. So, if you have established some positive impulse control in your puppy and reminded the older dog of limits, they should be off to a great start! But it’s in your best interest to continue supervising your dogs when they’re together.
2. Sharpen their focus on you!
Train each dog separately to focus on you when cued as an aid to keeping them from fixating on each other. Make sure your older dog’s recall is strong, and he responds when you speak.
Teach puppy the “focus” cue so she will look at you whenever you ask. Always reward them both when they separate after you ask them to.
3. Continue training both dogs to strengthen their bond with you!
Make sure training sessions are without the distraction of the other dog to allow your pups to focus on you and perfect their skills. When training is a fun, engaging, and rewarding part of each dog’s alone time with you, it strengthens your bond.
4. Gradually add more together time to keep interactions positive.
Being consistent about socializing your new puppy with your current dog is essential for a healthy relationship. It is also crucial that you gradually increase the length and frequency of interactions to prevent incidents and fights that might undo all your hard work.
Will My Current Dog Get Used to the New Puppy?
While it might seem like an eternity, you’ll start to see some harmony between your dog and your puppy. Help them develop good communication skills for creating a new and lasting friendship – which might be as great playmates or just peaceful co-existence!
Just as human sibling relationships are not entirely harmonious, not all dogs are best buds all the time, so keep those expectations in check! Some dogs just prefer to be by themselves, and that’s ok too.
You and your family will love them both, and seeing them getting along with each other is a job well done!
About the trainer
After spending 20 years helping families with their dogs face to face as a professional dog trainer, Michele realized that so much of what she knows could be shared with families everywhere - in a way that actually works. People sometimes think their dog is just SUPER difficult because the advice they’ve gotten was incomplete, confusing or just wrong. So she set out to help. Michele loves training dogs because of the impact that it has on the families she gets to help. The peace and joy they get from being able to enjoy their dog LISTENING. Besides teaching classes, helping private clients and running seminars, Michele is also a foodie and fantasizes about being a food critic or secret shopper for restaurants. Talk to her about food and your instant best friends.