Bringing a new puppy home sends a wave of energy throughout the house. When puppies aren’t sleeping, they’re probably looking for a playmate, trouble or food. If you think you’re getting a puppy to give an older dog some company, don’t expect your adult dog to open the little bundle with open paws. Introducing a puppy to an older dog requires a plan.
Even at age four, Chewy was a burst of energy. She was a well-behaved dog, great around the house and loved other dogs on walks and at the dog park. My work schedule had me working long hours away from the house and it seemed like a great idea to get her a playmate. Introducing Frisco….
Assess Your Older Dog
Have a good understanding of the temperament of your existing dog. Even a socialized and even-tempered dog may become territorial when another dog comes into their home. Their toys, food and favorite sofa spot get threatened. It’s called resource guarding and every dog will step up and defend what is theirs until they realize they don’t need to worry.
Assessing your older dog goes beyond their temperament though. An older dog with health issues may not be able to keep up with the nudgy demands of a puppy. In other words, they can get cranky.
Frisco was a rescue dog. He wasn’t more than 10 weeks old when he became Chewie’s little brother. He was the runt of the litter, so I figured that even though he was described as a Chow mix (more likely Akita), he’d settle in the pack without challenge. Chewie was less than amused with the new bundle of joy. Trouble was brewing….
Introduce on Neutral Ground
Introducing a new puppy to your older dog is best done on neutral ground where your older dog doesn’t feel she needs to defend her turf. Either take them to a park or walk them side by side. An extra pair of hands to manage things is a good idea. Taking the time to have each on a leash with you alone not only helps reassure each animal, but it also makes it easier to separate them if needed.
If you have a well socialized adult dog, a walk or spending time at the park should not create any significant problems. Be mindful of whether your dog really wants to play with the puppy or just be left alone. This is a key indicator of how we will interact at home. It is often possible to introduce your older dog to the puppy at the shelter if you are adopting. Shelters do like to make sure both animals will get along and everyone will be safe.
The two-story condo had always been Chewie’s domain. She had food and water out at all times and could eat when she felt like it. (She was never one to overeat unless she could get her teeth on your hot dog.) My bed was hers as was the sofa and her favorite, the recliner. I’m not ashamed to say that ‘The Lion King’ was her favorite movie and often left on for her amusement.
Bringing the Puppy Home
Once everyone is comfortable with each other, it’s time to dive in and bring that puppy home – literally. Training should start immediately. Use dog crates and baby gates to give each do their space when needed. Give them supervised time together as well as special time alone with you. You need to reassure your older dog that they are not being replaced or forgotten.
Feed the dogs separately at first. This helps train the dogs to eat when served and stick to their bowls. Pay attention to growls if your dog feels a need to protect a favorite toy or special place on the sofa. It’s best to clear any favorite toys from the house at first so your adult dog doesn’t have anything that can be stolen from the potential puppy-thief.
The downstairs of the condo was all tile with fewer potential shoes for Frisco to gnaw on. The baby gate was set at the base of the stairs. Chewie was given a full set up of food and water upstairs in the bathroom. Each had their space to roam and investigate when I wasn’t home. They could also socialize though the baby gate to get better acquainted – at least that was the idea.
Becoming a Pack
Animal behaviorist are very clear that dogs understand and operate with a pack mentality. Make sure you are the leader of the pack and that all family members, including children, are higher in the pecking order. Use treats as positive reinforcement during play periods with both dogs. This helps them understand the roles you expect of them. A young puppy will need a lot of training across the board, but your older dog will also need training to properly accept the new family member.
Give them limited time together at first, always supervised. Slowly increase the time and the space in which they can play. Introduce toys for both animals to play together. Monitor how the dogs interact.
The baby gate set-up seemed brilliant until I came home one day for lunch and found Chewie on her recliner, curled up with Frisco chilled at the base. She jumped the gate. No one was bloody, both were content. Lucky me. She figured she was in trouble and jetted to the baby gate where she cleared like a high-jumper and ran upstairs. Frisco desperate but unable to follow. At least she had a choice.
The Canine Status Quo
When the pecking order is established and everyone accepts their role in the family, you should be able to trust the dogs together. Keep in mind that these are animals and training never stops. This is especially true as puppies grow, get bigger and might decide to make a play for pack leadership.
Frisco grew very quickly into a stout Akita mix. He was a good-looking strong boy. While Chewie always seems a bit annoyed by her little brother, she accepted him but she was clearly a dominant female. Then it happened one day. On that stinky tile floor in the kitchen. I’m not even sure what I was giving them, one each, but suddenly this Akita mix and Huskie-Border Collie mix were going at it.
Somehow, I managed to grab the scruff of each, ridiculously trying to pull them apart. I slipped slamming to the floor. Growls, snarls snaps and a ton of strength with me somewhere in the middle. Don’t ask me how I held on, kept them apart and didn’t get bit. Within a moment that seemed like forever, they realized it was and both started kissing my face.
Don’t try that at home. I won’t be doing that again.
Best Tips for Introducing a Puppy to an Adult Dog
Bring a new family member home is exciting but lot of work. Dogs will learn to adapt and include the new canine pack member and protect them as part of the family. But don’t expect that to happen immediately.
Tips for introducing a puppy to an older dog:
- Meet on neutral ground
- Let them play without a leash
- Limit initial time together
- Keep special toys out of reach of both
- Feed them in separate areas
- Separate them at home with a baby gate
- Supervise playtime as they build the pecking order
- Use positive reinforcement
Over time, Chewie and Frisco become their own little pack with me at the helm. Chewie always had a dominant position, exerting it when stealing his toys and sometimes nudging him off the sofa. Frisco, my big loveable lug, accepted his position. The conspired to steal my bed and would often both jump up on me on the sofa. What a little pack of hooligans!