How to Care for Your New Puppy

Introducing a New Puppy to Older Dogs

Steps to Reduce Tensions for a Good Start

how to introduce a puppy and older dog

Illustration: © The Spruce, 2018

Before you plan on bringing a puppy home, make plans for introducing a new puppy to dogs that already live there. Adult dogs often welcome a new canine buddy but it's important to try to choose compatible pet matches. Some puppies will require quarantine before meeting the rest of the doggy family.

Just remember that a resident dog naturally protects his turf. Your puppy may either feel uncertain in strange surroundings or act like a clueless bozo clown-dawg who hisses off the mature canines. Proper introductions help ensure both pets start off on the same positive paw.

Neutral Ground

First meetings should take place on neutral ground, such as a neighbor’s yard, training center, or tennis court. That way, your pooch doesn’t feel fearful, threatened, or protective of your house or yard, and can get down to the business of making friends with the puppy. If neutral ground isn’t available, visit a park where many dogs visit so your resident dog has less territorial claims and feels more willing to meet the new guy.

Fence Meetings

Dogs read your tension if you’re the least bit wary. When this elevated excitement combines with a leash restraint (I can’t get away from that other scary dog), fearful aggression could develop. That’s why first dog-to-dog meetings should take place between unleashed dogs.

For safety’s sake, let them meet through a chain link fence or tennis net, so they can sniff but the barrier keeps them separated. That helps the novelty of “new dog” wear off before a true nose-to-nose meeting. It’s also important when there’s a size difference between the resident dog and new pup. Even friendly adult dogs could accidentally injure the youngster with over-exuberant greetings.

Parallel Walking

Alternatively, take both dogs for a walk, parallel to each other, with a different person handling each dog. Keep the leashes loose and give them room to move to reduce the potential for tension. At first, keep them out of nose-sniffing range, and use a treat or toy to keep doggy eyes on the human (no challenge-staring at the other dog allowed). Walk them together for five or 10 minutes before allowing a head-to-head meeting.

Sniffing Opportunities

Once the dogs show happy interest in meeting, let them—keeping the leashes loose. Choose an area with open space to reduce tension. They’ll be rude and sniff each other in unmentionable places since that’s proper canine meeting etiquette.

First greetings should be kept to only 10 minutes or so, to keep the dogs from tiring. Make a point of calling each dog away from time to time to give a treat or toy, to prevent any tension from escalating and to keep the mood happy.

Positive Signs

It is a very good sign if they want to play. Watch for the doggy language that signals good intentions. A classic canine invitation to a game is the “play bow” in which the tail end goes up, and front end goes down. Doggy yawning also signals, “I am no threat” and can be a very positive sign from either dog. Whines, barks, and growls are used in both play and threat so pay attention to other body language to judge what the dogs mean.

Licking the mouth and face of the other dog and rolling on the back in dog language signals submission. The puppy should display these behaviors, which should tell the older dog he’s just a baby and cut the youngster some slack. Allow play for only a few minutes during the first meeting, then stop and end the introduction on a good note.

Meeting on Home Ground

Once they’ve met off territory, repeat the introduction in your home yard—off leash if it’s fenced. Call the dog and puppy apart every few minutes to ensure they don’t become too excited. Remember, the new pup should only meet one resident dog at a time, not the whole gang at once.

Meeting in the House

Finally, arrange to have all of your resident dogs outside of the house when you first bring the new pup indoors. Do this out of sight of the other canines. For instance, have your resident dogs in the fenced backyard playing while you bring the new puppy in the front door. For the fewest potential problems, the resident dogs should enter the house and find the ​new dog already there.

Most dogs quickly work out their social ranking and decide how to interact in a positive way. It’s best for the puppy to be segregated in a room alone with a baby gate barrier when you are not there to directly supervise.