Before you plan on bringing a puppy home, make plans for how to introduce the new puppy to older dogs that already live there. Adult dogs often welcome a new canine buddy, but it's important to try to set yourself up for success. Introducing a puppy to another dog will involve strategies like meeting on neutral ground, sniffing through a fence, and parallel walking.
It's important to remember that a resident dog naturally protects its turf. Your puppy may either feel uncertain in strange surroundings or act like a clueless clown who hisses off the mature canines. Proper introductions help ensure both pets start off on the same positive paw.
Meet on Neutral Ground
The first meetings between a puppy and an adult dog should take place on neutral ground, such as a neighbor’s yard, training center, or tennis court. That way, your older pooch doesn’t feel fearful, threatened, or protective of your house or yard. Instead, it can get down to the business of making friends with the puppy.
If a neutral place isn’t available, visit a park that a variety of dogs frequent. Your resident dog will have fewer territorial claims and feel more willing to meet the new pup.
Start With a Fence Meeting
Dogs can read your tension if you’re the least bit wary. When this elevated excitement combines with a leash restraint, then fearful aggression could develop. That’s why first dog-to-dog meetings should take place between unleashed dogs.
For safety’s sake, however, let the dogs meet through a chain-link fence or tennis net, so they can sniff each other while the barrier keeps them separated. This helps the "new dog" novelty wear off before a true nose-to-nose meeting.
It’s also important when there’s a size difference between the resident dog and the new pup. Even friendly adult dogs could accidentally injure the youngster with over-exuberant greetings.
Try Parallel Walking
Take both dogs for a walk, parallel to each other, with a different person handling each dog. Keep the leashes loose and give the dogs room to move, so you reduce the potential for tension.
At first, keep the dogs out of the 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 5 or 10 minutes before allowing a head-to-head meeting.
Offer Sniffing Opportunities
Once the dogs show a happy interest in meeting, let them come together while keeping the leashes loose. Choose an area with open space to reduce tension. The dogs will sniff each other's bodies, including rear ends, which is proper canine greeting 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. This will prevent any escalating tension and maintain a happy mood.
Look for Positive Signs
It is a good sign if the dogs want to play together. 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 the head 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 threats, so pay attention to other body language to better 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 tells the older dog that it's just a baby and to 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.
Move to Home Ground
Once they’ve met off home territory, repeat the introduction in your 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.
Meet 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.
Problems and Troubleshooting Behavior
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.
As much as you may want your dogs to hit it off right away, be sure to take things slow and stay in control of the situation. Common mistakes include be nervous or anxious and letting the dogs meet on their own too early. Do your best to keep every meeting between the dogs happy and let them get used to each other's scents gradually. It's important to start things off right in order to establish a comfortable doggie home for everyone.