How to Introduce your Puppy to Other Dogs
How to Introduce a Puppy to a Senior Dog
Introducing a new puppy to a senior dog requires patience, diligence, and care. Have the two dogs meet in a new, unfamiliar setting and start slowly. Remain calm and avoid forcing the situation. Allow your dogs to get to know each other by scent, and keep their interactions limited for the first week or so until comfort is established. Consider your senior dog's health and limits, and train and exercise your puppy, which will make it easier for the two to get along.
Arranging a Successful Meeting
Pick a new and unfamiliar setting.Arrange to have your senior dog and new puppy meet on neutral ground, like a park or street that is not part of your regular walks or activities. This will prevent any territorial inclinations on the part of your grown dog. If you don’t want to travel too far, ask a neighbor if you can use their backyard or balcony.
Start slowly.Ask a family member or friend to hold your puppy, either in their arms or on a leash. Lead your senior dog (also on a leash) towards the puppy and allow it to sniff the new dog on its own. Do not force your dog to approach the puppy. Make sure your friend holds the puppy firmly and allows your senior dog to sniff it first, before allowing the puppy to sniff the older dog.
Stay calm.Dogs are very sensitive to their owners’ feelings and tend to reflect that in their behavior. Stay calm during the introduction to avoid having your dogs pick up on your anxiousness about the situation. Be reassuring and positive by offering praise and encouragement during the process.
Walk the dogs together.If your older dog demonstrates aggression or resistance during the introduction, break it up. Separate the dogs and allow them to calm down, give each dog a treat, and try a different approach. Take a walk around the neighborhood with both dogs, with the puppy walking behind your older dog. When your dog seems comfortable with the puppy being around, let the dogs interact again.
- While walking, do not allow your puppy to touch your senior dog.
Monitor the dogs at all times.It's important that you monitor your puppy and senior dog when they're together in case they get aggressive or too playful. This is especially important if there's a big size difference between the dogs — a large senior dog can seriously injure a small puppy if they're fighting or playing too hard.
Bringing Your New Puppy Home
Hide things.Before bringing your new puppy home, hide items in the house that your puppy and senior dog could fight over. These objects could include food bowls, toys, dog blankets and beds, or bones. Make sure that you have two of everything to prevent such quarrels down the line.
Time your arrival.Bring your puppy home when your senior dog is out (e.g. for a walk, playing in the yard). This will minimize stress, which could be overwhelming for your senior dog. Allow your puppy to roam the house freely to get used to its new home during this time.
Use scent as a guide.Dogs rely heavily on their sense of smell, which is the best way for them to get to know each other and feel comfortable with one another. Keep your dogs separated but close so that they can get used to each other’s scent in their home environment without the risk of them fighting or posturing. Try keeping them in adjoining rooms, separated by a baby gate, or place your dogs in their crates, close enough to smell one another.
- To have your puppy and senior dog get used to each other’s scents without interacting, place “scent articles” like their blankets or toys in the other’s crate or bed.
Monitor meal times.During the first couple of weeks, feed your dogs separately. Once you start feeding them together, monitor their meal time very carefully to watch for any signs of aggression. Place their food bowls a foot or two away so that neither dog tries to eat the other’s food or gets in the way of their eating.
Encourage gradual bonding.During the first week that your new puppy is home, bring it out for walks with your senior dog once or twice a day. Walking encourages bonding, so limit their overall interaction to this activity for this initial period.After about a month of supervised play and meals, correction and reward training, and structured walks, your senior dog should feel comfortable and know that the new puppy is not a threat. At this point you should be able to remove separators (e.g. a baby gate) and let the dogs co-habitate.
Get help from an expert.If your dogs are not getting along in a peaceful way after a month of supervised interactions, look for a trainer to help with the problem. Visit the Association of Professional Dog Trainers website at to find a trainer near you. Be sure to ask your prospective trainer several key questions before hiring them, such as:
- "What is your educational background?"
- "How many years of experience do you have?"
- "Do you have experience handling relationship-based issues between dogs?"
- "What training methods do you use?"
Respecting Your Senior Dog’s Limits
Consult your veterinarian.Take your senior dog’s health into consideration before introducing it to a new puppy. If it has a chronic health condition (e.g. diabetes or hypothyroid disease) or impaired vision, a puppy’s energy might be too much for it to handle. Consult your veterinarian if you are uncertain about your senior dog’s health limitations.
Decide if your senior dog will accept a new puppy.Take your senior dog’s interactions with other dogs as an indication of how it will deal with a puppy. If you dog interacts enthusiastically with other dogs and puppies while on its walks, for example, there is a very good chance it will adapt well to a new puppy. If your dog demonstrates fear or aggression towards other dogs, or has a tendency to get into fights with them, take this as a sign that it might not tolerate a boisterous puppy in its environment.
Watching for signs of distress.Monitor all initial interactions between your dogs very carefully, watching for signal from your senior dog. Things like looking away from the puppy or moving to another part of the room are obvious signs that your dog needs a break from the interaction, and these signs should be considered before your dog gets aggressive.A less obvious sign would be your senior dog licking its lips or nose in an exaggerated manner, or yawning repeatedly, which is likely a signal that it is anxious or uncomfortable.
Managing Your Puppy’s Behavior
Teach it basic commands.Training your puppy is the best way to manage its behavior while it interacts with your senior dog. When your puppy is at least 12-16 weeks old, use the correction and reward method to teach it the five basic commands: "Sit”,"Stay", "Lay down”, ”Heel”, and "Come here”. Visit the American Kennel Club website at to find instructions and videos on how to start this training.
- Correction should never involve yelling or violence, but simply speaking firmly and clearly to your puppy.
- Be patient and persistent with the training process. It can take puppies a while to learn basic commands.
Crate train your dog.Crate training can be used to condition your puppy's behavior, to help with house training, to keep it from clashing with your senior dog while it adjusts to your home, and to offer it a safe place of its own. Introduce the crate to your puppy casually by leaving it open and unlocked, with toys and treats inside. Gradually work up to closing the door and leaving your puppy alone in the crate, rewarding it with praise and treats.
- Maintain happy associations with the crate throughout the training period as well as afterwards, when the crate can be kept as a “den” for your dog.
- Don't punish your puppy by sending it to the crate. Using the crate as a form of punishment will cause your puppy to dislike being in the crate.
Make sure your puppy gets exercise.To keep your puppy’s behavior from getting too restless or energetic around your senior dog, make sure it gets ample exercise at other times. Twice a day, your puppy should be doing 5 minutes of low-impact exercise for every month of age (for example, a four-month-old dog will need 20 minutes of exercise, two times a day). Low impact exercise may include short walks and chasing a ball in the backyard.
Video: Introducing a Puppy to the Pack
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