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How to introduce your puppy to your older dog

Spoiler alert: slow and steady is the key

Written by vet Dr. Steph Wenban

May 28, 2019

Welcoming an additional dog to the family is a big move.

In an ideal world, your two pups will hit it off and become best buds right away. In reality, it's going to be weeks before you see any such connection forming.

Becoming pawed pals takes time. And just how much time will largely depend on the character of your adult dog. If your adult dog is confident and well-socialised, you could expect your two dogs to become besties within a matter of days. If they suffer from anxiety or the odd pang of jealousy, then this kind of bond will probably take weeks, maybe even months, to form.

No matter where your older pup sits on the socialisation spectrum, you should always introduce them to your puppy through a series of structured phases.

Not sure what this looks like?

No worries. In this lesson, I walk you through every step of the way.

Quick word of wisdom: If your adult dog is fearful or aggressive around other dogs, it would be a good idea to enlist the help of a behaviourist from the start. They’ll be able to help guide you and your four-legged friends through their first few meetings in a way that keeps everyone feeling safe, secure and comfortable.

Phase 1: Prepping for the first meet n’ greet

A couple of weeks out from your puppy’s homecoming debut, start making changes around your home to help your older dog cope with their arrival. The main one being…

  • Set up separate zones for your dog and puppy

For the first few weeks, your two pawed pals are going to need to be supervised during each and every interaction. They’re also going to need some down-time away from one another. The best way to navigate this is by setting up two separate areas in your house - one for your dog, one for your puppy - where they can each eat, sleep and relax in peace.

Phase 2: Bringing your two dogs face to face

This first introduction between your dog and new puppy is a big moment. And like any big moment, it requires some careful consideration and planning.

  • Find somewhere neutral to meet

Aim to hold the first meeting between your dog and new puppy somewhere neutral like a friend’s house or back garden. If your pup’s had all their vaccinations, then you could also consider your local park.

  • Enlist a helper

Both dogs are going to need to be on leads for the first meeting. And depending on how things go, they may need to be kept at a distance from one another. So unless you have a superhuman arm span, bring a friend or family member along to help manage the situation.  

  • Don’t bring any distractions

Avoid bringing along any items that may trigger possessive behaviour. Food. Treats. Toys. Leave them at home.

  • Choose your approach

When it comes to introducing your dog to a new puppy, there are 3 approaches you can take. Regardless of which one you opt for, always be sure to keep both dogs on leads, reward all displays of calm behaviour and to remain positive yourself - any anxious vibes you put down, your canine pals are sure to pick up.

1. Behind a barrier

Have both dogs meet through a wire fence or baby gate. Give them 1-2 minutes to say hello and give each other a sniff before taking them away for a one-on-one play session.

2. Pack walkies

Take your two pups for a 10-15 minute spin around the neighbourhood encouraging them to walk side-by-side.

3. Regular ol' play session

Bring your two pawed pals together and give them a couple of minutes to sniff each other out before separating them again.

No matter which approach you choose, repeat it several times over the next few hours. Just be sure to give your dogs a 10-15 minute break from one another in between each period of face to face time.

Phase 3: Following on from the first encounter

When both dogs have shown that they can greet each other without becoming overly excited or aggravated, it’s time to move onto the steps below. Ideally, you should be able to complete Phase 2 and progress onto this next phase all in the same day.

  • Move the pup party inside

Once the excitement of first introductions is out of the way, it’s time to move things indoors. When entering your house with both dogs for the first time, have your puppy lead the way with you and your older dog (on a lead) following close behind.

  • Ensure your older dog has an escape route

For your dog and puppy’s first indoor play session, try to select an area of the house where your older dog will be able to make a quick exit should things get a little too much.

  • Always go hard on the positive reinforcement

Don’t forget to praise your older dog whenever they show a positive interest in your puppy. Punishing them for any slip-ups during these first few meetings may cause them to develop negative associations with their new baby brother or sister.

  • Supervise every interaction

For the first few weeks, make sure there’s always an adult around to supervise all interactions between your dog and new puppy. And whenever this isn’t possible, keep your pawed pals in separated in different rooms and crates. This might sound like a massive buzzkill. But giving your dog and puppy the time to establish their own boundaries with one another will result in a happier relationship in the long run.

When to intervene

  • Their body language isn’t quite right

If you notice any signs of tension in either of your dogs (like flattened ears, snarled lips or a tense stance), separate them immediately.

  • Your puppy is annoying your dog

If you notice that your puppy won’t leave your dog alone, initiate a time-out to give to your older pup a break. While it's heartwarming to watch your older dog help your puppy learn their social skills, they too have their limits. Leaving it to your older dog to teach your puppy where the boundaries lie could test their patience and lead to them to lash out in frustration.

  • Your dog repeatedly snaps at your puppy

If your dog snaps at your puppy once, it’s nothing to be too concerned about. Your puppy is still refining their social etiquette and your dog is keeping them in check. That said, if your older dog snaps several times in a row or lunges at your puppy and bites them, then it’s time to step in and pull your pawed pals apart.

  • A fight breaks out

If a fight breaks out, you should always intervene straight away. Just please, please, PLEASE don’t pull your dogs apart yourself as this could result in you getting injured. Instead, use a ball or a loud bang to distract them. As soon as their attention has been diverted, jump in and pull one of the dogs away.

When NOT to intervene

  • Rough-and-tumble play

Your dog and puppy are going to be doing a lot of playing. And sometimes, that playing is going to get a little crazy. For the most part, what you’ll witness is completely normal. Things like your puppy pouncing on your sleeping dog or your dog backhanding your puppy on the nose are all part and parcel of the socialisation process.

There’s bound to be times when you aren’t sure whether or not to intervene. But as the weeks go by, your understanding of what makes ‘acceptable’ play - and what’s a brawl waiting to happen - will improve. Until then, supervision is key. Let your two besties do their thing… just with one eye zeroed in on their movements at all times.

The takeaway

As we all know, strong friendships take time and build organically. So as much as you’d love for your puppy and dog to become besties right away, it’s important that you manage expectations around this. Nope, it won’t happen overnight. But with some planning, patience and a lot of supervision, you’ll have yourself a happy pack of pups eventually.

Source:

Veterinary Information Network (VIN)

https://veterinarypartner.vin.com/default.aspx?pid=19239&catId=102897&id=8677941

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