8 Tips for Introducing a Puppy to an Older Dog
Puppy fever strikes again! As you prepare to welcome home a new buddy for your senior dog, it’s natural to imagine them snuggling up together or enjoying activities side by side. After all, how could your family dog resist the charm of a young and peppy pup?
Many older dogs appreciate their regular routine, though, so warming up to an energetic new housemate may take a little time. Follow these steps for introducing a puppy to an older dog and help your pooches get off on the right paw!
Tip #1: Choose a Compatible PuppyCompatibility is key for a happy, harmonious life…and the same rings true for pets! A dog who prefers relaxing couch time to vigorous outdoor exploration would probably fare better with a calm, laidback pup. On the other hand, a small senior dog with aging hips may not be able to keep up with a large, high-energy puppy trying to start a round of tag. Consider your older dog’s personality, size, and activity level when picking a puppy.
Check out our dog breeds guide to explore the different types of furry friends and make the best match.
Tip #2: Ensure Both Dogs Receive Their Checkup
There are a few boxes to check off before introducing a puppy to an older dog. First and foremost, both dogs should be up to date on their vaccinations.
Many breeders and animal shelters take their pups for a veterinarian visit before releasing them to their new pet parents. Check with your breeder or shelter to make sure your puppy has had their checkup and received their shots. This is also a good opportunity to schedule a vet visit for your older dog to check for ticks, fleas, illness, or anything else that could spread from one pet to another.
Tip #3: Set Up Personal SpacesBack home, start planning your new puppy’s living space. An established dog may feel stressed by changes in scenery, so it’s best to make changes as subtle as possible. For example, try setting up your new pup’s bed in a separate room from your senior dog’s bed to keep their comfort zone intact. You should also place each dog’s bowls away from each other to prevent either dog from swiping their housemate’s food or water.
Tip #4: Introduce Your Fur Kids Outside of Your Home
This is the moment you’ve been dreaming about! Although you will be excited to introduce your dogs for the first time, it’s not wise to unleash a furry ball of energy into your home right away. One reason is because older dogs often exhibit a territorial behavior called resource guarding, which causes them to act aggressively toward a newcomer who goes near their belongings. Letting your dogs meet beforehand can make this behavior less likely.
Introducing your dogs at a neutral area where neither dog will feel threatened is a great way to get started. You can even ask the breeder or shelter if you can take your older dog to meet the new puppy. If possible, set up multiple meetups before introducing your dogs at home, as this will help them get to know each other. Let your fur kids sniff, touch, and interact with each other. If either dog shows signs of distress such as aggressive barking or growling, separate them. Once your best friends get used to each other, you can let them meet back home!
Tip #5: Give Your Older Dog a Little Bit of Seniority
From your senior dog’s perspective, watching Mom or Dad give more attention to a new puppy can spark jealousy. To show your older dog seniority, give them “first dibs” on routine tasks, whether it’s putting on their leash or filling their food bowl. This consideration will help your senior dog feel just as appreciated as they’ve always been—and will make them less likely to experience envy. Plus, it will help teach your new puppy how to share attention with their furry sibling.
Even though your older dog deserves seniority from time to time, it’s important to show both your furry friends how much they are loved! Give each dog their own play toys and chew toys, and don’t let one fur kid play with the other’s stuff. Similarly, spend some one-on-one playtime with each dog—especially in the early days. Eventually, both dogs will understand how much you love them and be more open to group play sessions.
Tip #6: Crate Train Your PuppyIt's easy to see how an older dog can be stressed by a new puppy (or vice versa). To prevent aggressive or territorial behavior when you’re away from home, crate train your puppy and keep them in a separate room from your senior dog.
It could be months before your dogs feel completely comfortable around each other, so some alone time can be a good thing early on. Once your furry friends become acquainted and you are confident they can get along safely, feel free to let them spend the day together while you’re gone.
Tip #7: Take Your First Parallel Walk Together
Going for a walk with both dogs is a fun way to help them grow familiar in a peaceful environment. Parallel walking, which involves leashing each dog separately and letting them walk side by side, is especially helpful during the first few go-rounds.
Ask a friend or relative to walk one of your dogs while you walk the other, ensuring your furry friends are far enough apart that they cannot touch each other. As you roam the park or neighborhood, the outdoor sights and smells will captivate your dogs and help them feel more comfortable as they explore together. Bring your pooches together after about ten minutes of walking and briefly let them sniff or play with one another. Then, return to your walk. Before long, your puppy and senior dog will love strolling together!
Tip #8: Watch Your Dogs’ Body Language
If either dog starts to growl or snarl aggressively, they may be trying to tell the other dog they want to be left alone. Observe their body language carefully as they interact and step in if playtime gets a little too rough, especially if your older dog is stressed by the new puppy. Chew toys can help distract your furry friends when they need a break from each other.
Showing an open-mouth grin, making bouncy movements, and lying tummy up are all signs your dogs are getting along, according to the American Kennel Club. A happy dog may also show their furry best friend a “play bow,” which involves sticking their tail in the air and tilting their head down. When your dogs play nicely together, go ahead and reward each of them with a tasty chew treat!