Introducing a Puppy to an Older Family Dog

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Categories: Puppy Advice

Introducing a puppyIt’s important to consider the personality of the older dog and it’s ability to cope when introducing a puppy. Dogs are highly social animals and generally enjoy the company of other dogs. If they are well socialised and generally accept other dogs well then the introduction should be straight forward. However, if you have a rescue dog and know very little about its background or the dog is reactive, shy or intolerant of other dogs it may be necessary to discuss the introduction with a qualified Dog Behaviourist.

During the introduction, you will also need to be aware of your resident dog’s needs. New puppies generally take the limelight, it is important that the established dog does not develop insecurities or feel left out. Likewise, it is not necessary to overkill the attention. Just stick to normal routines and structure, if the established dog is a little unsure take things slowly and ensure the puppy is not overly boisterous or demanding.

Ultimately, observe the dog’s body language and recognise attempts to avoid interaction and signs of stress.


Set the puppy’s bed area/ crate up a couple of weeks before it arrives. Purchase new toys, bowls and bedding. This gives your resident dog time to recognise a change in their environment. They may play with the toys together when the puppy arrives but it is not advisable to expect your established dog to share.

It is worth considering the residents dogs health. A vet visit may be worthwhile to rule out any pain if they are older or have a condition, but also to revise any prescribed medication. It is also an opportunity to ensure worming, flea treatment and vaccinations are up to date.

Natural Instinctive Behaviour

Take into account the age of your family dog and keep in mind that older dogs will be highly unlikely to have the state of mind or energy to teach your puppy the rules. It is not natural for older dogs to get involved in the raising and educating of puppies. This means you need to respect the older dogs limitations, ensuring your puppy isn’t allow to continuously instigate play and never wait for your older dog to ‘teach the younger one a lesson’. This will send the wrong message to both dogs.


Establish a feeding regime for both dogs as soon as possible. I usually advise the dogs are fed in a quiet area of the house and a reasonable distance is put between the dogs so they both feel comfortable. The bowls should be delivered calmly and with control, feeding should be overseen to ensure the dogs don’t try and steal from each other’s bowls and bullying doesn’t occur.

It may necessary to feed the puppy separately until you have trained this level of control before introducing the two dogs. Also if the resident dog currently has or has ever had behaviour issues around food then avoid interaction and seek the help of a professional to assist you with this.


The adult dog will take its time to accept the arrival of a new puppy, this period is variable depending on the age, temperament and personality of each dog. As a rough guide this process could take between 3-6 weeks. Prior to this time communication will be taking place and the puppy will need to learn the ‘rules of the house’ alongside what is expected of them.

It is not acceptable for the puppy to treat an adult dog in the same way as they may have treated a litter mate. The bitch will have rectified some over-zealous/ boisterous behaviour, but ultimately other litter mates will have re-enforced learnt behaviours that may not be desirable.

Also remember that a puppy’s ability to communicate will be extremely underdeveloped and immature in the same way you find with young children. Frustrations and outbursts of excitement will occur and the puppy should be calmly managed through these by you.


A new puppy will want to interact as soon as it is awake and your resident dog is likely to be its first target as they will be the most familiar. It is essential that play is monitored, do not leave to your resident dog to ‘put the puppy in its place’.

I hear this comment all too often. It will always create instability in your resident dog’s behaviour. No dog wants to be aggressive or pushed to its limit, some dogs will just take this in their stride while others will find the whole responsibility stressful. Ultimately, it is an owner’s responsibility to manage the dynamics of the house, this will also help a new owner establish a level of authority and awareness from the puppy’s perspective.

Owners Responsibility

I have had many opportunities to observe and manage the interaction of puppies with resident adult dogs and one thing that is hugely important is, human supervision. This is absolutely essential if a pack is to live in harmony. Leadership, delivered with confident handling, rules, boundaries, hierarchy and structure is the key to ensuring balance with every changing dynamic.

Adult dogs need to be confident their human owner will manage unbalanced, boisterous or invasive situations, they should never feel threatened or pushed beyond their coping ability.

Dogs will communicate and it should be acceptable for an adult dog to show the puppy warning signals. The earlier an adult dog feels in control of a situation, the quicker things will settle. It is important the adult dog is not reprimanded for any grumbling or growling, instead the puppy should be removed. If the adult dog were to be reprimanded for this, the result may be a more reactive, potentially damaging response at another time.

It should be relatively obvious to observe a deteriorating interaction, even if it has started as play. However, if you are unsure, then I advise you remove the puppy first and see if the adult dog continues to instigate play, likewise you can then remove the adult dog to see if the puppy continues. If one of them walks away this suggests they have had enough.

Crate Training

Crate training is an excellent means of giving both dogs their breathing space. If your puppy refuses to leave the adult dog alone then a crate is invaluable. Likewise, ensuring your adult dog has an area they can use for avoidance is a really effective way of integrating the puppy without causing unnecessary stress to the adult dog.

Puppy Crate Training

Ensure you have established this area as a ‘safe down time’ space for your adult dog, prior to the puppy’s arrival so that it is not seen as isolation or punishment. I always like to associate these areas with food, calm human interaction and/or a bone or stuffed Kong to chew.

The ‘Introduction’

Once you are prepared and have the knowledge to confidently introduce your new puppy it is then advisable to follow these guidelines ensuring the best possible start:

  • A few days before pick up, take an old t-shirt smelling of your home and your adult dog’s scent to the breeder to introduce to your puppy and allow them to familiarise themselves. The scent won’t last but it will help you seem a little less alien to the puppy when he meets the household.
  • Ensure your adult dog has been walked and is kept to their normal daily routine on the day of pick up.
  • It would be beneficial for the dog to be looked after by someone else if you have to travel to pick your puppy up. This will ensure your adult dog hasn’t been left a long time by itself before the introduction. (If you have to take your adult dog with you in the car the you can sue the opportunity to introduce them both on neutral territory on the journey but don’t leave them to travel together initially.)
  • Get someone to help you. It is important someone stays with the puppy outside while you enter the house as normal and greet your adult dog, allowing them to say hello and calm down before you introduce the puppy.
  • Attach a lead to you adult dog, and leave in place, so you have control. Take your dog outside away from the house to either a secure area or a neighbour’s garden if possible. You need to try and avoid initial territorial concerns.
  • You can’t put the puppy on the floor as it will not be fully vaccinated but you can just sit and allow your adult dog to sniff and communicate naturally.
  • Keep the initial meeting brief and as calm and controlled as possible. Ideally try not to get involved at all, especially vocally. This may interfere with the dogs instinctive communicative behaviours.
  • If your dog is particularly over bonded or finds it stressful if you interact with other dogs, then it is advisable to ask for a neutral person to assist in the handling of the puppy during the initial meeting.
  • Take the puppy indoors, if all is well allow a short meeting with the puppy on the floor indoors and then utilise the quiet area (crate bed area) for each dog so they are separated but can still see each other.
  • Positive puppy play with KongAssociate the puppy’s arrival with something positive for the adult dog by giving them a bone or stuffed Kong to chew in their bed.
  • While your adult dog is occupied you can then use this time to begin settling our puppy, showing them the garden/toileting area and allowing them sometime to explore their new surroundings.
  • Ensure you utilise the down time area for the puppy often in the first few weeks and this will allow precious time with your adult dog to make them feel secure.
  • Supervise playtimes, and interaction closely for around 3 – 4 weeks, as the puppy establishes itself behaviour patterns will change and may require your intervention.

Final Note

The advice in this article is designed with a well-balanced domestic dog in mind. If your dog has any anxieties, behaviour problems or is from an unknown background then it would be advisable to speak to a professional about your individual situation.

This may all seem quite involved but rest assured most dogs with a balanced home and attitude will accept whatever and whoever you are comfortable with. Avoid ‘overkill’ by not delivering excessive amounts of attention on either dog, set clear structure and guidelines from the start of how you want your home to run. Don’t consistently raise the puppy’s importance in your home by having them sat on laps on sofas or being taken upstairs if this isn’t something you do with your other dog. This will create an unbalance in their dynamics and result in instability in their relationship.

The dog’s desire is to live in harmony so do everything you can to allow the opportunity for this to occur.

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Published: 16.06.2015

Author: Jo Croft

Canine Behaviour Practitioner - VN MCFBA GODT

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