How to Introduce a Puppy to an Older Dog

Bringing a new puppy home is an incredibly exciting time for all the family, we’ve got lots of top tips on how to get them settled in and how to navigate your first few months together. When it comes to introducing them to your older dog, there are a few things you can do to make sure they get off on the right foot (or paw!) and before you know it they’ll be best buds. It takes a little forward planning, but we’re here to help you get prepared as you welcome another four-legged friend to the family.

Top tips for introducing your puppy to your older dog

1. Swap scents

You can get your dog used to the smell of your new pup before they even arrive by asking your breeder, owner or shelter for something with their scent on - like a small blanket or piece of cloth. Let your dog get a good sniff of it so that when they eventually meet your new fluffy family member, there’s already a sense of familiarity with them.  

2. Designate each dog a zone

It’s important your four-legged family members each have their own spaces to relax in, away from one another. Not only will this give your older dog some down time from their excitable new brother or sister, it also allows your puppy to adjust to all the new sights, sounds and smells of their new home without feeling threatened. This is especially important for when you’re not around to supervise them during the initial few weeks as they get used to each other. Whether you keep them separated by a crate, a baby gate or even closed doors, find what works best for you and your pooches. They’ll soon adjust to being around one another, but until then it’s best for their safety and sanity to have some down time away from each other.

To help avoid any territorial confrontations, and minimise fighting, it’s best if your pooches each have their own beds, toys and food/water bowls. At feeding time, be sure you split them into separate corners of the room so your older dog doesn’t try to intimidate your pup and take their portion. When giving your dogs a treat, it’s important you do so at the same time, to avoid jealousy and bickering. Much like with small children, dog’s aren’t too keen on sharing. 

3. Meet on neutral ground

When it comes to their official first introduction, it’s best to meet on neutral ground as your older dog may feel a tad territorial - so try the pavement just outside your house. Be sure both dogs are on leads and allow them to investigate each other with plenty of sniffing. If your puppy starts to get too excitable or your older dog starts to become defensive, take small breaks and come back to it, rather than forcing them to interact. Your dogs will pick up on your feelings and behaviours, so stay calm and relaxed, if they can tell you’re nervous or feel threatened your older dog may act defensively. 

Once they’ve had a bit of time together outside, it’s time to bring them into your home. This is when your older dog may feel a little territorial, so stay close by to be able to separate them quickly if needs be. Should things start to get a little tense, keep things moving by heading out for a walk, moving them on from any tension and avoiding a confrontation.

4. Walk it out

Walking can reduce any tension or anxiety your pooches may be feeling, whilst also getting them used to each other in a more neutral space as they become more familiar. Obviously your pup can’t go out on walks to places other unvaccinated dogs may have been until they get their jabs (typically about 16 weeks), but you can walk around the garden with both dogs on leads to get them used to being around each other but at their own pace. Once they’re a bit older and able to head to the park, be sure you take them to explore the outside world together. It unites them against external threats and is a great bonding experience for them both on neutral ground. Find out more about socialising your puppy and dog walking in our top tips blogs. 

5. Be aware of body language

As your dogs get used to each other, it is up to you to keep a close eye on them to intervene in any confrontational situations which could get dangerous, especially for a small puppy. Be aware of their body language, it will tell you if and when to take action.

If your energetic puppy is annoying your older dog by bouncing all over them and nipping their ears, avoid a potentially hostile situation by distracting them with a toy to give your older dog some breathing space. If your older dog is displaying threatening behaviour, like growling, tell them firmly ‘No,’ and separate them for a cooling-off period. They’ll soon get used to each other, it just takes some time and patience, and lots of positive reinforcement from you. Encourage good behaviours by rewarding them when they play nicely or approach each other in a friendly manner. Similarly, don’t allow bad behaviours such as growling or treat stealing to continue, as it will prevent them from forming a good relationship in the long run. 

Be patient and persistent, they’ll soon get used to having each other around, and will establish their own relationship with time. After all, having a new playmate and walking buddy is great fun! 

Puppies have a lot of learning and growing to do, which is hungry work, so it’s important they’re fed a healthy, nutrient-rich diet. Try our Harringtons Puppy Complete, a complete pet food that can be fed to puppies from 3 weeks onwards. It’s been carefully formulated to provide wholesome nutrition for growing puppies and contains no artificial colours or flavours, no dairy, no soya and no added wheat. As well as being super tasty, it provides your pup with all the goodness they need.

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