Introducing a New Puppy to Your Adult Dog
Bringing home a new puppy is an exciting time. And having multiple dogs brings a whole new level of joy to the family. Many families choose to have more than one dog for a number of reasons - one in particular is so the existing dog can have another canine companion and play mate. But to ensure that introducing a puppy to another dog goes smoothly, there are a few things to consider first.
Dogs have different personalities and build their own unique relationship with us. Different dogs satisfy different needs. When introducing a new puppy into the family with an existing dog, you want to ensure that the introduction goes smoothly. There are a few things to consider first, before bringing in a new dog. And knowing your current dog well will help you in the decisions you need to make and how you will do things.
A Dog’s Social Needs
Dogs are social beings, but they are very family oriented. Making new relationships can be stressful for some dogs. If the existing dog is dog friendly and welcomes the company of other dogs, then adding another dog to the family can be considered. If your current dog is not social or is reactive to other dogs, then you should consider the needs of your current dog carefully before bringing home a mother dog. Not all dogs like the company of other dogs. It can cause a lot of stress. So, before adding another dog into the mix, make sure that this is something that your current family dog would like, for those needs come first.
For some dogs, having a new puppy in the house takes some getting used to. If a dog has lived alone for a while, it may be difficult for him or her to share space and attention, and it may take some time for the dog to get used to having a puppy around all the time. For other dogs, the new puppy is a wonderful source of play and they will warm up to the newcomer very quickly.
Age Can Be a Factor
The younger a dog is, the easier it is for him to accept another dog into the family. The best time to add another dog into the family is when the existing dog is between 18 months and 3 years. At this point, much of the basic training is complete, the current dog is mostly out of the adolescent stage and still young enough to feel playful. Older dogs have different rules for play, so sometimes it can be difficult for the older dog to adjust to a newcomer. They may growl, bare teeth, avoid, or run away from the new puppy. These behaviors are normal and it may take some time for your older dog to get used to the new energy that is in the house.
It is essential to take it slow and make sure that both dog and puppy are comfortable and calm. Relationships rooted in calmness are the best. Conflict does not happen in calmness, it happens in excitement, fear, frustration - all referring to levels of arousal. When bringing home a new puppy, you can begin introductions in a neutral place or in your yard. Hold your puppy in your arms and allow your adult dog to sniff. If you have two people, one can hold the puppy while the other has the adult dog on leash. Allow the dogs to see each other and then reward them with a yummy treat. When you feel both are open to a closer look, allow the adult dig to sniff the puppy and visa versa. Then sparate the dogs and treat them again. This way you can get an initial idea of how both puppy and adult feel about each other. If your adult dog is not interested in the puppy, that is just fine. Do not force the introduction. It is common for older dogs to not want to have anything to do with a new puppy at first and therefore skip the greeting.
Integration time will vary. For some, it will be quick. For others it might take a week, or two, or even a month or more. Older dogs especially need more time to get used to puppy energy in the house. If you have multiple dogs, avoid overwhlemiing your puppy and introduce them one at a time. That will also help you to know which dog is ready for the puppy and which dog needs more time.
Walks are a great first activity for dogs to do together. That requires one dog per person so that you can keep distnce between the dgos at first. Allow them to move, sniff, and parallel walk with enough space between them so they explore the environment. Choose a quiet place where there won’t be other people or dogs around. Once the dogs are calm and comfortable, you can decrease the distance. This could happen on the first walk, or several walks down the road. Never rush a dog to interact with another dog. There is no need for play until both are ready.
Managing the Environment - Your Gated Community
Management for multi-dog households is critical. It gives each dog a safe place to relax and have some quiet time. It also gives you the ability to make sure they take breaks from each other when arousal levels begin to get too high and one dog or both are starting to get out of control or overwhelmed. You will also need a place for your dogs to go and be away from each other should any conflict arise. Guarding toys, high-value treats, a space or piece of furniture, or even you is not an uncommon occurrence when two or more dogs are in the house. You are going to need to have safe places for your dogs to go in order to give you the peace of mind that both dogs are safe and calm so that you can have time to relax and get other necessary work done. Providing down-time for both your dog and your puppy is essential for their emotional well-being.
Provide a safe place for each dog when they need a break from each other. This can either be a crate, pen, or even the couch or dog bed, as long as it is blocked off so one dog can not follow and pester the other. Some ex-pens can be stretched across a room like indoor fencing to create separate spaces for each dog. Teaching your adult dog to go to the crate or bed when a rambunctious puppy is getting annoying is a great idea. This way your dog can learn to go there on his/her own when enough is enough. Prevent the puppy from being able to follow, and give your dog a nice chew toy or stuffed Kong to enjoy a special treat and reinforce the good behavior. Schedule times of separation so you can reinforce rest and relaxation and reinforce the good behavior of being calm around each other - a so called gated community, utilizing management tools. Boundary training is a very useful training strategy for multi-dog households! I highly recommend boundary training for multi-dog homes.
Calmness is Key
Don’t have your dogs go at it and play for long periods of time right from the start. You want the first few days to remain calm so both dogs have time to adjust, destress, and let the novelty wear off a bit. Conflict happens in times of arousal, when dogs are excited, stressed, or fearful. Conflict does not happen in calmness. You want your dogs to start their relationship on the right “paw,” so make sure you start gradually.
Conflict happens in times of arousal, not in calmness!
I find the easiest way to establish calmness with multiple dogs is with boundary training. It is fun for the dogs, and it puts structure on calmness. Boundaries are default calm places that your dog loves. They also know that good things happen when they are on their boundaries. For puppies, beginning boundaries are crates and ex-pens. Boundary training is a positive way to help you control the environment so that everyone is happy - including you!
Once the dogs are calm, you can begin short and sweet play sessions. You will want to interrupt play often so that your dogs learn how to control excitement levels and develop a good and healthy relationship. You also want to keep yourself in their mental picture. First and foremost is your relatioship with your dogs. When there is more than one dog in the household, you are competing for your dogs’ attention - make sure you win!
Puppies are just learning the skill of communication. Most of their experience comes from litter mates and their mom, so when they come into a new household, they won’t necessarily know what the rules are or have good social skills with your existing dog. Play in puppies is also very different than adult dogs. Puppies can be pushy and a bit rude. Different breeds have different play styles, and dogs that live together need to learn how to “talk” and “listen” to each other. They need to learn how to set appropriate rules with each other and how to communicate the rules politely. They also need to listen to each other and when one says they’ve had enough or a line has been crossed, the other needs to listen and back off. This is why calmness should be a priority in the household and why you will need to put a substantial amount of value in calmness with both dogs.
Reward Good Behavior
Not all interactions between the dogs will be appropriate. Watch your dogs carefully and reward good behavior and good decisions when you see it. Learning is taking place 24/7 everyday. You will want to make sure to be involved and reinforce the appropriate behavior so that the expectations are clear and your dogs develop good habits and form a stable and positive relationship.
Supervise and Intervene When Necessary
Supervision is crucial for successful relationship building between two dogs. There are “rules of engagement” when it comes to dog play, and you are the referee, making sure that everyone plays by the rules. The rules of the house for interactions are that both dogs want to engage in play, that it is balanced, and that the level of play, excitement and intensity remains at a good and controlled level. Dogs should be taking turns with being on the top or the bottom and being the chaser and the chased. Allow the dogs to communicate thresholds and set rules and step in when one is pushing too far, not listening to the other, being demanding or rude, or they are both getting over threshold and play is getting too rough, too intense, or too stressful.
It is very important that you supervise the interactions between your dog and puppy. Both need to be allowed to set limits and know they are being heard. Allow the adult dog to set the rules of engagement with the puppy, but make sure that things don’t go too far. If your adult dog communicates that he or she has had enough, the puppy needs to listen or you will want to redirect the puppy away so that you are supporting your adult dog and teaching your puppy good manners. You also want to make sure that communication by your adult dog is not too harsh or over-exaggerated. If your adult dog corrects the puppy and the puppy listens but the adult dog does not back down, then you will also want to step in and gently redirect your adult dog away so that you keep your puppy safe. Let your adult dog know that the message was received and no longer needs to be enforced. If your adult dog often over-corrects, you will want to closely monitor all interactions and take things gradually so you avoid adverse emotions in the relationship.
Some adult dogs, and this can be typical with young adults, can be overbearing to a puppy. They chase, pin, grab, and are too much for the puppy. When this happens, the puppy will get defensive, mouthy or snap, and try to get away. Puppies will seek a safe place like under a chair or table, or at your legs. This disengagement is your cue to have the dogs take a break from play. This calms the adult down and keeps your puppy from having negative experience with dogs so that socialization stays positive.
Don’t allow your puppy to practice rude behavior and pester your adult dog. Though it might be cute, it is stressful to your adult dog and can create some really bad social habits in your puppy that can get him in trouble with other dogs. When one dog continues to pursue the other after one clearly disengages from an interaction, you need to step in a redirect the the persuing dog on to a different activity. If one takes play a little too far and starts to get rough, you need to interrupt and separate the dogs to have them calm down before they play together again. If one dog does not want to play, don’t let the other continue to pester.
Over time, your puppy and your adult dog will get used to each other and learn each other’s personality, tolerances, and limitations. Balance the day between time together and time apart. Not all dogs will become best friends, so don’t be disappointed if they are not head over heels for each other. But with time and patience, and if you have done your job in supporting and developing communication between both dogs, then you are on your way to a healthy multi-dog home. This can take a week or two, or it can take much longer. Never force interactions or try to rush the process. Help them to work things out, be a fair and supportive dog parent, and over time your will dogs will develop a wonderful friendship, or at least know how to live peacefully together.