Humans worry about introducing a new puppy into a home with an older dog. At least, ours did. But if your humans prepare your home and you correctly, then introducing a puppy to an adult dog has the makings of a beautiful friendship.
When our humans introduced us to each other it was love at first sight. We instantly bonded.
Henry: “and I couldn’t have been happier. It is ruff being the only dog.”
Hedy: “I was so happy! There was a big doggy that was so happy and lets me play all the time. Being away from my littermates was not as tuff as it could’ve been.”
Henry & Hedy’s Humans: “Honestly, we’re still amazed how well the introduction of Hedy and Hey went and how well they continue share the home. There are some things we did that definitely improved the odds of a happy introduction.”
Here’s a few things our humans recommend to any dog parents who are introducing a new puppy to an older dog.
1. Assess your adult dog’s temperament, personal history and needs before you introduce a puppy.
When you have an adult dog, taking into consideration their needs is a priority. Is your dog a shy dog or super confident and outgoing? What’s their personality like? Does your dog have any health needs or ability issues? Any health and ability issues shouldn’t be overlooked. Older dogs with certain health conditions may not be able to handle a puppy. Instead a younger adult dog may be a better fit.
Also, ask yourself if your dog had a traumatic event that has shaped them. This is an especially important consideration for shelter and rescue dogs, but equally important for any dog who has suffered any type of trauma. For example, Henry’s reason for why he needed a little sister instead of a little brother is linked to his personal history.
Henry explains: “When I was 14 months old I was attacked by a 2 year old 120lb unneutered male dog. I got knocked out and was terrified because the big unneutered dog pinned me down and knocked me out. Thankfully, my human was there and rescued me before the situation got worse. To this day, whenever I catch the scent of an unneutered male dog, it puts me on high alert. Sometimes it puts me on alert so much, I can’t think.”
Like Henry, many dogs who have suffered a trauma can develop a form of PTSD. It’s called Canine PTSD. Many humans who have worked with shelter and rescue animals can spot this. That’s why you need to find the right match for your current adult dog. This means considering gender, breed type or size of dog. Because introducing a dog that may trigger them is upsetting for both the adult dog and the new puppy.
For some reason, humans think all dogs get along. They don’t. For dogs, it just takes a serious sniff to determine if they “like” or “don’t like” a dog. Even though the humans may think that the dog is such a nice dog, the situation may be that the supposedly "nice dog" doesn't pass each other’s sniff test.
Also, some dogs just prefer to be alone with their humans or have a specific set of dog friends. That’s okay. It’s a myth that all dogs will like each other over time. Take the time to honestly assess your dog’s temperament, health, personal history and threshold triggers and think about what kind of puppy would be a good fit.
2.Work with a reputable animal shelter, dog rescue organization or an ethical dog breeder to match the puppy to your adult dog’s personality.
It’s hard not to get mesmerized by a cute puppy. While you may be thinking this adorable big eyed puppy would be a good fit because you like him, it may not work out that way when you bring the puppy home.
Relying on the expertise of the people working daily with the puppies and dogs at an animal shelter, dog rescue organization or an ethical dog breeder increases the odds of a happy introduction. They will have a better understanding of the puppy’s background, health and development.
A key factor in why Hedy and Henry became fast friends and happy siblings was that their humans worked with their dog breeder.
Since Henry came from the same ethical dog breeder, the breeder knew Henry’s personality.
Also, because Henry’s humans stayed in touch over the years with his breeder, they kept them up to date on his health, personal history and any trauma he experienced. They worked with their breeder, who selected Hedy as a match. And Henry and Hedy couldn’t be happier!
Reputable animal shelters and dog rescue organizations also provide excellent guidance. If you have another adult dog, they often arrange visits where you bring your dog in so they can assess your dog’s needs and compatibility with a puppy or a dog under 1 years of age.
It’s hard not to fall in love with a puppy, but it’s important to work with those who are working with the puppies on a daily basis to make a good match.
3. Set-up your soon to arrive puppy’s area 1 or 2 months before the puppy comes home.
Dogs like routine. Dogs thrive in a stable unchanging environment. Introducing a whole bunch of changes at once can trigger anxiety in any dog. Even the most even tempered dog can become anxious when their environment changes. So, how do you prepare your dog for the advent of a new puppy?
Start setting up your puppy crate and puppy gated zone about 1 or 2 months before your puppy arrives. This give your adult dog time to get use to the new crate and puppy zone. Also, allow them to explore the crate and puppy zone. But don’t let your adult dog play with any of the puppy toys. Keep those separate for now.
During the 1 to 2 months, you may want to place a nonthreatening object in the puppy zone. Let your adult dog get use to the idea of something being there. Just make sure it’s not one of their favourite toys or something they want. That will defeat the purpose. The goal is to desensitize them to the new crate and puppy zoned area.
You want them to relax and engage in their normal routine around the house. If your dog begins to ignore the crate and puppy zone, then you are on the right track.
Check out our article on preparing for puppy if you are looking for more tips on how to prepare for your new puppy.
4. Give them separate sleeping areas and feed the puppy and adult dog separately.
Most experienced dog owners, know that feeding a new dog right next to your resident dog is asking for trouble. Every dog is different, but most dogs want to eat out of their own dish undisturbed.
Feeding two or more dogs in the same area can create food anxiety that expresses itself in extreme resource guarding behavior. The new puppy can get seriously hurt and also develop anxiety issues around eating. Best to keep it safe and separate. This practice should continue throughout their lives.
Also, puppies and adult dogs have different diets. So, it makes sense to feed them out of different bowls and in separate areas.
Same goes for setting up separate sleeping areas. Dogs like their own space. They can become territorial over their crate. When a new puppy, filled with puppy curiosity, trots over to check out the adult dog’s crate, the adult dog may get upset. After all, the adult dog is trying to deal with all the changes and their one quiet space is no longer their space. What can happen is the puppy could be injured or be traumatized if things escalate. And your adult dog may feel threatened. If this keeps happening, over time this issue will become a point of confrontation causing stress all around. Addressing this territorial issue after the fact will required a certified dog trainer. So, keep their sleeping areas separate.
Hedy and Henry sleep together all over the house during the day. But at night they are in their separate areas. This gives them their own safe space. And over time, they will share their spaces as they develop their fur sibling relationship.
5. Creating 3 categories of dog toys and limiting access helps when introducing a puppy into a home with an adult dog.
Like with food, dogs can get territorial over their toys. A new puppy has no clue that the beat up stuffed elephant is your current dog’s favorite dog toy. They start playing with it and suddenly your adult dog gets upset and starts getting territorial. Not only can this scare your new puppy, but it can escalate quickly. And you want to minimize any escalation of aggressive or combative resource guarding behavior from either the puppy or your adult dog.
Quick fix is to create 3 categories of toys: Puppy Dog Toys, Adult Dog Toys and Shared Dog Toys (but be careful with shared toys).
Puppy Dog Toys are clearly those toys that are puppy sized and for your puppy’s enrichment. Keep them in the puppy area and limit access to them. You want to limit access to ensure that no broken pieces are swallowed. Last thing you want is a visit to the animal ER because of a blockage resulting from a broken dog toy.
Adult Dog Toys are the toys that your dog played with before the new puppy arrived. These are their toys. As with all dog toys, your dog should have limited access to their toys. Reason for limiting your dog’s toy access is for safety purposes. That doesn’t mean all dog toys. Just the dog toys that could become a hazard if they play with them unsupervised.
How a dog plays with their dog toys can tell you a lot about your dog's mental health. Some dogs will show repetitive behaviour that shows they are bored or anxious. An example would be a dog who methodically pulls out the stuffing out of a toy and spits it out. Not playing with the toy as much as plucking it. By limiting dog toy access and addressing the dog's behavioural issue you are increasing their overall health and decreasing the chances of an ER visit.
Shared Dog Toys are a category of dog toys that your dog and the new puppy have successfully played with together.
Most often these are tug toys like long tug ropes or other toys designed to tug with another play partner.
Like with all dog toys, do not leave them out. Limit access to shared toys so they stay neutral.
6. Set up separate play time, training time, socialization time and walks with your adult dog and your puppy for at least the first few months.
This seems inconvenient but has huge benefits for both dogs and their humans. Your adult dog is used to getting your attention. But with the new puppy sucking up all the attention they may feel neglected or left out. The result may be your adult dog begins to react towards the new puppy or you. This can make integrating your new puppy into your family more stressful.
So, setting aside separate one-on-one time with your adult dog and your puppy can alleviate feelings of neglect. And bring harmony to your household.
Separate play times allow you to bond with both dogs individually. You want to foster a positive bond with each dog and have a chance to appreciate their individual personalities. Separate play times allow you to do that.
Separate socialization times are important to practice and develop positive play skills. Puppies and adult dogs have different jaw strengths. That’s why it’s recommended to let puppies socialize with their fellow puppy peers. Whereas, an adult dog may like playing with your new puppy, but a whole pile of puppies may trigger a reaction. Seaprate socialization until both dogs are more comfortable and your puppy is fully grown is a good idea.
Separate Training times are critical. It’s really tough to train a puppy while your other dog is in the background following along. It’s super cute, but very distracting. It takes time and focus to train puppies. When your attention is divided you might not notice that your puppy is not understanding your training cues. Then you are wondering why the new puppy isn’t progressing. Training a puppy or any dog is about building communication between you and your canine companion. It’s only fair to your puppy to give them the focus they need when they are learning something new. Eventually, you can train your dogs together, but in the beginning make sure to give each of your dogs the separate training time they need.
Separate Walks are not only for bonding, but also for practicing skills. This doesn’t mean always walk your puppy and adult dog separately. It means taking one walk just with your puppy and one walk with your adult dog. Yes, it is time consuming, but it’s essential. Between the people stopping to say hi to your puppy, taking out whatever garbage your puppy picked up and is trying to eat and your puppy trying to get use to being walked on a leash, you may only get one block. Meanwhile your adult dog is bored and frustrated that it’s taking so long to get to their favourite sniff spot. Accommodate their different phases with separate walks and the occasional joint walk in the first few months.
Separate play, training, socialization and walk times aren’t forever. It’s just in the short term. Also, taking time now to give your new puppy and your adult dog separate attention will help reduce jealousy. Bonus is that your bond with both the new puppy and your adult dog will be more positive and stronger.
7. Find a neutral space to introduce the puppy and your adult dog for the first time.
Introducing the puppy and your adult dog in a neutral space helps set up them up for success. It minimizes any anxiety caused by a new dog coming into your adult dog’s space. Reduces the chance of any territorial guarding issues that may happen. And gives both dogs a new space to explore together and bond.
Finally, having two dogs is a lot of fun for both humans and dogs. Successfully integrating a new puppy into your home doesn’t have to be stressful. Taking the time to assess your adult dog’s needs, work with a shelter, rescue organization or ethical breeder to match a puppy to your dog and also prepare your home with both dogs in mind, will set your dog and future puppy up for success.
You can see more photos of Hedy and Henry’s first meeting and join them on their journey on becoming fur siblings on their Instagram page: Toller.Tails.