How to Introduce your Puppy to Other Dogs
How to Introduce a Puppy to a Dog
Introducing a puppy to a dog can be tricky, but it doesn’t have to be! Start by introducing them on neutral ground. If the meeting goes well, then they can re-meet in the home. Even if the interaction between the adult dog and puppy is generally positive, you will still need to supervise their interactions for the first 2 weeks. If the adult dog doesn’t accept the puppy, you may need to seek the advice of a board-certified veterinary behaviorist, or consider giving the puppy up for adoption.
Starting on Neutral Ground
Remember that the puppy can be the aggressor, too.Although owners typically assume that the older dog will be the more aggressive, this isn’t always true. Be prepared for the puppy to display aggressive tendencies as well, and treat both dogs with equal care and attention.
Take both dogs to a nearby park in separate cars.You will need a friend or family member to drive the puppy to the park while you drive the adult dog. If you and your dog frequent a nearby park, choose a more neutral place to have the dogs meet, like a friend’s backyard or a different park.
- You could also have the puppy and dog meet each other at the shelter or at your local pet supply store.
Walk the dogs on a loose leash.Both dogs should be leashed. However, do not hold the leash taut since tension on the leash can signal anxiety or fear. Instead, walk the dogs on a loose leash at a safe distance from each other, about 10 to 20 feet (3.0 to 6.1 m) or more. This way, the dogs will be able to see each other.
- Have a bag of doggy treats on hand. Reward the dogs for just seeing each other without showing any aggression or negative behavior.
- If your adult dog isn't leash trained, you may want to wait until it is before you adopt a puppy.
Lead the dogs past each other.Let the dogs cross each other’s paths while still maintaining a safe distance. Walk the dog over to where the puppy was while your friend walks the puppy to where the adult dog was. This will enable the dogs to smell where the other has walked.
- Reward the dogs each time they look at each other in a non-aggressive way.
Interrupt the interaction if either dog becomes tense or wary.If either the dog or the puppy stares aggressively, snarls, growls, bares its teeth, or has a stiff-legged gate, it is displaying defensive or aggressive behavior. Simply distract the dog by interesting it in something else like a ball, or call its name like, "Hey Bud!" You can also distract the aggressive dog by standing in front of it to block its vision of the other dog.
- Avoid distracting the aggressive dog with treats since this may reinforce the negative behavior.
- Additionally, interrupt the interaction if the adult dog is displaying overly excited behavior such as jumping or pulling on the leash.
Shorten the distance between the dogs if they seem comfortable.If both of the dogs are wagging their tails and sniffing, bring them closer together. If they seem interested in meeting each other, let them meet each other on their own terms. After the obligatory sniffing, the puppy may roll on its back and expose its stomach to show submission.
- Avoid holding the puppy in your arms to “protect” it. This may make the puppy feel vulnerable and restrained. Let the puppy greet the adult dog on the ground. If it feels scared or threatened, it will run in between your legs for protection.
- If the adult dog does not seem interested, don’t force the meeting. Let the adult dog meet the puppy on its own terms.
Walk the dogs side by side if the interactions between the dogs are positive.Have the puppy and dog alternate between walking in front of each other. Let the adult dog walk in front of the puppy. Then let the puppy walk in front of the adult dog. If either dog shows any signs of aggression, pull it away or call its name.
- Don’t offer the aggressive dog treats or speak soothingly to it, as this reinforces and encourages the aggressive behavior.
Drive the dogs home in separate cars, even if the meeting went well.Once the dogs are tolerating each other without threatening or fearful behavior, it is time to take them home. Have your friend or family member drive your puppy back to your house while you drive the adult dog.
- Having the dogs together in an enclosed space like a car may make the dogs feel as if they are being forced to tolerate each other, which can lead to conflict between them.
Introducing Them at Home
Put away the adult dog’s possessions.Since the adult dog’s possessions may be a source of conflict, secure its toys, food bowls, bedding, and other belongings in a cabinet. This way you can prevent the puppy from getting one of its belongings, upsetting the adult dog.
Set up a tall, sturdy baby gate to serve as a barrier.Place the baby gate in the doorway between 2 different rooms, like the kitchen and the laundry room. This way, when the dogs re-meet in the home, there will be a barrier to protect the puppy if the adult dog reacts negatively.
Walk the dogs around the neighborhood before you go inside.While you walk the adult dog, have your friend walk the puppy alongside it. This will give the dogs another chance to get used to each other before you go inside the house. If either dog becomes tense, call its name or pull it away.
Take the dogs inside the house separately.Take the older dog inside the house first and unleash it. Place it on one side of the baby gate, preferably the side that has open access to the house. While on the leash, bring the puppy inside and place it on the other side of the baby gate.
Observe their interactions through the gate.If the interaction between the adult dog and the puppy are positive, reward both dogs with a treat and verbal praise. If the adult dog displays threatening behavior, pull it away and say, “No, Rusty!” If the adult dog calms down, give it a treat.
- If the adult dog does not calm down, lead it to another room to calm it down.
Remove the baby gate if their interactions are positive.If the interactions between the dogs are positive for more than 5 minutes, then it is ok to remove the baby gate. Before you remove the gate, leash the puppy. Once you remove the baby gate, allow the dogs to interact without your intervention. Keep observing them as they interact without the baby gate.
- Remember to avoid holding the puppy in your arms to “protect” it. If it feels threatened or scared, it will run in between your legs for protection.
Avoid punishing the adult dog if it growls or snaps.Unlike older dogs, a puppy’s social skills are not as advanced. Puppies tend to push the limit when it comes to playing, which can frustrate or annoy adult dogs. If the adult dog growls or snaps at the puppy, understand that this is its way of communicating its limits to the puppy.
- If the puppy backs down after the growl and the adult dog stops the assertive behavior, this is a positive sign.
- If the adult dog continues with fearful or threatening behavior, intervene. Distract it by saying its name loudly.
Yell in the air if a fight erupts between the dogs.Intervene immediately if a fight erupts between the dogs. Yell, "Hey," in the air, or use an air horn to distract the dogs from the fight. Once the dogs are distracted, place them in their crates, or place the puppy behind the baby gate.
- For your safety, avoid breaking up a dog fight with your hands, and remain calm. If you use your hands to separate fighting dogs, you may get bit.
Crate the dogs.Don’t burden the adult dog by making it tolerate the puppy all of the time. Once you see the adult dog becoming tired or annoyed of the puppy, give both dogs a break by crating them for 30 minutes or so. Once it is in its crate, give it a treat and toy as a reward.
- If your dog isn't crate trained, then separate the dogs into different areas of the house.
- This is a great opportunity to crate the puppy. Give it its own treat and toy inside its crate.
Settling in at Home
Supervise their interactions for the first 2 weeks.You will still need to supervise their interactions for the first 2 weeks, even if they seem to get along. This way, you can intervene if the adult dog displays threatening behavior, the dogs become too excited and can’t calm themselves down, or if the adult dog needs a break from the puppy.
- Make sure to reward the dogs with treats and praise for positive interactions.
- If you need to leave the house, crate the dogs or place them in separate rooms.
Feed them separately for the first few weeks.Food can still be a source of conflict, even if the dogs have developed a good relationship. When it is time to feed the dogs, place their food and water bowls in separate rooms, like the kitchen and the dining or laundry room. Once feeding time is over, pick up the food and water bowls and put them away in a cabinet.
- After 2 weeks, start feeding them together by placing their bowls 8 to 10 feet (2.4 to 3.0 m) apart in the same room. Over 1 to 2 weeks, gradually place their bowls closer together until they are comfortable eating side by side.
Crate the dogs for 30-minute intervals throughout the day.This will not only help with crate training for the puppy, but it was also give the older dog a break from the puppy throughout the day. The adult dog will begin to expect these breaks and may even learn to crate itself once it needs a break from the puppy.
- Alternatively, let the adult dog go outside to take a break from the puppy if it isn't crate trained.
- Reward both dogs with a treat and praise once you crate them.
Give the dogs their toys and treats while they are in their crates.Like food, toys can still be a source of conflict. Only give the dogs their toys to play with while they are in their crates for the first 2 weeks. Make sure to put the toys away inside a cabinet once you uncrate the dogs.
- After 2 weeks, leave their toys inside their crates or near their bedding. Make sure to use each dog's designated toys when you play with them.
Stick to the adult dog’s regular schedule.You and your adult dog have established routines, which have provided your dog’s life with structure. Make sure to feed, walk, and play with your adult dog at the usual times. This way, instead of looking at the puppy as a disruption, the adult dog can come to accept the puppy as a new addition to the family.
Give each dog individual attention.Take each dog aside individually to play, train, and spend quality time with. This will create a bond between you and the puppy, and reinforce the bond between you and your adult dog.
- It also shows the adult dog that your love and care for it hasn’t diminished since the arrival of the new puppy, helping to reduce power struggles between the puppy and adult dog.
Video: Introducing a Puppy to the Pack
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