You’ve been waiting for months. You’ve done all your homework. You’ve chosen the perfect new puppy for your home. You have a collar, a leash, a bag of food that the puppy has been eating. You’ve even taken a day off from work so you can go get the puppy and bring him home. He has a bed and toys waiting for him at home. You’ve thought of everything, right? Right up until the moment one of your kids asks, “Won’t Rover just love the new puppy?” Oh, no. What about the dog you already have? What about that sweet, beloved old guy at home who has been the center of the family’s attention for years? How is he going to feel about sharing his home with a new puppy? Did you forget to ask him about bringing a new puppy home? How is he going to react? It looks like you’re well on your way to having to learn how to socialize your new puppy and your old dog. But, don’t worry too much. It’s not that hard and you can all get through the process with a little effort.
The most important thing is to ensure the safety of all concerned – you, your family the puppy and the older dog. Make certain that the puppy will be safe and that the older dog cannot harm him. It’s a good idea to place the new puppy (or new dog) in a pet carrier or crate that will keep him from coming into physical contact with the older dog at first. This way they can still see, smell and hear each other without anyone getting hurt. They can get used to each other in a safe situation. If you’re dealing with a larger puppy or an adult dog you may need to leash both animals. It helps to have an assistant on hand (a family member is fine).
Remember that rewards go a long way toward helping to ease these situations. You will basically want to reward your older dog when he shows acceptance of the new puppy (or dog). After the two dogs have calmed down a little give each of them a little reward, such as a bite of kibble or some other favorite treat. Give the puppy and the older dog lots of praise and affection for not barking or showing aggression toward each other. (It will be tempting to show more affection and praise to the puppy but you should be careful not to overlook the older dog. You don’t want to do things that will make the older dog jealous.) Keep in mind that you are trying to show your older and the puppy that you accept the other dog’s presence as part of the family and that you expect them to accept the other dog, too. You will probably need to repeat this process several times until both dogs become accustomed to each other and any hostility has subsided. It’s typical for the older dog to display more aggression than the puppy. The puppy may be very submissive. This is normal. Some puppies may be frisky and something of a nuisance to older dogs. Older dogs will put up with this behavior to varying degrees. Some older dogs are more tolerant than others but most will respond and set limits at some point.
The next step in this process is to allow the animals a closer inspection of each other. For this step you need an assistant to help control one of the animals. Your assistant should leash the older dog and hold him firmly on a very short leash. Make sure your assistant has control of the dog. You will then open the pet carrier or crate and bring out the new puppy or dog. Or, both animals may be on leashes. At this point you will bring the two dogs close together. The dogs will most likely move toward each other to sniff and meet. They will explore the other animal so you should be sure your assistant is holding the dog tightly. You should be careful not to let the new pet panic or escape your hold. You can gradually bring the two dogs closer together and allow them to calmly meet. One or both dogs may growl in warning. Watch the dogs carefully and be prepared to separate them if necessary. You can try again later if need be. Dogs in a home typically establish a pecking order – they will establish who is boss. Your older dog has seniority and will probably quickly let the puppy or other dog know that he is in charge in the home. The other dog will probably accept a subordinate role for the time being. Dogs are good at working at most squabbles on their own without human interference.
The last thing to keep in mind is that not everyone gets along. Not with people and not with dogs. There will be days when your dogs may not get along. They may have disagreements about a toy or about a place to sleep or about food. These are usually quickly resolved and your dogs will be friends again. In other cases there are some dogs that don’t like each other and may never like each other. However, with patience and some good management on your part, you can avoid fights and keep your house peaceful most of the time. You may have to call a time-out sometimes, or send the dogs to a separate room to cool off, but things will calm down.
If you’re thinking of getting a new puppy or adult dog you can help prepare your older dog for the coming change and make things easier for him. Start socializing your older dog more. Take him to a dog park or a pet superstore that allows dogs to visit. Let him begin to meet some new dogs so it’s easier on him when he meets a new dog in his home. You may even be able to arrange for him to meet your new puppy on neutral ground, such as at a dog park, where your older dog feels less territorial. You may even wish to consider having a dog party at your home where several people bring their dogs to your house. (Though this may be stressful for some dogs, other dogs may enjoy having dog guests in their home. It helps to know your dog well and how he may react.) All of these things will help your dog adjust when he meets your new puppy.
Do take your older dog’s feeling into consideration when you think about bringing a new puppy or adult dog into your home. Many dogs welcome a puppy or new dog into the household, but for dogs who have been “only dogs” their entire lives it can be somewhat threatening to have a new dog in the household. They feel threatened both by having their living space invaded and by feeling jealous of your time and attention and love. Everything they know is being challenged and turned upside down. Give them time to adjust to a new puppy or dog and help them adapt by introducing the new animal slowly. Make sure you continue to show your older dog plenty of love and affection and it will help him accept the newcomer.