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Kids and adults alike are often incredibly excited at the idea of bringing home a new puppy. There is often much anticipation, planning, and preparation involved, which can be a bit stressful. However, certain family members don’t have the benefit of knowing in advance that another furry bundle of joy will be joining the family soon, and that is your older dog.
You should be aware that it is a bad idea to introduce a new puppy into the home without any forewarning to your current dog. Letting them figure it out on their own can lead to dire consequences. Therefore, taking a few steps to make the transition and integration smoother will allow the two dogs to get off on the right foot.
Won’t My Dog Love a New Puppy?
Most people adore babies of all species, puppies included. But, adult dogs are not humans, and many would be just fine never having to deal with a rambunxious puppy. There are a number of reasons for this, including:
- Puppies are hyperactive and have not been around long enough to pick up on an older dog’s social cues when they say enough is enough. Because of this, older dogs can easily get irritated by a puppy’s playfulness.
- Dogs don’t always like to share. Whether it is food, their dog toys, or your attention, or a favorite spot on the couch, they want it for themselves. Of course, the new puppy will be curious and want all of those things, too—which the current dog is not likely to appreciate.
- Our canine friends feel jealousy, and a new pup taking up the attention that is usually reserved for them will bring this out, which can cause them to harbor resentment and distrust to the new bundle of joy.
- Puppies have not learned how to play gently. While dogs often enjoy what looks like rough play to us, they have their limits. Young puppies haven’t been trained not to bite and subdue their crazy play styles yet. Dogs that have outgrown their wild side may not appreciate the overzealous behavior and could get aggressive.
- Puppies tend not to listen simply because they have not been trained. As they have not been socialized either, they will not listen to their older canine friends, either.
If your current dog is a senior, this can exacerbate the issues when a new pup is introduced. For example, puppy play could hurt the older dog. Not to mention, if the puppy is bigger than your older dog, the puppy could scare her. Furthermore, suppose your dog already has aggressive or fearful tendencies. In that case, these behaviors could come to the surface with a puppy around.
One common misconception is that they are fighting for dominance. This is rarely the case for struggles, however. After all, do you get threatened by a toddler in your home? Neither does an older dog with a puppy around, as many animal behaviorists have discovered. But, just like some adult humans get along fine with other adults but don’t know what to do around kids, the same goes with dogs.
Introducing a New Puppy to an Older Dog
The best-case scenario of introducing a new puppy to an older dog is one in which both the puppy and the adult dog feel at ease. The first impression matters a lot, and introducing the animals in a neutral territory will go a long way in ensuring both pups are comfortable and don’t feel threatened. Dogs are often very territorial, and your adult dog likely won’t be too keen on you bringing a stranger in.
The easiest way to introduce them would be on a walk, using long dog leashes. You will want to give them as much slack as you can and will probably be walking rather quickly as they will be excited. Using a back-clip harness will help keep the dogs comfortable and avoid the choking, tugging, and tension that could happen if the leash is hooked to a collar. After all, you don’t want either pup to think that the other dog is causing the discomfort.
You will want them to smell one another but focus on the walk, so they aren’t pressured into interacting. Watch for any tells that either dog is scared or aggressive. Make sure the older dog isn’t making the puppy scared and that the puppy is not trying to play too rough with the adult dog.
Once you have walked for a couple of blocks and things seem to be going well, it’s time to walk home and carefully bring the puppy inside. If your adult dog appears to be aggressive or is not taking too well to the puppy, you may want to enlist the help of a professional now rather than later to help you.
That said, the puppy must fit in with the household. Suppose you fall for a completely wrong pup for the current environment and dog you already have. In that case, things could be bad for everyone involved. For instance, a small senior dog may not be able to handle a rambunxious four-month-old German shepherd. Common sense is necessary here because you might find yourself in the uncomfortable situation of having to return the puppy so he can be placed in a home suitable for him.
Managing a Puppy and Older Dog
Just because you have successfully introduced your resident dog with the new puppy doesn’t mean your job is over. You will want to monitor them closely to watch for certain behaviors, and there are a couple of things you can do to help ease the transition.
You can pretty much count on resource guarding. Dogs don’t like to share, and puppies can be pretty nosy trying to get into anything and everything. You will want to feed separately and on a schedule, and be careful when feeding treats. Favorite toys, chews, and sleeping areas may be issues.
Some dogs aren’t as bad with resource guarding as others, but watch out for any signs of aggression like snapping, growling, and biting. A little lip lift without any other aggressive action is usually no cause for concern. Still, anything more than that, especially growling, biting, and charging, is a good sign that you need a dog behavior specialist to help you out.
If you hire a professional, make sure beforehand that they only use positive conditioning and not punishment. Resource guarding is not jealousy or asserting dominance; it is insecurity. So punishment is not what will help. Keep in mind that sometimes you will have to concede to watch feeding and giving treats forever!
Now that the valuables are under control and picked up as needed, you will want to ensure each dog has their own private safe space. Crate training a puppy and the adult dog is excellent for this if you haven’t already.
Crates allow for time-outs when the pup is getting on the older dog’s nerves. Of course, you shouldn’t let them fight it out; that could spell disaster. Nonetheless, you can let your adult dog correct the puppy, as long as there is no overt aggressiveness.
If crates are not an option for whatever reason, at least have a way to separate the pups—exercise pens, dog gates, and even other rooms all work. In the yard, use tie-downs where they cannot reach one another. Giving them each their space with something to chew on, like a Kong, is a great way to ease tensions. And whatever you do, do not leave a puppy alone with the older dog before you are confident they can get along.
Rewarding Good Behavior
Many people are quick to punish but not quick to reward. Dogs respond much better to positive reinforcement, so let them know when they are doing what you expect of them.
SMART training, by Kathy Sdao, is terrific for this. The acronym stands for ‘See, Mark, Reward Training.’ You can use words like ‘yes’ or ‘good’ for the mark or clicker train your pet. The reward would usually be a treat, but praise and petting work as well.
Don’t forget to reward your older dog when he de-escalates a situation, too!
Help – My Older Dog is a Big Pushover!
Some dogs are great with puppies, although most aren’t. Then you have the other end of the spectrum—the complete pushover. You will still want to intervene if this describes your adult dog. While it may seem cute that the older dog lets the puppy do whatever she wants, this behavior teaches her a bad lesson that could later backfire. She needs to learn how to act for later. For example, you do not want her thinking she can run all over every other dog at the dog park!
Put the puppy in a back-clip harness and train her with the pulling away method. This way, she will learn to stop the behavior she is doing that causes you to gently pull her away from all the fun she is having at the pushover dog’s expense.
Multi-Dog Household Essential Skills
A multi-dog household can be fun but can also be a tad stressful. By teaching your adult dogs and puppies specific skills, you can make your and their lives much calmer. For instance, crate training helps for resource guarding and keeping the peace when time-outs are necessary.
Target training is excellent for keeping things calm as well. Teach them to touch their nose to your hand, follow you when you want them to, and go to a time-out mat or into their crate when you or the other dog needs some space.
Training more than one dog at once is a chore, especially when one is an adult dog and the other is a puppy. So for your own sanity, train them separately.
I Already Have Multiple Dogs But Got a Puppy. What Now?
If you already have more than one resident dog, then you will have to go through each step above with each dog. A group of dogs that already know one another could gang up on the little one, and how scary would that be for the poor puppy? Break up the meet and greets away from home before bringing the new ball of fluff home. This method will keep things more manageable for you and more relaxed for all of the animals involved.
Introducing an Adult Rescue Dog
While adult dogs are better at recognizing body language, things can still escalate quickly. This is especially true if the rescue has been abused or went through trauma due to another dog . Follow the steps above, pick up food and favorite toys, and monitor them closely. With a bit of care, your two adult dogs will be fast friends in no time at all.
Introducing a Puppy to Adult Dogs FAQ
How do you get an older dog to accept a new puppy?
Introducing an older dog to a new puppy can be done successfully, with a little forethought, time, and patience. First, you will want to introduce them on neutral ground; walks are suitable for this. Once this is complete and the animals have met, you can bring the puppy home. Once they are home, make sure to watch out for resource guarding and pick up any treasured toys. Also, be careful around mealtimes and when offering treats. Finally, make sure each pup has its own safe space to get away from the excitement when they need a break.
How long does it take for an older dog to accept a puppy?
Every dog is different. Some older dogs are good with puppies, while others are pushovers. The main thing is to watch the body language and make sure there is no aggressiveness or fear. If you see either in excess, you may need to consult a canine behavioral specialist.
Do older dogs get jealous of new puppies?
Older dogs may get jealous of the attention that was once theirs is now being shared with a little one. However, it is a common misconception that jealousy or dominance is a reason for resource guarding when it is actually a sign of insecurity.
Will my older dog accept a puppy?
Most older dogs will accept a new puppy as long as they are properly introduced. However, it is vital to make sure the new puppy is conducive to the home environment and the adult dogs that are already there. For instance, a rowdy German shepherd puppy will likely not be a good fit for a cranky old chihuahua. Use common sense, introduce them properly, and you should have two furry friends getting along like old pals before you know it.