Introducing a new puppy to the family dog

By dwise_GC | Education

Jun 30

Have you decided to bring a new puppy into your family? And into a family that already has an adult dog?
The "rules" surrounding canine introductions are simple really -mostly observation and supervision with some understanding of canine behaviours.
But first, let's investigate why you are adopting another dog...is it to provide companionship for the dog you already have? Or do you simply want the pleasure of owning another canine?

Why another dog?

 OK - we will address point number one. You need or want the idea of a babysitter for your dog you imagine is lonely or bored. Not a bad idea. Dogs are highly social creatures and do not generally do well alone for long periods of time. Another dog may be a brilliant solution...provided that Dog number 1 is not badly behaved or untrained by you. In that case, if you repeat the same mistakes with Dog number 2 you will simply end up with two dogs that are naughty and out of control. Two dogs that will nuisance bark perhaps, or create havoc. It just means trouble found company!  
I do not say this to put the kibosh on the idea of a second dog, quite the contrary. I am a firm believer in having at least two or three dogs in a group but that is usually impossible in most urban and suburban areas. All I would like to stress is the absolute importance of owning ANY dog and the consideration that MUST be applied to such an important life choice. Remember they are not a "return with receipt" purchase so choose carefully. 
We will assume now that you have made the leap and brought the puppy home. Do you shove the puppy under the adult dog"s nose and hope for the best? Are you guessing that your dog is jumping for joy that you have suddenly invaded his space? Are you now disappointed that there are no grateful tail wags and your seemingly serene older dog has in fact, taken a swipe at the newbie? Realistic expectations are key here and we will explore some of the ways to help the transition from a single dog house to a crazy happy two dog home!

How old should the puppy be?

Ideally a puppy should stay with the mother and litter mates (if there are any) for crucial social and imprinting skills until the 10-12 week age is reached. By then, they should have learned toileting away from the nest, simple bite inhibition and some appropriate play. If you take a puppy much earlier than that then you should be prepared to replicate the learning they need, so start reading!

Communication is soooo important...

Communication skills are not fully developed yet, in much the same as children may yet not have verbal impulse control nor do they know the difference between communicating with each other or with an adult who is on a different social standing. I know that seems a bit controversial to say, but the truth is we all have different ways of expressing ourselves within peer groups and with older people or those in authority. 

Most adult dogs will sort the new puppy out fairly quickly. Do not become disheartened or think you have upset your older dog because you have a newcomer. Dogs are very attuned to your responses and if you "buy-in" to a perceived sulk you are simply rewarding unwanted behaviour. Try not to project human thoughts and emotions into the old dog/new dog situation. Both animals will simply not understand and it confuses the issue. Treat them as canines who have specific needs when it comes to discipline and boundaries. They have precise ways of dealing with each other from first-time greetings to the way they may play with each other. Older dogs will not ask permission to discipline a younger dog...if another human disciplined a child that is not their own can you imagine the outcry? Dogs don"t need to ask because pack rules are pack rules regardless of where you live.

Your role as pack or group leader

Obviously as group leader you must be there to observe and supervise because sometimes situations can become out of control and you may need to step in. That"s ok, that's your job. Learn to distinguish growls and barks and listen to your intuition. If you think your older dog is getting a bit too serious then call a time-out and allow the elder to escape to somewhere quiet. The puppy won"t care. He will just be ready for the next game! The rough and tumble of a group of puppies playing is adorable and hilarious. Your older dog may not always think so but for the most part let them teach the younger. In a short period of time you will think they are inseparable. Puppies are usually very forgiving creatures and a bit of a stern talking-to canine style won't hurt. I cannot stress enough the importance of your position as overall canine group leader. You must be there to rescue your older dog if the puppy is really being a nuisance. Or to rescue the puppy from real harm if the older dog is intent on causing injury. Watch for changes in body language and their demeanour but you should know it can happen in the blink of an eye. Remember, without their mother to teach them the rules of the den, you have to teach the rules of the house.

Should I punish or reward?

Try not punish your dog if he growls or snaps at the puppy. All you need to do is allow the older dog to move away and keep the puppy separate for a time. Resist the urge to cuddle or seemingly reward the puppy for his rudeness. Don"t overreact to either dog. Growling serves as a powerful communication tool and the last thing you want is for ANY dog to learn NOT to growl for fear of punishment. The most wonderful bonds between a dog and a human are formed when we take the time to understand them and their language. That basic understanding forms a trust so powerful it is a joy to experience. The biggest mistake we humans make is anthropomorphism (attributing human characteristics to other beings) and it is confusing to dogs to say the least. They are NOT your children, they are your family members who happen to be canine and we need to respect that. If your older dog is refusing to accept the younger puppy you may need some outside help. 

Simple Solutions

1. Introduce new dogs to each other on neutral territory…this can merely be a meeting 50 metres away from the front door with dogs on leashes for safety, or in an off-leash park and then everyone goes home together.

2. Of course WATCH ALL DOGS for dominant behaviour or hostility and correct accordingly.

3. This is also something that can be done to introduce new human family members to your dog.

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