How to Introduce Your Puppy to the Older Resident Dog

By Norma Roche

A puppy can give an older dog a new lease on life. But bringing home a pup may also be a source of stress and major irritation for an existing dog. It's important that you introduce them slowly. Let them meet outdoors, on neutral territory. Never force them to interact. In the home, supervise their time together and separate them when you go out. Make sure the older dog gets plenty of attention and space from the playful new addition to the family.

First Meeting

A good place for your puppy and dog to meet is a friend or neighbor's yard. If it's new to your older dog, he'll be less likely to be territorial with the puppy. If possible, get someone to help you. Be calm and upbeat; the dogs may pick up on anxiety. Let the puppy and dog briefly sniff each other before letting them walk around the yard. The new sights and smells will help to act as a distraction and make the meeting less intense. Try not to interfere unless they get too excited or the older dog is aggressive. If this happens, separate them, give them both a treat, and start again. If you have more than one dog, introduce the puppy to each one individually.

Arriving Home

Remove beds, blankets, toys, bones and food bowls before you bring your puppy and dog home so they won't quarrel over them. Take the puppy into the house first and bring your older dog in afterward. Let them wander about together, but make sure they don't get too excited. Watch your older dog for signs of aggression -- growling, teeth-baring, stiff movements, raised hackles or prolonged staring. If you spot any adverse signals, distract your dog and get him interested in something different. Allow them to interact again, but not so close to each other. Alternatively, put the puppy into her playpen or erect a baby gate so they can get used to each other safely.

The First Few Weeks

For a couple of weeks, supervise your puppy and dog when they're interacting. Confine them in different rooms if you go out. Leave them alone together only when you're sure it's safe to do so. Feed them separately for a few weeks, but always supervise their mealtimes when you start feeding them together. After a few days, let your dog and puppy play with toys when you're around. With high-value treats, bones and chews, you may have to separate dogs in different rooms.

Setting Boundaries

Your older dog will use body language to tell the puppy he is fed up with being pestered. Until she is about 4 months old, your pup may not recognize these important signs. If your older dog is well-socialized and good-tempered, he may warn the pup by growling. This is normal dog communication and should be allowed. If your dog isn't well-socialized, sometimes fighting with other dogs, he may try a more aggressive approach. Don't leave him alone with the puppy until you're sure they're safe together. If your older dog doesn't get used to the puppy, contact a certified applied animal behaviorist or a certified professional dog trainer for help.

Special Attention

It's important to give extra attention to your older dog and make more fuss of him than you did before the puppy arrived. Make sure all members of the family, including children, do this. Give your older dog a private space where he can rest without the pup bothering him. You can also give your existing dog a reward -- treats or toys -- whenever he is well-behaved around the puppy. When the pup isn't in the room, remove the rewards. Your dog will soon associate good things with the puppy's presence.