Introducing a puppy to older dogs can be a fun experience for everyone involved from a social standpoint. However, based on whether or not the new puppy family member has been weaned and fully vaccinated, you'll need to be careful with how you integrate the pets.
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Planning your socializing and living situations and understanding the attitude of your current dog will help you bring your puppy home in the safest way possible.
Talk to your vet
Well before you bring your new puppy home with older dogs, talk to your vet and review his or her thoughts on how safe your current dog might be around the new pup. Puppies are still developing antibodies to viruses by drinking their mother's milk and getting vaccinations.
Older dogs have developed antibodies to ward off infection, but can pass bugs on to puppies that haven't been fully weaned or vaccinated. If you are bringing a puppy home that is only a few days or weeks old, make sure to talk to a pet professional who can give you guidance about integrating the puppy with your resident dog before their first meeting.
READ MORE: How to Introduce a Baby to a Dog
Buy the puppy its own items
Dogs are territorial and leave scents on their water and food bowls, toys, leashes, and other items. It's best not to try and save money by having your pets share their items. This can cause stress for the dogs, and the puppy might reject some items. Some dogs become protective about their food, toys, and bed. This is called resource guarding, and the AKC says it's something to prevent because the behavior can become dangerous.
Prepare a list of the items you'll need for your puppy and purchase them in advance. You'll begin introducing them to your home and your older dogs will need to know these new items are not for them. Items that could be useful include a baby gate, a clicker, a kennel or crate, harness and leash, toys, blankets, and items for meal time.
READ MORE: The Beginner's Guide to Clicker Training
Prepare the older dogs
Let your older dogs know a new dog is coming by first introducing the puppy's bed, bowls, leash, collar, toys, crate, and other items. Dogs like routines and stress out when their beds and bowl are moved, so pick a spot for your new puppy's items you know you won't need to move shortly after it gets settled in.
Let your old dog sniff the new items, but keep them out of the puppy's bed and don't let them play with its toys, leaving their scents. If necessary, after the older dogs have seen and sniffed the puppy's items, put the items away, or put them in a room or separate area that is closed off from the older dogs. If you can get some of the puppy's scent on a cloth or other item, rub it on the puppy's items to let the older dogs know these belong to another dog, recommends TheLabradorSite.com.
Introduce the puppy to the home
Bring your puppy home for the first time while the current dog or dogs are out. This will allow the puppy to explore the home, furniture, sounds, and smells. It will obviously smell the older dogs. Show the young puppy its bed, bowls, and/or crate, as well as the other dogs' items, but let him know he can't play with their items.
READ MORE: How to Puppy Proof Your Home
Meet the new playmates
Let the new addition and the older dogs meet on neutral ground, such as a yard or at the adoption center, recommends The Humane Society. If you'll be crating the puppy, let the dogs say hello to each other for the first time through the crate door. After they meet for face-to-face socialization, play a game or two with all the dogs. The puppy will watch how you play catch or other games with the older dogs and learn how.
Bring all the dogs into the house. Put the older dogs in their beds and feed and water them, letting the puppy know these items belong to the other dogs. Let the adult dogs see the puppy in its bed and eating and drinking from its bowls so they know who those are for.
Watch the body language of the current dog or dogs. Look for signs of aggression, such as growling, a tail pointing straight up, or hair standing up. Monitor how often this happens and talk to your vet if it seems an adult dog won't accept a new dog in the house. Don't leave the puppy alone with other dogs until you are sure they have bonded.
Older dogs will help correct puppies with snarls or pushes, but an energetic puppy's jumping and nipping during what is for them innocent playtime can wear down an older dog, so make sure they get breaks from the puppy. Even if your dogs like each other right off the bat, the size difference alone means that they need to be supervised when they a re together. Your new puppy does not have the social skills of your own dog currently, so they have to learn. When your dogs are behaving well together, give them all some "good dog" praise.
Don’t neglect the older dogs
You'll obviously want to spend lots of time with your new puppy, but this might cause you to neglect the older dogs. This can cause them to stress and become depressed. In addition to playing with the older dogs while the puppy is present, play with them separately, just as you previously did. Give your current dog and the new puppy plenty of alone time at first so they don't become stressed out. Soon, they'll all become best friends.