Bringing a new puppy home is perhaps the most exciting things next to bringing an infant home from the hospital. To your resident dogs, however, it can be a maddening and confusing experience. Introducing a new puppy to your dogs involves not only the beginning of what will hopefully be healthy doggy friendships, but you’re also helping the puppy acclimate to a brand new environment. The latter process deserves its own article, so here, we’ll focus on introducing the puppy to your dogs with grace and competence.
New Puppy Interaction
Doggy Communication and Behavior
You need to be aware of natural dog behavior and instincts before attempting the introduction. You may have never heard your dog growl or seen her bare her teeth, but this will likely happen when faced with having to assert her dominance to a pup. And she does have to assert her dominance. Dogs have a pack mentality, and there is always a leader of the pack.
All animals, just like humans, have methods of communication that they accept as normal or appropriate. Puppies, like children, don’t know acceptable social behavior until they’ve been taught. This is why puppies play with abandon, rolling over each other and pouncing on heads. They usually have only socialized with their litter mates and their mother, and so are used to being matched with energy. When their mother shrugged them off, there was a sibling inches away ready to play. This will not be so in most cases when bringing home a new puppy.
When your dog lets loose a deep growl, she’s letting him know to back off. She either doesn’t want to play or has had enough. At first, the pup won’t know boundaries or pick up the subtle body language of adult dogs. This is why constant supervision of the puppy with resident dogs is necessary until they’re comfortable with each other, and you’re confident no problems will arise. As mentioned before, your adult dogs responding to the boisterous puppy with growls and flashes of teeth are completely normal dog behavior and shouldn’t be punished. The line crossed is if a dog makes contact with a puppy. This is where you step in. Unless a dog bites, walks over, or knocks down the puppy, don’t punish the adult dogs and don’t allow the puppy to continue pestering the dogs if he’s not getting the hint.
At first, the pup won’t know boundaries or pick up the subtle body language of adult dogs. This is why constant supervision of the puppy with resident dogs is necessary until they’re comfortable with each other, and you’re confident no problems will arise. As mentioned before, your adult dogs responding to the boisterous puppy with growls and flashes of teeth are completely normal dog behavior and shouldn’t be punished. The line crossed is if a dog makes contact with a puppy. This is where you step in. Unless a dog bites, walks over, or knocks down the puppy, don’t punish the adult dogs and don’t allow the puppy to continue pestering the dogs if he’s not getting the hint.
Meet and Greet
With an understanding of dog communication (and of your puppy’s lack thereof), you can move forward with the introduction. For multiple resident dogs, do the following with each dog individually. Are your adult dogs territorial? If not, an introduction in the back yard will do just fine. If so, you’ll want to do this outside of the home. Parks are perfect.
You’ll need a friend to help you do this. With the adult dog and puppy on leads, allow them to slowly approach each other. Keep the leads loose at all times so they don’t feel too restrained. They’ll do their sniffing, and the adult dog will size up the puppy. Make sure to stay relaxed since dogs will intuitively know if you’re tense. If the dog begins showing signs of aggression, draw the attention away from each other so they can be separated. Don’t pull on the lead; this will cause them even more stress. If the introduction doesn’t go smoothly, do this process until they become familiar with each other and never more than once a day.
If the introduction is going well, make sure to reinforce good behavior: “Good dogs!” or whatever method you use to positively reinforce behavior. After the dog and pup know they have your approval, you and your friend may even be able to walk back to your home together. Continue this process upon entering the property, starting in the yard and making your way into the house. Don’t lead the dogs into a small space, however, so there will be space for separation if one of them does start to act out.
After the Initial Introduction
No matter how the introduction goes, the puppy needs his own space until supervision is no longer required. This has to be a place your other dogs don’t need access to. Again, constant supervision over the interactions MUST be adhered until you’re confident the dogs and puppy are comfortable and familiar with each other.
The adult dogs will feel abandoned and become resentful if you shower the puppy with affection in front of them, even if you do give the older dogs attention. When supervising interactions (and even a good deal after supervision is necessary) acknowledge the adult dog first and show her affection before showing the puppy any attention. This will also reinforce the hierarchy of the pack.
When supervising, remember to watch body language and communication. If adult dogs are showing signs of fatigue (turning eyes away from the puppy, moving to the other side of the room) remove the puppy from the space. Don’t allow the puppy to harass the adult dogs, and don’t allow the dogs to be too aggressive with the puppy. If the pup squeals or yips, even during play, it’s time to separate.
Don’t Give Up
It can take dogs a month or two to really accept a puppy. Older dogs, especially, can be resistant. Only after a few months of no progress should you look for a new home for the puppy. A harmonious home is not just possible, but likely! Put in the work to socialize your older dogs with the pup, and in a few weeks, they will have adjusted.