There are many reasons why you may decide to get a new dog while owning one already. Perhaps you feel like your dog is lonely and would like to get them a new companion. Perhaps your dog is getting older and you feel like it’s time to get a sprightly pup to keep them young! Perhaps you’re a foster pet parent. Or maybe you just love dogs and want more. Whatever the case, having several dogs can be great fun, but it’s not always easy to bring a new dog into the pack.
In most cases, your existing dog won’t be very happy with a new dog in the house, especially if they’re older and the new dog is a puppy. However, it’s only a matter of habit, and once your dogs get used to each other, they can become the best of friends. The important thing is to make sure introductions are done right, to keep expectations reasonable, and to be patient!
Before bringing your puppy home
There are several things you need to think about before bringing your new dog or puppy home.
Make sure your dog’s vaccinations are up to date
Puppies are very vulnerable to diseases because they don’t have all the vaccinations they need when they first arrive in your home, usually at around 8 weeks of age. Make sure your current dog’s vaccinations are all up to date so they don’t put your new puppy at risk.
Buy separate bowls and beds
If you’ve made the decision to get a second dog, you’ll need to prepare for their arrival in advance. One of the biggest problems with two dogs living together is resource guarding. Make sure your dogs will have nothing to fight over by making sure your new puppy has their own separate bed and food bowls. Strategically place them in different areas than where your current dog eats and sleeps. You want to make sure each dog has their own space.
Buy crates and/or doggy gates
These types of separation will allow you to separate the two dogs if you’re unable to supervise them or if you feel like your older dog needs a break from the new puppy. These can be real life-savers, as they can avoid your adult dog snapping at your pup when they’ve had enough. Plus, it gives them an opportunity to relax when they’re feeling overwhelmed.
Take away food and toys
On the day of the introduction, before your new puppy arrives, make sure all toys and any food has been taken off the floor and placed in areas the dogs don’t have access to. The first time your puppy comes home is very important for the future of your dogs’ relationship, so make sure you set them up for success by making sure they won’t be fighting over anything on the very first day.
Introducing your new puppy to your dog
On the day of the introduction, you’ll need to be ready to supervise every interaction.
Have the dogs meet outside
Your current dog sees your home as their home, so they’ll feel a little strange about letting a new puppy inside of it. Therefore, it’s best for your dog and your new pup to meet in a neutral space such as a park or forest. Have someone (or several people) help you. Bring the dogs into the neutral environment separately. Let your dog sniff and play with the new puppy as they would any other dog they meet during their walks. Finish the walk together and walk the dogs home together, if you can.
Keep your new puppy on a lead at first
The first thing your new puppy will want to do when they arrive in their new home is to explore every nook and cranny of it! This can be quite overwhelming for your current dog. So before you let your pup loose, keep them on a lead. This way, they can explore their new environment, all the while being restrained and therefore not too scary to your current dog. If you have a garden, start there first before making your way into the house.
Dogs pick up on our emotions easily, especially dogs who have spent a few years getting to know us already. If your current dog senses that you’re stressed and worried, they may start to feel the same way, which could lead them to snapping at your new pup. Do your best to stay happy and positive, and hopefully, this mood will rub off on your adult dog.
The first few weeks together
Getting along won’t be an overnight thing. In fact, it could take up to three weeks before you start seeing your dogs’ relationship evolve. You must be patient!
Supervise every interaction
Most dogs, especially if they’re older, won’t be too happy sharing their space at first. If your puppy is acting particularly boisterous, there may even be some growling involved. This is usually nothing to worry about, as your older dog is only trying to communicate with the puppy and let them know they have to calm down. However, you don’t want these interactions to escalate - which they can, since your puppy is, at this point, very bad at “speaking adult dog”. Make sure you never leave your new and current dog unattended, at least for the first three weeks, or until they seem to be getting along sufficiently well. When you can’t supervise them (during the night for example), make sure they’re staying in separate rooms.
Give your adult dog some down time
You shouldn’t force your dogs to be together all the time. When your adult dog seems to be getting tired of your puppy, put the gate up between them! If your dog is crate-trained and sees their crate as their safe space, you could also send them there with a delicious treat-filled Kong, closing the door behind them to give them some privacy and alone time.
Reward positive behaviour
If you notice that your dog is letting your puppy paw at them without growling, or lets your puppy settle beside them without moving away, then you should reward them! These may seem like small things, but to your dog it could be a huge effort! Let them know they’re doing well by encouraging good behaviour with treats and lots of praise.
Overall, remember it could take some time before your dogs feel comfortable living together. For some, true love never really happens, only some sort of “tolerance”. But not to worry, there’s enough love to go around for everyone, right?