Harmony at home: introducing your new puppy to older dog siblings

by Kris Rollo

Bringing a new puppy into your home is an exciting time, but it can also be daunting if you already have resident furry friends, especially older dogs. Don't worry though - with careful planning and patience, you can foster a smooth and positive introduction, setting the stage for a harmonious multi-dog household.

So we’ve put together a guide to navigate this important transition.


Preparing for the arrival

Before the little one arrives, stock up on essentials like separate food and water bowls, leashes, comfy beds, and chew toys. This prevents resource guarding and ensures each dog has their own belongings.

Exchange blankets or toys between the dogs several days beforehand. This allows them to familiarize themselves with each other's scents in a neutral environment.

Secure electrical cords, remove fragile items, and block off potential escape routes, particularly in the garden. Ensure your older dog's favourite spots are accessible and establish a safe space for the puppy, like a playpen.

Ensure both dogs are up to date on vaccinations and parasite prevention. If needed, refresh your older dog's basic obedience training to solidify their understanding of house rules.


The first encounter

Consider taking the dogs out to neutral ground like a park or quiet street before entering the house. This minimizes territoriality and allows the dogs to interact on equal footing. Keep all the dogs leashed but allow sniffing and controlled introductions.

Once comfortable, bring them home. Keep the older dogs on a leash initially while the puppy explores in a confined area. Let them sniff and investigate each other calmly, under close supervision.

Shower all the dogs with praise, treats, and gentle petting throughout the interaction. This creates positive associations for the new puppy and reassures the older dog. But don't force interactions. Instead, allow the older dogs to initiate contact and respect their boundaries if they seem hesitant or apprehensive. Avoid picking up the puppy, as this can trigger possessiveness in the older dog.


Gradual integration

Feed the dogs in separate spaces to avoid competition and resource guarding. Maintain individual feeding routines to minimize stress.

Keep the dogs on leashes during initial indoor interactions. This allows for controlled introductions and provides an easy way to separate them if needed.

Engage in short, supervised playtime sessions, introducing toys gradually. Monitor energy levels and ensure the puppy, in particular, has a safe escape route if overwhelmed.

Allocate ample individual time and affection for both dogs. This reassures them that their place in the pack remains secure despite the new arrival.

Watch closely for situations that could lead to conflict, such as fighting over toys or becoming overly excited

Remember, building trust and acceptance takes time. Don't rush the process and respect each dog's individual pace.


Signs of potential issues

Growling, snapping, or aggressive posturing is never a good sign. If this happens, separate the dogs immediately and give them space. You may want to consult a professional dog trainer.

Excessive whining or hiding could indicate stress or anxiety. You could try to provide separate quiet spaces and consult a trainer or vet about the issue.

Loss of appetite or change in toileting habits can be signs of stress or underlying health issues. If this happens, the best thing to do is to consult a vet.


Seeking professional help

Don't hesitate to seek professional guidance from a qualified dog trainer or animal behaviourist if you encounter difficulties. They can assess your individual situation and provide personalised guidance to ensure a smooth and successful introduction process.


Additional tips

Consider crate training the puppy to provide a safe and secure space when unsupervised.

Ensure both dogs get adequate exercise and mental stimulation to channel their energy positively.

Be patient, consistent, and positive throughout the process. Building a harmonious multi-dog household requires time, dedication, and lots of love!

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