How to Introduce a Puppy to a Dominant Dog

Your fur family is growing, and you can’t wait to bring home your new puppy! Even if you already have a dog, there are a few things you need to consider before introducing your pets. Especially if your dog has a dominant personality, you want to be careful about how your existing dog and your new puppy meet each other.

Bringing a new dog into your home can disrupt your current one. Introducing your puppy can trigger dominant and aggressive behaviors. You should be cautious even if your dog has never historically shown aggressive behavior. Studies have found that a dog’s personality changes as they age. A new pet coming into their home territory is a whole different scenario, especially for an old dog.

A few steps can help you introduce your second dog to your dominant dog. It may seem very slow, but patience will help ensure your puppy’s introduction to your dominant dog is safe and successful.

Before the Introduction

Before you fall deep into those big, sweet puppy eyes and commit to a new pup, evaluate your current dog’s personality. How has your resident dog reacted to change in the past? Are they okay with a break in routine? Do they tend to display territorial or aggressive behavior? Have you researched each breed to see if they can get along?

If your dog has demonstrated some dominant behavior, this might not mean you are destined to be a one-dog owner. There are usually cues to look for before your dog acts out. By getting to know them, you can better understand when and why your dog may feel it needs to exert dominance. Your attention to these queues will also help ensure both dogs are safe when they are introduced.

It’s also a good idea to schedule a vet check-up for both dogs before bringing them together. It’s essential to ensure your older dog is clear of canine Parvovirus, especially for a puppy.

Pick a Place to Meet

Rather than bringing your new puppy directly into your current dog’s space, start by introducing them in a neutral place. A park with a chain link fence is ideal as you can introduce the dogs safely without restraining them. Also, pick a time when the area isn’t busy with distractions or potential stressors like loud traffic or other dogs.

If a partition isn’t available, keep your dogs on their leashes and give them some time to acquaint themselves. Try keeping the leash loose and make sure the person holding the leash is also relaxed and calm. You can also try parallel walking the dogs with some space between them. This will give each dog a chance to get used to the other’s presence without having to be up close and personal right away.

Let the Dogs Lead

Let the Dogs Lead

It is tempting to bring the dogs together and let them sniff and play, but it isn’t the best idea. Just like you might feel more comfortable trying new things at your own pace, your dogs will adjust to meeting a new fur-panion when ready.

Be patient and try to read your dog’s queues. If they seem ready to sniff or greet each other, let them while staying close by should you need to intervene. If you see any of the following physical indicators, you should be ready to step in and remove one of the dogs:

  • Growling
  • Teeth showing
  • Back arching
  • Hair bristling
  • Intense staring

If your dogs seem calm and friendly, things are progressing well. You can try bringing them closer together and even dropping the leash. Throughout the process, provide lots of praise and treats. Let your dog know their positive behavior toward the other dog yields rewards.

Try the Home Turf

If introductions went well in the neutral area, you can take the dogs to your yard or home and patiently let them socialize. Now that you are on your adult dog’s home turf be ready for the introduction to shift a bit. Ideally, the dogs remain calm and interested in each other but make sure you have a plan should your dominant dog show signs of aggressiveness.

Note that having to separate the dogs doesn’t mean the introduction failed. If you stay calm and separate the dogs, you can try a reset and reintroduce them. Much like training your dog to ignore other dogs, this may require a lot of repetition. As long as you’re consistent, however, you will see progress.

Bring the Dogs Inside the Home

The next step is to bring both dogs inside the home. Like the previous step, keep a close eye on your dog’s body language. Notice when or if they start to exhibit signs of aggression and be prepared to step in and have a plan for separating the dogs. If possible, have separate rooms that they can go into or at least a baby gate to keep them apart. 

Keep the new puppy away from your older dog’s ‘safe spaces’ like their dog bed or crate. Let those areas remain a retreat for your dog if they get overwhelmed with the newcomer in their house. Your new puppy should have its toys and crate that it can go to as well. If you sense one or both dogs need a break, let each dog retreat to their own space.

All in the Family Now

puppy gets integrated into the family

As your puppy gets integrated into the family, keep the dogs separated unless you can be present to supervise them. Your older dog will experience some anxiety as parts of their routine get disrupted.

Meal times are likely to be a tricky situation for them. You can give extra attention and focus on your adult dog to help alleviate their anxiety. Give your more senior dog priority for things like feedings, leashing for walks, and even greeting them. This attention will help ease their stress and keep them calm through this change.

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