Getting a Puppy with an Older Dog – 11 Top Training Tips

Dogs are the ultimate social networkers and most well-socialized dogs will love being promoted to being a puppy mentor. But you need to be sensitive and plan introducing a new puppy to an older dog. Here are 11 steps to ensure your dogs form a pawsome partnership.
Introducing new puppy to an older dog

# Is it fair to get a new puppy with an older dog?
# A sensitive and well-planned approach
# The benefits of getting a puppy with an older dog
# Introducing the new puppy in 2 stages:
Stage 1 – Before the new puppy comes home
Stage 2 – The first few days at home

Is it fair to get a new puppy with an older dog?

An older dog mentor in action – teaching a puppy the fine art of……..sleeping

In the vast majority of cases, finding a cute little canine companion for your dog is one of the best things that you can do.  Not only are you giving a home to a puppy, but also promoting your current dog’s physical and mental well-being. A well-socialized older dog will be a great mentor and guide to your new little bundle of fur.

Getting a puppy with an older dog is nearly always win, win. Generally, dogs love other dogs.  They have an almost unique ability to readily bond and imprint beyond their natural mother and litter.  This is what has made them so successful in living alongside us.  This adaptability has been rightly termed ‘The genius of dogs’ [1].  Their inherited wolfish traits as pack animals also contribute to their acceptance of a new canine member of the family.

Of course there may be a few bones of contention along the way, particularly if your puppy does manage to steal your dog’s favorite treats and toys.  To avoid these we will look at how to sensitively  structure introducing a new puppy to an older dog.   This will reduce any potential stress and reap all the potential benefits of adding a bouncy, happy puppy to your ‘pack’.

Introducing a puppy to an older dog – a sensitive and well-planned approach

Getting a puppy with an older dog - looking up to his pawsome mentor
I look up to my pawsome new mentor

Training is always the answer for any potentially difficult or unusual situation.  The following article offers a planned sequence of gradual steps. It is always important that you monitor progress and adapt the training plan accordingly. 

You will know your established dog better than anyone else, and you need to be sensitive to their reactions at each stage.  If  at any point you feel that you accelerated through the steps too fast then you can just slow things down.   Nor should you worry about going back a couple of steps.  It is far better to do this than spend the extra time it will take in repairing any aggression between the dogs. 

Be alert to the body language of your new puppy and your dog [2].   The warning signs beyond obvious aggression include: the raising of hackles, sudden heavy panting or drooling, the tails or ears tucked in or even a dog displaying the whites of the eyes (sometimes called ‘whale eyes’).

Some articles advise you to be conscious of the choice of the breed of your new puppy.  They recommend you consider attributes such as the full-grown size of the newcomer.  It is true that breeds do have general characteristics that you may want to research as part of your planning in adopting any dog with reference to a breed guide. But successful introductions are much more dependent on how well your older dog has been socialized.   Also your commitment to introduce them in a structured, well-informed way.

Be aware that it may not be the right time if your older dog is currently experiencing any form of medical difficulties.    

If you are one of those good souls that have adopted a dog with known behavioral challenges then sadly it may not be possible to adopt a puppy. Consult a dog behaviorist to discuss feasibility and a plan that will be sensitive to your current dog’s needs.

The benefits of getting a puppy with an older dog

Getting a puppy with an older dog - older dog tired of distraction
I think I’ve had enough distraction for one day


The benefits of getting a new puppy with an older dog are many and various.  Many owners delight in watching their older, well-socialized dog take a leading role in guiding the puppy in its new, exciting world.

Also it is a natural tendency for a dog to avoid conflict unless directed otherwise.  This means that during this training most dogs and puppies will do the heavy-lifting for you.  They will want to get on with each other.  You will simply provide a safe and positive context in which this can take place.

#1 Socializing opportunity for the puppy and for your older dog

If you have a well-trained and socialized dog then introducing a puppy will usually be a delight.  Your dog will act as a role-model and the puppy pupil will quickly learn how to react to a variety of situations.   Both will be co-operative through their natural desire to socialize.  All puppies need consistent and firm socialization training. But now you will have the perfect, one-to-one learning assistant in your older dog.

Dogs are constantly looking for signs of how another dog is going to react to a situation. They then attempt to adapt. Say, your established dog has a favorite toy that it plays with.  Your puppy will quickly learn to leave it alone through the peeved reaction from the older dog.  This means that your puppy will benefit from  a range of socializing opportunities.  Also studies have shown that any conflict that does occur between dogs familiar with each other is sooner forgotten than with a dog occasionally met down the park.

#2 Physical exercise

Even when you’re tired, your dog now has a new play-mate to run around and chase.  Exercise has huge benefits for dogs not only in terms of their physical welfare but also in generally reducing any stress and anxiety.  A well-exercised dog will cope better, for example, during the absence of their beloved humans. This is particularly true if your established dog is from a breed which requires a high level of exercise.

#3 Mental stimuli

It can be safely said that the bright new bundle of furry fun will be an even more persistent distraction for your dog than any favored toy.  Dogs thrive on challenges and distractions and a new puppy will supply these for your older dog in abundance.  You can sit back and enjoy the fun knowing that your long standing pal is getting a fresh supply of fun and frolics.  This all courtesy of their new playmate.

#4 Separation anxiety

The views are actually mixed on whether a new puppy can help with an established dog’s separation anxiety.  In cases where a dog feels simply isolated when alone then having a puppy around as a distraction will tremendously help.

But separation anxiety is often based around pining for a particular individual.   The best advice is to reduce separation anxiety in your established dog before the arrival of a puppy. The older dog can then help prevent separation anxiety for the puppy through modelling a normalized reaction to any absence.   For specific steps to train your puppy or dog to manage this then please see training for separation anxiety.  If you feel progress is not being made quickly enough then consult a dog behaviorist.

Introducing a new puppy to your older dog – training in simple structured steps

Getting a puppy with an older dog - hiding a bone from the new arrival
That new puppy ain’t getting its paws on this

Getting a puppy with an older dog is best managed with a two stage approach. As with all training remember to be flexible. Monitor carefully the body language of both dogs and never try to force anything [2]. Go at a pace comfortable for you and your dogs. Returning to a previous step or spending extra time consolidating progress is absolutely fine.

Stage 1 – Before introducing your puppy to the home

It is advisable that you introduce an older dog to a new puppy on neutral ground. Ideally somewhere that will already have positive associations for your established dog, such as much-loved walk or park.

# Step 1 – Using a fence to avoid any offence

If possible the most secure strategy for initial introduction is to manage it through a barrier such as an intervening fence.  This will allow both to feel comfortable and safe while familiarizing themselves with each other’s scent and behaviors. Look at the body language of both dogs. If the tales are both up then this is usually a very good sign that both dogs are fine (the canine equivalent of a ‘thumbs up’).  You would then want to progress to meeting each other again without a barrier.

# Step 2 – Making a loose-leashed acquaintance

Remember to keep any leashes loose as your dog meets his new puppy pal.  This will help remove any sense of tension or anxiety.  The dogs will familiarize themselves with each other in a relaxed manner.

This should take place on neutral ground so your older dog will not feel territorial. Select one of your favorite places for doggy outings such as the local park. All dogs enjoy walks,  so you will also be creating positive associations for both dogs during this crucial first encounter.

If you already have a dog family try to stagger introducing your new puppy so that they meet one of dog at a time.  Your puppy should meet each member of the new gang separately following the steps below.

# Step 3 Positive reinforcement

This is the staple of any successful training. To promote positive associations for the new friends, try to make a fuss of both dogs.  Take any opportunities to reward positive interactions with praise and treats. Your older dog will start to love having this new little guy or gal around. A clear framework of behavior and reward will also normalize the situation for a well-socialized dog.

# Step 4 – Off the leash

If you feel from the body language that both dogs are comfortable, initiate greater freedom for the dog by allowing the puppy to come off the leash. This will give the puppy a sense of security that they can approach the older dog, but also retreat if necessary.

# Step 5 – Looking each other in the eye

If your current dog is trained to lie down, this will help if your puppy still seems nervous.  As can lifting the puppy so it is eye-level with your dog.  This can reduce the risk of your puppy being overwhelmed by the size of his new playmate.

#Step 5 Scent your house prior to puppy’s arrival

As noted above dogs recognize their family primarily through scent.  Use a cloth to get your new puppy’s scent before they arrive.  Dab this scent around the house.  If possible, you could even bring home bedding the puppy has already slept on. This will subtly familiarize your older dog with the new arrival.  

Stage 2 – The first few days at home

#Step 6 Hide the toys.

In preparing for your puppy’s arrival, remove your established dog’s cherished toys. Similarly any of your older dog’s treats or bones hanging around should be placed out of paw’s reach.   This will remove any point of initial conflict as your excited puppy noses around a new home

#Step 7 – Restricted play-time

To keep domestic harmony, gradually build up the time your new puppy and older dog play together.  This could start at around 10 to 15 minutes and but then gradually increase in small steps as both dogs grow in confidence. Once again monitor both dogs’ body language to gauge an appropriate amount of play-time.

#Step 8 Feed apart

Feed the dogs separately to prevent any resource-guarding.  This will remove any potential initial stress during meal-times.

#Step 9 Parallel walking

All dogs love walks and your new puppy will be excited to discover the local sights and smells after vaccinations and when he or she is at around 7 or 8 weeks old. Your established dog can walk with the new puppy as part of the bonding process. Keep the leashes loose as you walk them together.  If there is any tension or aggression, limit the time of these walks.  You can also distract both dogs with a treat so that they keep their attention on you if tempers do fray a little. As they grow more accustomed to each other’s company the need for this distraction will diminish.

#Step 10 Segregation

If you feel your dog has not quite taken to your puppy yet, you might want to create a safe-area for the newbie.  If possible place a barrier, such as a stair-gate to confine the puppy to an area in the house. This again will help both dogs to feel safe and comfortable with each other in the house as a shared space.  This could also be an opportunity to start training your puppy to manage separation anxiety.

#Step 11 – Mutt Mentoring

Allow the older dog to take control of admonishing the puppy. Growls and swats with paws are not generally aggressive.  This signifies the older dog teaching the puppy boundaries. You should allow this natural interaction, but no blood should be drawn.

Congratulations on your new puppy

Getting a puppy with an older dog - puppy love
Puppy love

It’s such a privilege and joy to bring a puppy or dog into your family.  If you a getting a puppy with an older dog you will be enriching two canine lives as well as your own.

For some top tips on how to introduce a puppy to cats, please click here.

For more information and advice please click here to enter The Puppy Portal

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