Introducing your old dog to a new dog

If you’re thinking of adding another dog to the family, it’s important to first weigh your own needs against the needs of your older dog. Do you feel that your dog would enjoy another dog’s company, possibly giving him a new lease on life? Whatever your reasons may be, just be aware that bringing a new dog is a huge change for an older dog – and unless you go about it the right way, it could create a lot of stress.

Here are a few ways you can help make the process of introducing your older dog to a new dog less stressful :


  • Choose a neutral location for introductions : By choosing a location that is on neutral ground (for instance, a park or an unfamiliar yard), your older dog is less likely to view the new dog as an invader of his territory. With both dogs on a leash (you’ll need to get the help of another person for this), let them greet and sniff one another, but only for a short amount of time. Then, give each dog a simple command, such as “sit” or “stay” – be sure to give them a treat when they obey. If all goes well up to this point, take the dogs for a walk, allowing them to sniff and investigate each other from time to time.
  • Use positive reinforcement : When you talk to each of the dogs, use a happy, friendly tone of voice. Never talk to them in a way that is threatening. Reward good behaviour with treats and/or compliments of “good dog!”
  • Monitor their body language : The “play-bow” is one sign that will tell you things are going well between your two dogs. This invitation to play is characterized by one dog crouching with its front legs on the ground and its backside in the air. Body language that indicates an aggressive response include hair standing up on the back, bared teeth, deep growls or a prolonged stare. If you notice these kinds of responses, calmly stop the interaction. Using a positive tone of voice, distract each dog by getting them interested in something else.
  • On home turf : If your outdoor introduction has been successful – in other words, there have been no fearful or aggressive responses – it’s time to take your dogs home. If you drove to your neutral location, you’ll need to decide whether the dogs will be alright to travel in the same vehicle. Ideally, you should have separate crates for each, but if they’re large dogs, this may not be possible.

When the new dog is a puppy

If the dog you’re bringing home is just a puppy, you’ll want to do your introductions indoors. With the puppy in your lap and your older dog on a leash held by someone else, let the older dog sniff, lick and explore the puppy. A couple of minutes is more than enough for this initial introduction. Remove the puppy from the room, then lavish your older dog with attention and praise. On the second or third meeting, if all seems safe, allow the puppy onto the floor, and monitor that situation carefully for a few minutes. Remove the puppy from the room, and again, give your older dog praise and attention. Repeat this exercise at least twice daily until you’re comfortable that the two will get along. It’s not a good idea to leave your puppy alone with your older dog. There should always be someone there to supervise.

The importance of private time

Give your older dog some quiet time away from your new dog or puppy every once in a while – he’ll appreciate the break. And be sure to give him lots of individual attention so he’ll know that he still holds a special place in your heart and hasn’t been ‘replaced.’

Guidelines for introducing dogs and children

There are a few things parents need to know and do before they bring a new child into a household where a dog lives. Similarly, it is equally important to follow certain guidelines to bring a new dog into a home with children. Here are a few of those things. 

Introducing new children into a house containing a dog:

  • Ideally, the dog should have been socialised to children as a puppy.
  • The dog should be responsive to you and readily obey basic commands (e.g. sit, come etc.).
  • Your routine with the dog should be modified in anticipation of the arrival of a new child. If the dog is used to spending all of his time with the owner, this should gradually be reduced so that no sudden reduction occurs when the child arrives.
  • As soon as a new baby arrives, dogs should be rewarded (with food or praise) when in his presence so that they come to associate the presence of the child with pleasure. Shutting the dog away or shouting at him whenever the baby appears may lead to the dog perceiving the child as a negative experience.
  • Aspects of canine health care such as worming and control of other parasites should be a routine part of responsible dog ownership. However, care must be taken to ensure that this is not overlooked with all the new activities associated with the arrival of a new child.
  • In the interest of both, a dog and a young child should never be left alone without supervision.
  • Before the baby arrives, get the dog accustomed to child-like playing. The dog should be rewarded for accepting this contact. It will also be beneficial if other children can be encouraged to handle the dog while rewarding him with food or praise.
  • The dog should be taught not to snatch food or toys from your hand but only to take these objects gently after being told to do so. Practicing with the help of other children when training is complete will be beneficial as it will teach the dog not to steal food or toys from young children.

Introducing new dogs into a household containing children:

  • If a puppy is chosen, you should ensure that he is young enough to be socialised to children, or has had positive experience of children in the breeder’s home.
  • If an older dog is obtained, his response to children should be assessed prior to getting him into the family. This is particularly important at feeding occasions or when in possession of a toy. Some dogs who are not accustomed to the presence of children may respond in a fearful or threatening way on these occasions.
  • Children should be educated in the responsibilities of pet ownership for example, that pets are not toys, and can feel pain if roughly handled.
  • Children should be encouraged to take part in activities with dogs that are appropriate to the child’s age. For example, a four-year-old child can assist their parent in the preparation and presentation of food.
  • At an appropriate age, children should be encouraged to train dogs in appropriate obedience activities such as sitting and coming when called. These activities serve to teach dogs that children are higher in the social hierarchy.