Bringing a new puppy home is exciting for everyone in your family — except your current dog, that is. They might be wondering who this new little furball is and why they need to start sharing toys with someone new.
If your dog hates your new puppy, there are things you can do to help them work through the adjustment. See things from your dog’s perspective. Keep their routine intact as much as you can, and ensure that both your older dog and the puppy each have their own space. Remember, don’t give up. It will take time for your older dog to fully adjust.
Read on to learn more about how to make the transition easier for everyone.
Encouraging Your Dog to Accept a New Puppy
Before you throw in the towel and assume that your current dog will never accept your new puppy, it’s important to remember that it can take time for your dog to adjust to the change.
Think about how humans handle change — most of us don’t like it, and your dog is not much different. It can actually take weeks, even a month, for your dog to adjust to their new companion and for each of them to accept the other’s rotating position in the pack (source).
If you and your dog are struggling after the first few days, relax — it’s entirely normal. Commit to seeing it through, and you’ll be surprised how quickly your dogs will be napping on the same pillow together.
But until that happens, remember that your dog is accustomed to being the center of attention, and up until now, your home has been their territory and theirs alone.
First, See Things from Your Dog’s Perspective
Whether you’ve had your dog for a year or five years, it’s important to recognize that there are certain things they expect, including your undivided attention and the fact that their toys and treats belong only to them.
They are also likely used to a certain pattern of events, such as feeding times, when you will play together, and when they get their daily walk. Enter a new puppy who requires a lot of attention and training, and your dog’s expectations have been entirely flipped upside down.
Their toys are being chewed on by someone else. Food, despite there being two bowls, has to be shared. And, worst of all, your attention and their spot on the couch have been invaded by someone new.
It’s not an easy place to be, and since dogs can’t exactly communicate their feelings and emotions, it’s safe to assume there’s some jealousy or frustration going on. The simplest way for your dog to express that is through barking, growling, or even nipping, which may make you wonder if they’ll ever get along.
Most dogs exhibit aggression due to fear or something else that is bothering them (source). Don’t punish your older dog for these natural behaviors — that can actually make things worse and make your dog more insecure and more uncomfortable with your new puppy.
The first thing you will want to do is make sure your dog’s routine and environment stay as intact as possible.
Give Your Dog Their Own Time, Toys, and Treats
Your dog needs consistency, and while a new puppy is a big change, certain things should stay the same. This is quite similar to older siblings being fairly unimpressed with their new baby sister or brother. Everyone loves babies and puppies, but it can often make the older sibling feel left out.
With that in mind, make it a point to greet your dog first, and give them a lot of attention before you move to the puppy and provide the same. Gradually, these things can be done simultaneously, but, for now, reinforce positivity and affection with your dog, especially when the new puppy is around.
Your dog needs their own “me” time from you, separate from the puppy. Don’t be afraid to use crates and baby gates to provide separation and a place for you to provide your dog with your undivided attention.
You can also give your dog a treat each time the puppy is near. While that is not a long-term solution, for a while, it will help your dog to associate the puppy with something desirable, such as affection and their favorite food.
Another tip is to put your dog first in the order of other routines, especially since they are used to being the only one in the home. At feeding time, give your dog their food bowl first, and then give your puppy their food. When going for a walk, allow your older dog to go through the door first.
While these small things may seem insignificant, they allow your dog to retain a level of security and even dominance over your puppy, and that is not a bad thing. After all, part of this process includes your puppy learning their own role in the home as well as how to behave — they have to learn that they cannot nip at your dog’s toes whenever they want to play.
Just remember that dominance, especially in these instances, is not a personality trait or label to identify your dog’s temperament permanently. Most scientists agree that when dogs exhibit characteristics reflective of dominance, they do so because of social confusion, frustration, or fear, and even as they are learning (source).
Dominance tendencies and characteristics change based on the context and situation. Over time, expect that, in some situations, your older dog may be the more dominant one, while in others, it may be your younger one.
Know What to Expect
We touched on the idea of “aggressive behavior” previously, but it is important to understand what aggression is in dogs and what it is not. You should expect that your dog is going to “correct” your puppy, and that correction will look like a growl or even a snarl at times.
It doesn’t mean they are inherently aggressive or even exhibiting aggressive behavior. They’re actually trying to teach your puppy how to behave. As we said earlier, do not yell or punish your dog — it will do more harm than help.
Remember, puppies are notoriously annoying toward other dogs — they have absolutely no manners, no matter how cute they are. Your older dog should be permitted to set some boundaries for themself and their space.
If your dog pushes your puppy away when they are jumping or snap at them when they try to steal a toy, it’s okay to let that go. Your puppy is learning. Your job is to supervise closely to ensure that things do not escalate.
Most times, both your dog and your puppy will settle. If they do not, step in and separate them, and try to identify what upset your dog in the first place.
If it was a toy, for example, keep your dog’s toys and your puppy’s toys separate. If your puppy picks up your dog’s toy, give a firm “no,” and give them their own toy instead.
If your puppy is crawling all over your dog and won’t leave them alone, put your puppy in their own space for a time, and allow your dog to have a break. If the issue is related to food, feed your dog and your puppy in separate rooms or spaces.
Once you’ve identified the major issues, then begin to help your dog understand that the puppy isn’t just a nuisance. Earlier, we mentioned giving your dog a treat when the puppy is near. You can also do the same each time your dog tolerates the puppy or allows them to get close to their toy or their food bowl (source).
What this does is create a positive emotional response at the puppy’s presence, and your dog will know that each time they tolerate the puppy’s behavior, they can expect something good to follow.
That may just do the trick. If not, you can try training your dog to perform a skill and even let you know when they are stressed or frustrated so that the outcome of their frustration is not aggression.
One example is to teach them to bring their nose to your hand. Once they learn how to do this, you can intercede when you see that things are beginning to escalate and elicit the skill you’ve been teaching them to redirect their attention.
If you’d like to learn more about training, specifically about teaching your puppy “no,” read “How Long Does It Take for a Puppy to Learn No?”
Finally, Do Things Together
Don’t be afraid to do things together. Yes, you want to create separation when necessary, but you should absolutely take your dogs for walks together or other activities that provide some distraction so that each of them is focused on something other than one another.
You can try taking them to an empty field or in your yard to play together but with leashes dragging. In this way, you can grab the leash if necessary.
But give them space to interact and play in short intervals of time. Keep it simple, and try to end on a positive note — with reinforcement, such as treats or affection. Each short, positive interaction and play period will reinforce their positive relationship (source).
Things to Consider Before Bringing a New Puppy Home
You may have already brought your puppy home — if so, continue working on their relationship with some of the tips above, and don’t give up. Remember, the transition takes time and will not improve overnight — your dog needs you and your help.
Still, if you are considering a new puppy and want to be sure that the transition goes as well as can be, there are a few things you may want to think about first, including your current dog’s age, gender, and energy level.
If your current dog is older or has health problems, it’s going to be tough for them to deal with the playful nature of a puppy. That doesn’t mean that an older dog cannot get along with a new puppy, but you will need to help your puppy to understand that there are boundaries when it comes to how much they can pester your older dog.
Most importantly, you’ll want to keep your older dog safe, so be prepared with a lot of toys, treats for training, and other distractions for your puppy. You may also want to consider a puppy at the lower end of the energy scale and who is calmer in nature.
Another consideration that many don’t think about is gender. The best option for introducing a new puppy is to choose one that is the opposite gender of your current dog.
Dogs have a “pack” mentality, which means that there is generally a leader. There is less likely to be a fight for dominance in most situations if your new puppy is of the opposite gender.
If you do want two males or two females, just be prepared that there may be a little bit of rivalry until they figure out amongst each other who is the leader of the pack and who is the dominant one in certain situations versus others.
Your dog may retain dominance when it comes to his place on the couch, but when it comes to his toys, he may not care much at all. It all depends on your dog and what is important to him.
Finally, think about how well your dog gets along with other dogs, both small and large. If your dog generally struggles to get along with all other dogs or puppies, it doesn’t mean you cannot bring in a second dog, but it does mean that it will be more challenging and take more time for your current dog to adjust.
Most dogs get along best with others who have matching energy levels. So, if you currently have a Basset Hound or a dog who is very calm and docile, getting a Labrador puppy who is significantly more energetic could pose more of a challenge.
Still, there are ways to help their relationship along as they form a friendship with one another, and as long as you give it time and attention with the tips and tricks above, they’ll most likely work it out.
If you’re in the throes of conflict, allowing for separation and ensuring that your dog feels secure is essential. If there is still a significant struggle after four weeks or so, you may need to reach out to a professional trainer or your veterinarian.
Whatever the case, do not mistakenly assume there is no hope. Give your dog time to adjust, help them to feel confident in their relationship with you, and grant them the space they need when they need it.