Bringing Harmony Home: Helping Your Puppy Bond with Your Older Dog

When you’re bringing home a new dog or puppy to introduce them to your older dog, it’s easy to feel anxious as to how it will go. 

I felt the exact same way when I brought “home” Indie, my german shepherd, to my now-husbands two coonhounds – after a long day and an 8hr flight? My anxiety was definitely up there too – so I definitely understand your anxiety here.

Luckily, I am a professional dog trainer and have experience with this – so I can absolutely help you navigate this.

Bringing a new puppy into your home is exciting, but ensuring they get along with your current dog, whether an adult or senior, is a crucial aspect for maintaining a happy family. Especially in those initial moments, it’s a good idea to foster positive experiences for both dogs. This guide will aid you in smoothly navigating the process of introducing a new dog into your family.

Black and Orange Dog Breeds (17)
puppies are great, but they can be very hard work…

Step 1 – Preparing for the Introduction

Before introducing a new puppy into your home, it’s really important to consider your older dog’s health and temperament. Whether your canine companion is an adult or a senior, ensuring they’re not in pain and are tolerant of other dogs is the very first step toward creating a harmonious and happy environment for everyone, especially when welcoming new puppies.

In preparation for the first meeting, establish separate areas for the older pet and the young puppy, ensuring each has their own safe space. Recognize that dogs, regardless of age, can be grumpy when their space is invaded (like a lot of people too!), and understanding behaviors like resource guarding, appropriate play and the sleep needs of your dog is key to preventing potential conflicts during these early days.

To foster a stress-free environment, provide plenty of access to water bowls, and feed them in separate spaces. This helps avoid competition and ensures both dogs associate the new home with positive experiences. Setting up a neutral place, such as a designated long-term confinement area such as a play pen, can be a great way to acclimate the younger and older dogs to their new environment gradually.

Taking short walks together can also be a good sign of their potential compatibility, allowing the dogs to explore each other’s body postures and establish a better understanding of one another.

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In the initial stages, it’s essential to acknowledge the older dog’s territory, respecting their established home turf. This early investment in creating a positive atmosphere will set the foundation for a long-lasting bond between your older pup and the new, energetic young puppy.

Providing puzzle toys and allowing dogs time to engage in a play bow gesture helps them build a better relationship over time. As responsible dog owners, dedicating a considerable amount of time to observing and guiding their interactions is crucial.

This early investment ensures that both dogs finish the introduction process with good health and the promise of many good things to come. Remember, in these early days, finding the best way to integrate your new and established dogs may involve different strategies, ensuring the entire family, both human and furry members alike, can enjoy the best things that come with having multiple canine companions at home.

Puppy Sleep More 2
sniffing is a really effective tool for helping your puppy sleep

Is Safety A Concern?

If safety is a concern because one of your dogs might pick fight over flight, you may consider muzzle training ahead of bringing home a new dog – this way with an appropriate muzzle all introductions are super safe, and even if it goes wrong, you know you’re not going to end up with a vet bill.

Remember! Muzzles are incredibly responsible decision by any dog guardian and are not something to be feared!

Step 2 – The First Meeting

When introducing a new puppy to your home, choosing a neutral territory is essential, especially when dealing with an adult or senior dog who has established their own home territory. Opting for this neutral ground sets the stage for a positive first meeting. Leash both the resident dog and the younger one for the initial introduction.

This approach helps control the interaction and ensures a safe environment for everyone involved. Taking them on a short walk together in a great place allows them to gradually acclimate to each other’s presence, using positive reinforcement for good behavior. Pay close attention to their body language, particularly the front paw movements, as this can reveal a lot about their initial reactions.

During the first-time meeting, allow the dogs to explore each other’s scents at their own pace. This is particularly crucial for an older dog who might be more sensitive due to potential health issues.

Be mindful of signs of stress or potential conflict, offering an escape route if needed. By recalling them and creating space, you can encourage them to engage in a positive interaction, helping the resident dog feel more comfortable and establishing a foundation for a great relationship between the older and younger dogs.

Remember, when integrating a new puppy into a household with an established dog, there are different ways to ensure a positive outcome.

The bottom line is to foster an environment where the younger and older dogs can coexist harmoniously, each having their own space and respecting each other’s established routines. This approach, complemented by positive reinforcement and thoughtful observation during the initial interactions, creates the best chance for a successful and lasting relationship between the resident and new dogs in the home.

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“Young meets wise: A heartwarming exchange between puppy and elder dog, blending exuberant energy with seasoned wisdom, creating a perfect canine harmony.”

Step 3 – Establishing a Positive Environment

As the dogs become familiar with each other, it’s time to integrate shared spaces and toys into their routine. This step can be scary, especially if you have an adult or senior dog who may be accustomed to having their own things. The first time they interact with shared toys can be a moment of puppy fever, showcasing the younger dog’s enthusiasm and the older dog’s tolerance. This is good news, indicating their willingness to engage positively.

Embarking on obedience training is essential for both dogs, regardless of age. If needed, seeking the guidance of a professional trainer is a wise move to ensure effective communication and harmonious coexistence. Spend quality time with each dog individually, fostering opportunities for bonding. The fact your puppy needs more sleep than your adult dog is also a phenomenal opportunity to have some quality time with your older dog.

This is particularly important for an old dog who may have been the sole focus for a long time. Gradually increasing the time the dogs spend together allows you to monitor their play interactions and recognize signs of a positive relationship forming. With patience and consistent effort, your dogs can learn to coexist in a happy and healthy manner.

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“Pint-sized joy: Our playful puppy surrounded by a colorful array of toys, creating a delightful scene of boundless energy and adorable antics.”

Step 4 – Training and Socialization

Incorporating obedience training is a crucial aspect of fostering a positive environment in your new puppy home, particularly when introducing an adult dog or a second dog into the family. Whether it’s basic commands or reinforcing existing training, ensuring that both dogs understand and respond to commands helps establish clear communication between them. This process lays the groundwork for a harmonious coexistence.

Spend dedicated time with each pet individually to reinforce positive behavior. This one-on-one interaction is especially important for young dogs who are still learning the ropes or for an adult dog adjusting to their new environment. Acknowledging and rewarding desired behaviors helps build trust and strengthens the bond between you and your pets.

Socialization guide by Ali Smith

Seeking professional help is a proactive step, especially if you encounter potential conflicts or challenges during the integration process. A dog trainer can provide expert guidance tailored to your specific situation, ensuring a smooth transition and preventing issues from escalating. Additionally, allowing for alone time for each dog is crucial to prevent stress. This provides them with a chance to decompress and adapt to their new surroundings at their own pace, contributing to a more comfortable and positive overall experience for both your new and existing furry family members.

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Training in a multi-dog home becomes a bit more of a chore.

Step 5 – Recognise Different Needs

A puppy and an older dog have different needs, usually the quickest one of them to meet is sleep! A puppy needs 18-20hrs of sleep per day, compared to an adult dog’s 14-16hrs a day – which means you actually have plenty of time to ensure your older dog still feels the love and feels special whilst you’re investing so much of your time into puppy.

Step 6 – Advocate, Advocate, Advocate

This happens far too often, and is usually the start of when things go wrong. 

When your dogs play, there will almost certainly be a disparity – there are two ways this goes; 

1 – A well-socialised older dog will hamper themselves from playing with the puppy. However, a dog who may lack social skills, or be a little rude, may well overplay or get too intense with a puppy. In this instance you will need to redirect your older dog to you, create a few minutes of relaxation before allowing play again. This just helps to temper the play and stop puppy from escalating and escalating until they lose their temper. It will also help to create good inter-dog play with puppy, preventing them from expecting that all dogs want to play at 110% at all times

2 – Sometimes your older dog can be a bit of a doormat, or a push over. A dog who may be less likely to “fight back” or stand up for themselves can get pushed around by a puppy (Yes, even if you have a chihuahua bullying a burnese… it happens!), so, remember to redirect puppy and play with puppy, giving your older dog a break before they feel overwhelmed. 

The first step in both of these is to understand your dog’s body language.

Q – Should you allow your older dog to “correct” puppy?

We often hear “oh, it’s ok, your dog will establish their boundaries”, but that’s not necessarily true. Some dogs don’t know how to set healthy boundaries (like a lot of people) and can overcorrect, too, which isn’t healthy. The correction from your older dog also teaches puppies they don’t have to listen to the steps in the ladder of aggression or communication until the point of growling or snapping.

Ideally, we intervene at a healthy level, i.e. usually when we see our dog getting uncomfortable! This way our older dog doesn’t feel they need to defend themselves and puppy learns to listen to earlier cues and becomes a polite dog as they age.

Step 7 – Long-Term Confinement and Integration

Utilizing baby gates and separate rooms is a practical strategy for gradual integration when introducing a new dog, be it a puppy or a more mature dog, into your household. This approach allows each dog to have their own space, fostering a sense of security and minimizing potential conflicts during the initial stages. It’s especially important when an existing dog finishes their training and is accustomed to specific routines, ensuring a smooth transition for both pets.

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“Seamless integration: Our pet adapts effortlessly, finding harmony and acceptance in the heart of the family, creating a blissful coexistence.”

To facilitate a positive relationship, progressively increase the time dogs spend together. This gradual exposure allows them to become accustomed to each other’s presence and build a rapport naturally. During these interactions, keep a watchful eye on their behavior, paying attention to body language and vocalizations. Ensuring a good fit between the dogs involves addressing any potential conflicts promptly. If there are signs of tension or discomfort, intervening and redirecting their attention positively can contribute to a more harmonious integration.

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Looking for a more structured approach to training your puppy? Want to get rid of that unknown? Pupdates is your answer!

Recognizing signs of a positive relationship and growing friendship is a rewarding aspect of introducing new dogs to each other. Look for cues such as relaxed body postures, playfulness, and shared activities. These positive interactions indicate that the dogs are adapting well to each other’s presence. Acknowledge and encourage these moments, reinforcing the idea that their growing bond is something to be celebrated. With patience and attentive supervision, your dogs can develop a strong and positive relationship over time.

Common Challenges and Solutions

When introducing a new dog to your home, addressing potential conflicts, like growling, is crucial for fostering a positive environment. Intervene calmly and promptly, redirecting their attention with positive reinforcement techniques learned in dog training. This ensures that any initial tension is diffused, allowing the dogs to acclimate to each other more smoothly. 

Consider the specific needs of an aging dog during this process. Provide extra care and attention, acknowledging that older dogs may have different requirements. This compassionate approach contributes to a more comfortable integration, taking into account the unique needs of each canine family member.

Recognizing and resolving territorial issues is paramount for ensuring each dog feels secure in their environment. By establishing clear boundaries and gradually expanding shared spaces, you can mitigate potential conflicts arising from territorial behavior. Incorporating dog training principles aids in reinforcing these boundaries and promoting a harmonious coexistence.

Understanding the compatibility between dog breeds is a key factor in successful integration. Different breeds may have unique traits and temperaments, influencing their interactions. Being aware of these characteristics allows you to anticipate potential challenges and tailor your approach accordingly. By combining a thoughtful understanding of breed traits with consistent dog training, you create an environment where compatibility between your canine companions is prioritized and conflicts are minimized.


Successfully integrating a new puppy into your family brings joy. Celebrate positive relationships and continue monitoring your dogs’ well-being. With ongoing attention and care, your family can thrive with both a new and older dog.

But if you need help, please don’t hesitate to reach out.

Author, Ali Smith

Ali Smith is a professional, qualified, and multi-award winning trainer is the founder of rebarkable. She has always believed animals deserve kindness and champions force free methods. Believing that dog guardians will all choose the kindest options if proper information is provided, she aims to help all dog guardians who need it and make dog training as accessible as possible

Ali lives win Maryland, US with her husband and her three dogs.


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