How to introduce another dog to your current dog

Learn about dogs
Written by Pure Pet FoodPure Pet Food are the experts in healthy dog food and healthy dogs featured in media outlets such as BBC, Good Housekeeping and The Telegraph. Working with high profile veterinary professionals and nutritionists, Pure Pet Food are changing dog food for the better. - Our editorial process

Naturally, most dogs are sociable animals, thriving from interactions with both humans and hounds. This might get several current dog owners thinking, ‘should I get another four-legged friend to keep my dog company?’

Welcoming a new dog into your house, whether they’re a puppy or an adult dog can be great. Just remember that a second dog will mean double the trouble, double the dirt, but above all, double the fun. However, pet parents can be left disheartened when their dog is totally unimpressed about the arrival of their new sibling. Speaking of siblings, we've also got a full post on how to introduce your dog to your baby to check out. That's a human sibling however, in this post we're talking about introducing canine siblings.

We humans sometimes have our expectations set far too high! Some dogs will take to each other instantly, whereas you might have some that want to fight like cat and dog.

First impressions mean everything, both in the human and dog world, so nailing that first introduction is key to setting your two canines on the right track for friendship. With the right preparation and knowledge, you can help make that first meeting run as smoothly as possible. Speaking of first impressions and introductions, we also have a guide about introducing your dog to a baby for you to check out too.

We’re here to give you all our top tips for introducing a new dog to your current dog so you can help them build that lifelong friendship.

Should I get a second dog?

Before we even get on to discussing how to go about the first introductions, you need to know that getting a dog is the right thing to do. Do you have the time, commitment and energy for two dogs? Also, if your second dog is going to be a young puppy, are you ready to go through the puppy stage all over again?

Discover delicious food your dog deserves

Learn more

You might have forgotten about what that stage was like with your first dog, but we’ll remind you. Try and remember the chewing, biting, crazy energy bursts, lack of sleep, toilet training, and well, we could keep going on for quite a while.

It’s not just your tolerance for another dog either, think about your current dog and if it’s the best thing to do for them. It will seem obvious, but if your current dog really isn’t keen on other dogs, then getting them a playmate might not be a very good idea. Also, if you have a senior dog, a young, energetic, bouncy puppy might just get on their nerves. It might just be unfair for your older dog to have to deal with the torment of a pup.

If you think your dog has the tolerance for it, it could be great, your older, well-behaved dog will help you with the training, helping to teach your puppy the house rules. You know your dog, if they love the company of other dogs and they’re constantly hounding for you to play with them, then go get them their new playmate!

How to prepare before you bring your new dog home

Before you bring a new dog home, there’s a few things you can do beforehand to make your life easier and should help ease those first introductions between your new pup and current pup.

Here are a few ways to prepare:

  • Puppy proof the house by installing baby gates and putting dangerous items out of reach

  • Ensure both dogs will have a space of their own to retreat to if everything gets too much

  • Prevent territorial behaviour by putting away your current dog’s toys, chews and food

  • Make sure your current dog’s vaccinations are up to date, puppies are vulnerable to illness

  • Keep spaces tidy and free of clutter so your dogs don’t feel restricted and pushed together

  • Take your dog for a walk before you bring the new dog home, so they’re tired and not so giddy

How to introduce your new dog to your current dog

Any change will take a lot of getting used to for a dog, even though you might have done all the prep and planning, for your dog it will feel like this new canine companion will have appeared with no word of warning. To make the first meeting run seamlessly, we have a few tips and tricks to set the two up on the right path.

Keep it neutral

Your dog will obviously consider your house to be their house too. Dogs can be territorial, an instinct that has been passed down from their wild ancestors, so it’s natural for them to protect their household and the people in it. Therefore, it’s not a good idea to throw a new puppy into the house straight away to contend with your current dog.

To prevent any kind of territorial aggression over the house, it’s a good idea to first introduce the two in a neutral space. Ideally, this place would be somewhere that your current dog has no territorial links to, such as the park. However, this isn’t really a viable option for introducing your dog to their new puppy playmate, as most owners get their pups before they’ve had their vaccinations, so they can’t go to somewhere like the park yet.

However, if you’re bringing home an adult dog, the park can be a great option. For those bringing home a young pup, it’s definitely a good idea to use the garden as your introduction place rather than inside the house, the confinement of the house can make things more intense.

If a garden introduction isn’t possible either, you can even introduce the dogs in the house using a baby gate to separate them at first. This allows them to have a sniff at each other and it can ease your concerns of any potential vicious first meetings as they’re separated by the baby gate. Also, you can gauge both of their reactions and judge how next to progress with their introductions.

Lead or no lead?

When you’re introducing the two dogs in the garden, you have the option of putting your current dog on the lead, but this depends on how you think your dog will react.

The lead gives you peace of mind that you can pull your dog away easily if it’s getting too much for the new dog or puppy, whether that be because your dog is showing negative body language or because they’re way too excited about their new playmate and you’re scared of them hurting the tiny puppy with their over-excited greetings.

Although the lead can work well, you don’t want either dog to feel restricted, you want them to feel the freedom to explore and figure out who this new, random dog is in their garden. If you do decide to opt for the lead, keep the lead slack and let them meet each other on their own terms.

First greeting

Rather than holding your puppy up in your arms, it’s advised to allow your puppy to interact with their new friend freely on the ground. Even though it can be tempting to hold your puppy up for safety, away from your huge hound who just wants a peek at what that little ball of fluff is, it can make your puppy actually feel even more unsafe.

If they’re constrained in your arms and unable to move, and they’ve got a big dog jumping up at them, it can be really intimidating. Put your puppy on the floor, they don’t need to be held tightly to your side.

You might be nervous about this, obviously you don’t want anything bad to happen, such as your new, tiny little puppy getting injured. However, try to be calm and cheerful, our dogs are perceptive, so if you feel stressed, it’s likely that both dogs will feel stressed too. Allow the two to figure out their relationship, they’ll probably sniff, circle, play or even ignore each other! All of these reactions are fine, you should only stop the meeting if you sense your dog’s body language to be off.

Reading body language

Body language is our key into the canine world of communication. It can tell us if our dogs are feeling happy, sad, annoyed, playful, angry or stressed.

During these first introductions, keep your eye out for the ways both dogs react to each other. Young puppies don’t quite have the same level of understanding about how to react around dogs or what the correct ‘dog etiquette’ is, so they may not understand the behaviours your older dog is showing them.

For example, your puppy might be persistent in trying to get the other dog to play, oblivious to the other dog displaying obvious signs of distress and annoyance. This is the point in which you should intervene and break up this first meeting.

Here are some of the negative body language indicators a stressed, unhappy dog may display:

  • Snarling

  • Raised fur on back of the neck/back (heckles)

  • Growling

  • Prolonged stares

  • Display of teeth

  • Hunched back

Desirable body language signs to look out for is the bowed position, where your dog’s head goes to the floor with their back and tail pointed high into the air, this means your dog wants to play!

Also, if either dog is giving the other kisses, licking their mouth and face, this indicates submission. Rolling on their back and exposing their tummy signals this too. It’s quite likely that the puppy will display this behaviour, telling the older dog that they’re only a youngster. Whines, barks and grumbles can be used in both play and annoyance, so watch your dog’s other body language signals to work out which one they’re trying to communicate.

If they’re playing nicely, allow it! If you notice one is tiring, try and separate them for a breather. You should always try and allow these first introductions to end on a positive note.

Take it inside

Now it’s time to take things indoors. The introduction might have gone really well in the garden, but the house is where your dog lives, so they might begin to feel protective over it when another dog strolls in.

It’s a good idea for your new dog to already be in the house when your current dog enters. This saves your dog from greeting the new dog with any guarding, defensive behaviours. Hopefully, if the new puppy is already in the house, your current dog will walk in and not feel such an intense need to guard their home and the people in it.

So, if you’ve already introduced the pair in the garden, get someone to take your current dog out for a walk and then you can bring your new puppy into the house alone. This also gives the puppy some time alone to explore their new surroundings. After all, they’ve just been brought home into a totally new environment, away from everything they currently know. This can be especially daunting for a young puppy as they don’t yet know how the world works and they’re experiencing countless other new things alongside their new home and new canine sibling.

When you bring your dog back in from their walk, make sure your new dog is in quite an open space in the house, away from the front door to prevent any feelings of confinement. In theory, this meeting should be a lot less intense as they’ve already met one another once before.

Following weeks

Ideally, you want to keep your household to be calm and relaxed to give both dogs time to adjust without any mayhem. You need to constantly monitor the two dogs in these following weeks, especially during mealtimes and playtimes in case any tension starts to emerge.

Try and allow each dog to have some alone time away from the other, it can be quite intense in the early stages so they’ll both be thankful of the break. If they’re having fun together, most dogs don’t have the ability to call it quits, so you’ll have to be the one to encourage this chilled out alone time.

The friendship might not form straight away, but by taking all the steps detailed above, you can hopefully ensure that the transition into being a new doggy duo is made easy, comfortable and fun. Just you wait, you’ll soon have a terrible team of two running rings around you sending you crazy!

Top tips

  • Don’t force the two dogs together, let them have time apart and adjust to each other at their own pace, you can’t force a friendship.

  • Get separate beds, you don’t want your current dog to feel overwhelmed by the presence of a new sibling.

  • Watch out for the size difference between the dogs, if your older dog starts to play too rough, try and intervene and encourage calm, gentle play.

  • Keep to your dog’s normal routine, you don’t want to disturb your dog’s normal day-to-day life too much, a new sibling is enough change for one day.

  • Spend quality time with both of your pets separately, no matter how much energy your new puppy takes out of you, your older dog still needs attention too!

  • If your puppy is harassing your older dog to come play with them, try and distract the youngster by playing with them yourself.

Any puppy parent knows how tiring that seemingly endless puppy energy can be, and we don’t mean just for you, but for your current dog who will be feeling the exhaustion too! If your pup is constantly jumping on, chewing, nipping and yapping at your other dog, it can all get a bit too much and become an annoyance. If you notice this, make sure your current dog has a space to call their own to get away for a moment of peace. Puppies don’t yet have a concept of boundaries and personal space, so you’ll probably need to separate them yourself.

However, a young pup can bring out the fun, playful side of even the grumpiest, laziest of dogs, no matter how much your current dog tries to protest!