You’ve decided to bring a new puppy into the family, everyone is excited and looking forward to it….or are they? If you have an older dog already, this may not be the number 1 thing on their wish list! Getting it right is going to be important for everyones stress levels, yours, the puppy’s and your dog’s.
Some quick background
We recently brought a new puppy, Boris, into our home. We already share our house with Nevada, a nine year old Dogue de Bordeaux (French Mastiff). Nevada is a sweetie when she gets to know you but….she’s somewhat stuck in her ways, she’s very protective, not very sociable with other dogs, oh and she weighs 120lbs!
So why did we decide to get Boris? Well unfortunately we lost Nevada’s partner in crime, Sierra, earlier in the year. She had bravely fought off cancer for 12 months but when we had to say goodbye, the effect on Nevada was devastating. She had lived with Sierra her entire life, they did everything together and in the weeks and months that followed, Nevada just sank into a terrible depression, she was just not herself, she wasn’t eating regularly and we were very concerned about her.
Although we tried to keep her busy it was obvious to us she was missing the company of another dog and while we couldn’t ever replace Sierra we could find her another playmate to hopefully lift her spirits.
Boris is a Fox Red Lab. He has a lovely temperament and has turned out to be the perfect fit for our family. Here are the things that we found to be very helpful during the early days of their relationship - this is by no means a definitive list of things you should do if you are in the same situation - you know your dog better than anyone so use your judgement but hopefully some of these things might be helpful.
Spoiler. Nevada and Boris are now best buds, but it wasn’t always that way!
1. The initial introduction.
We chose to introduce Nevada to Boris on neutral territory. We took Nevada to another family members home and brought Boris to meet her. She was very excited and curious at first but it became obvious that she was not really interested in being too friendly, so any interactions were limited to having a human very close by to intervene if necessary. She didn’t show any aggression toward him but we know her well enough to understand she was not pleased having him so close by.
Back at our house we had them both in the yard for a while so that Nevada could get used to him being at her place. We took Boris into the house first so that when Nevada came in she could see that he was already there. This process went quite smoothly. Nevada was not at all interested in Boris however and ignored him totally from that point forward - for 2 whole weeks!
2. The safe space.
Nevada, and now Boris, have free run of the house. We thought however that Nevada might need a quiet space away from the chaos of an 8 week old puppy. Boris was therefore banned from Nevada's bedroom (actually our bedroom!) at all times. If he tried to go in there he was gently redirected and moved away. Surprisingly, both Boris and Nevada picked up on this quite quickly. If Boris did venture in before we could catch him, Nevada would emit a quiet ‘grumble’ just to remind him whose space it was! Nevada would often lay in the doorway looking out while Boris just played nearby leaving her alone.
We made sure during this time that Nevada received a lot of attention. Quite often we’d spend alone time just playing with her or petting her. That continues on even now as Boris does seem to hog the limelight and we make sure that hugs are given out evenly!
When treats were given out, we made sure that Nevada got hers first.
Honestly, Nevada was pretty good with Boris from day one. She did put him in his place a few times when he was being rowdy and she was trying to rest or come back in from the yard while he jumped all over her. We did not correct her or discipline her at all - she did what she needed to do and Boris learned pretty quickly what the boundaries were.
Even though Bordeaux's are not known for being particularly playful, we made sure to include Nevada in all the games with Boris. Sharing chew toys, playing tug or hide and go seek - if she wanted to join in she could, if not, no problem.
Boris is quite persistent. He’d try and lay next to Nevada while she was sleeping but any time he touched her, she would jump up as if she had been electrocuted! Nevertheless he stuck with it and one morning, two weeks after he arrived something wonderful happened. Nevada brought Boris a tug toy to play with and she let him pull her all over the house while he played - she even let him go into her safe space! From that day on, she pretty much let him do anything - he sits on her head, he sleeps next to her, he jumps on her, and if she’s had enough, she’ll just let him know and he stops. Don’t force it. It’ll take as long as it takes.
We did take a bit of a risk bringing Boris into the family but Nevada now seems like a new dog. She plays her favorite game of mouthing with Boris every morning when they wake up, she looks happier in herself, she’s eating regularly again and she never goes anywhere without waiting for her little shadow.
In summary then these are the things that worked for us introducing a new puppy to our older dog:
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