Introducing a New Dog to Their Home

Introducing a New Dog to Their Home

You’re getting a dog! Now that it’s official, it’s time to think about how you will introduce your new pup to his home. First, be sure that your home has been fully puppy proofed. Then, follow these steps to make the transition go smoothly for you and your dog.

  • When picking up your dog from the shelter, rescue, breeder or pet store, bring him straight home rather than running errands along the way. If he is a new puppy, there’s a chance this will be his first care ride, so making it as short as possible is best. Be prepared with two people, one driving and the other sitting with the dog, and towels in case he has an accident or gets sick.
  • Hold off on the welcoming committee on your dog’s first day in his new home. To avoid making him feel overwhelmed, introduce your family members outside, one at a time. Don’t surround the dog, but instead let him approach each person, sniff them and eventually initiate the interaction.
  • Allow your new dog to sniff around the outside of your home while on a leash when you arrive home. Take him to the designated potty spot and reward him with a treat for going there.
  • Once introductions have been made, it’s time to bring your dog inside the house. Take him around on the leash, allowing him to sniff. Stay relaxed and avoid having family members crowd the dog.
  • Introduce your dog to his new “safe space,” such as a crate or playpen, with clean bedding and toys. This space should be in the room where you want the dog to sleep full time.
  • Take the dog outside often during his first few days. You’ll want to start house training a new puppy immediately, and even if your dog is already house trained, the new environment may throw him off, causing accidents during the first few days.
  • Keep close to home during the first weeks after bringing your dog home. Allow him to get acclimated and observe how he reacts to different situations before going on any excursions. Walk him around the perimeter of your yard daily, so he understands his limits, and establish an on-leash walking route that he can become familiar with.
  • Set house rules from the start and stick to them. For example, decide if he is allowed on furniture, which rooms he is permitted in and when he will be fed, and stay consistent to avoid confusing your new dog.

Introducing Your Dog to Other Dogs

You’ve picked out a new dog and everyone in the family can’t wait to meet him, but will your resident dog be as thrilled to have a new family member? Introducing a new dog to your current pets can be a tricky situation, especially if you’re bringing a new puppy home that hasn’t yet figured out how to communicate with adult dogs. It’s important to help both dogs, the new addition and the residing pup, learn and adjust to the new living situation.

The first step in introducing a new dog is to identify a neutral space where the initial interaction can take place. You want to have the dogs meet in an area that neither has “claimed”, and that preferably is outdoors. Be sure to keep the dogs on-leash but hold with a loose grip and allow them to roam. Anything that can cause a scuffle should be put away, such as food, treats or toys.

After the first interaction, have a friend or family member parallel walk the dogs with you. This means walk the dogs in the same direction with enough distance apart that they aren’t fixated on each other. After walking for a bit, have the dogs switch places so they can sniff where the other dog has walked and become more familiar.

As the introduction is happening, be sure to keep an eye on both dogs’ body language. If one or both dogs are displaying tense, stressed or fearful body language, it’s best to keep both dogs on a leash and separate until they start to feel more comfortable around each other.

If both dogs seem relaxed and are willing to be social with one another, allow them to come closer and eventually drop the leashes so they can fully interact.

As the dogs play, watch for mutual give-and-take and respectful interactions. End the introduction with a short walk together.

Introducing a puppy to your adult dog

Puppies have a lot of rules to learn, both from you and the existing dog, when they enter their new home. Full of energy, puppies will immediately start looking for someone to play with and typically go straight for the adult dog. Some adult dogs will be more open to this than others. As their owner it’s important to recognize if an adult dog’s behavior is appropriate when correcting a puppy, such as a soft growl or grumble. This is the way older dogs communicate that the puppy needs to take a step back, and it is acceptable as long as the adult dog does not make inappropriate contact and injure the puppy.

Growling is how dogs let others know that they are unhappy about something, and in this situation, it can be a good lesson for your new puppy. It’s important to always supervise these initial interactions to be sure that more intense aggression doesn’t take place.

If you notice that the adult dog is becoming overly agitated by the puppy, it’s best to separate the two and redirect the puppy to another task. When you are not able to directly supervise the puppy, he should be placed behind a gate or in a crate.

Throughout the day, give the adult dog a break from the puppy, as it can be exhausting for him to be around a puppy continuously, and also requires undivided attention from you, the owner. Periods of separation during the day can take the pressure off the adult dog and give everyone much needed breaks.

Whether your adult dog takes to the puppy immediately or not, reward both dogs for behaving appropriately around each other. It’s also important to make sure your puppy is getting enough exercise, both mentally and physically, so he doesn’t take out all his energy on the older dog. A great activity is taking both dogs on a walk together.

If you are patient and are sure to care for each dog’s needs equally, your dogs will grow to love each other.

Check out these additional resources on introducing your dogs

Introducing Dogs to Children

If you have an infant or young child, bringing a new dog home can be an adjustment for the entire family, including the dog. Follow these dos and don’ts when it comes to successfully acclimating your new pet and your child to each other.

Buy crates, tethers and gates to be able to set up boundaries that help separate your child and dog

These tools will provide a safe barrier between your child and dog but will still allow the dog to feel included and not isolated from the family until he warms up to the child.

Don’t force interaction between your dog and child

Allow your dog to approach your child rather than suggesting your child forcibly approach your dog. This can very easily make your dog uncomfortable and put your child at risk. Once your child learns to walk, be sure to teach them to always allow the dog to come to them first, and never corner or trap the dog.

Familiarize your dog with your child’s scent and sounds

To help your dog feel more at ease, introduce your child’s scent to the dog by allowing him to smell clothing items or a stuffed animal before bringing the dog home, and again once he is home. This is especially important when you are bringing a new baby home from the hospital and the dog is already a member of the family.

Don’t leave your child unsupervised with the dog

It only takes a few seconds for your child to provoke your dog, putting themselves at risk. If you need to leave the room, always take either your child or dog with you. If you are the only adult present, sometimes it’s easier to put your dog in his crate or behind a gate so you don’t have to worry about being so attentive.

Allow your dog to be curious

It’s natural for your dog to want to sniff and lick your child, it’s his way of getting to know them. Don’t scold him for being curious, just always keep yourself in between your child and dog, and be prepared to pull the child away if needed.

Don’t allow your child to take the dog’s food, treats and toys

It’s important for children to not only respect your dog’s space, but his things too. Allowing your children to take the dog’s toys for themselves puts them at risk and shows your dog that he has no ownership over his things. Plus, a dog’s toys or food can harbor germs that can make children ill.

Pay attention to your dog’s behavior and body language

Your dog will make it clear that he is uncomfortable through his actions. If he’s licking your child but standing back with an outstretched neck, he likely is trying to get out of the situation. If he growls at your child, don’t scold him, understand that he is uncomfortable and react accordingly.

Remember to give your dog some one-on-one time

If you choose to bring a dog or puppy into your family, be sure that he is going to get the attention and affection he needs. It’s easy to forget this when there’s a baby in the house, but it’s not an excuse to neglect your dog.

Know Your Dog's Body Language


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