How should I introduce my puppy to a dominant dog?
Congratulations on your new puppy! It’s both exciting and terrifying to become a new dog owner, isn’t it? No matter how experienced you are with dogs, every dog is different and presents new challenges, so it’s always worth checking to see if you have any concerns.
Dominant or Fearful?
First, we should address what you mean by dominant. The theory that dogs are aggressively dominant and want to be alpha has fallen out of favor. The behaviors we used to call dominant (such as protecting resources) have been found to be rooted in fear. So if you mean the other dog is dominant because he doesn’t allow other dogs to approach his food, his couch, or his human – he’s more likely to be fearful and defending his favorite things.
It is now widely recognized by animal behavior experts that dogs that use aggression towards humans or other dogs are not trying to be “dominant”. Instead, aggression is often a result of social confusion, frustration, fear, anxiety, or learning.
Can you postpone the meeting?
Second, you need to decide if this meeting has to take place. If the adult dog is just an acquaintance, it may be best to leave the meeting until you learn more about your new dog and have given them some good, positive experiences with other dogs – if this meeting goes wrong, you don’t want to put them off getting to know new ones. dogs in the future. Of course, it could be that the adult dog already belongs to you, or to a roommate or family member, in which case the meeting cannot be postponed.
Where should they meet?
It is generally a good idea to hold the meeting outside of the home. The older dog is used to having the house all to himself, and if he’s prone to being a little defensive of his resources, it’s best to get him out of that environment so he doesn’t see your pup as a threat. Consider a safe, enclosed, neutral space – like a friend’s garden. Remember to check your new puppy’s vaccination status before taking him anywhere!
Related Reading: Puppy Socialization Checklist
How to introduce a puppy to an adult dog
Ideally, you want the two dogs to be close to each other, but not paying attention to each other. Food or toys can be used, and the distance needs to be large enough for the adult dog to accept the puppy’s presence without feeling threatened or needing to protect their things. If both dogs are fully relaxed, you can try to bring them a little closer and continue the distraction. If the adult dog is still relaxed about the situation and you are within a few feet of each other, try letting him sniff.
Both dogs should be on a leash so that you can separate them if necessary, but the leashes should not be tight as this can harm the dog’s behavior. Dogs communicate with their bodies, and if we are dictating how easily they can move, it can result in miscommunication. A long line of escape that you can take if needed works well. Allow both dogs to get closer in their own time, providing positive encouragement if there are no signs of trouble. Remember, puppies can be annoying and they still need to learn social skills; so if the adult dog acts to scold your puppy, you don’t always need to interfere. My own dog quickly learned that approaching my mother’s dog bed was a no-go zone, and they get along well everywhere else in the house. Mostly, dogs need to sort this out among themselves. If all seems to be going well, I think a walk together helps cement the friendship – but again, remember to make sure your pup is safe to go out.
Signs that a meeting is not going well
It’s important to learn to interpret your dog’s body language so you can see that a meeting is going wrong before there’s an injury or before your dog gets scared of other dogs.
If the adult dog is interested and accepting, they will likely have their ears forward, tail erect and wagging slowly, and they will have a relaxed posture. Your pup may mirror this, but he is naturally somewhat submissive to older dogs at this age and may crawl forward on their bellies, have their tails between their legs, stay low to the ground, or even urinate (another good reason to have the meeting outside).
If the adult dog is not happy with the meeting, you may notice signs such as ears back, crouched posture, stiffness in the body, tail between the legs (or erect and rigid), lip lifting, or growling. If any of these occur, it’s a good idea to move the puppy away immediately to give the adult dog more space. Consider calling a behaviorist if it’s imperative these dogs get along.
It sounds scary, but remember that the vast majority of dog-dog meetings are fine, especially if you are introducing a dog and an adult dog that is generally not aggressive toward other dogs. Remember, you can always find a dog trainer or behaviorist to help things go smoothly. We recommend finding one without strength and positive reinforcement techniques.