How to introduce a new adopted dog to existing dogs

Last year, I participated in’s Pet ‘Net 2010 and wrote about welcoming a foster pet into your family… Here was Cooper, my foster:


Well, turns out I adopted that foster dog! (Can you blame me?! Do you see that face?!?) Cooper joined my other two pups, Emmett and Lucas, a year ago. He’s been a great addition, but had I known we were going to officially adopt him, I might have arranged their introductions a little differently.

Here’s the thing: Dogs, just like people, can feel jealous. They experience that same sometimes-combative sense of displacement that an older sibling can feel upon arrival of a new baby. The trick is in orchestrating that first meeting – and the subsequent days and weeks – to make sure that new and existing pups feel welcome, happy, and comfortable!

But where to start?


Start before you adopt! If possible, arrange an introduction with your potential pup and your existing dogs. While it’s ideal to get a sense of how they’ll get along before you sign the adoption papers, there’s one big, huge caveat. Not all dogs in shelters behave the way they will once they’re home. They’re stressed. Most don’t get a lot of time or attention. Many don’t have much in the way of formal training or maybe even healthcare. Introduce them to make sure there aren’t huge problems, but know that you can work with and overcome many challenges.

Meet-and-greet on neutral ground. Yay! Congratulations! You’re bringing home your brand new adopted dog! As exciting as it is to rush home, don’t go there first. Instead, have a family member or friend walk your existing dog to a neutral location – say, an unfamiliar park or hiking trail. Meet them there with your new adoption. No one will feel threatened, like their territory is being hijacked. Dole out tons of treats equally and give lots of praise and pats. But, again, you know your dog better than anyone else. Lucas, for instance, HATES unfamiliar places, so I would never have introduced him to Cooper anywhere other than home. That’s an oddity, I know. Emmett does much better in a Green Zone.

Maintain whatever “normal” is for your family. So they’ve met. That’s huge. Next up is bringing your new pup home. Even though you know how much your life has changed, it’s critical to maintain normalcy for existing pets. Keep the feeding and walking routines the same. Did you play fetch every night after dinner? Play fetch after dinner! Even if it means your new pup has some crate time or spends time with a different family member, keep your dog’s routines the same while slowwwwlllly integrating the new dog into those routines. Set aside extra special time to shower your pet with attention – and squeeze in one-on-one time with your new pet, too. It’ll be a busy few weeks until things start to fall into place, but don’t allow resentment or jealously to build in the early days.

I fit in, even in the car!

Build those bonds. This goes for the you/existing pup, you/new-pup, and all pups combos. You need to spend time playing, training, and snuggling with each dog individually and together. You need to arrange (and supervise!) daily play and walks with all your pups together. While I hate to put a timetable on this, experience has shown that it takes lots and lots and lots of time (almost a year for the Emmett/Lucas introduction; three to six solid months for the Emmett/Lucas/and-now-Cooper combo) for real bonds to form.

Hey, Emmett? Are we bonded? 'Cause I love you! Can you move over now?

Watch the “hot” zones. Feed them separately until you know they can eat side-by-side. Dedicate separate water bowls until you know they can sip in solidarity. Monitor play time until you know they can share toys nicely. It may not be perfect every moment of every day, but it can be fun and full of love.

Can I play? Guys, can I play? Guys?

Give some wiggle room. Okay. This may not be advice you hear everywhere, but I say you have to allow a little growling or corrections. This goes doubly if you’re bringing a baby into your house. Your existing dog (Ahem, Emmett.) may not want to share his bed at night. And that’s okay. If you allow him to try to correct the unwanted advance, it may nip the behavior faster than if you step in every time. Of course, you don’t want full blown fights to erupt. But, really, it’s okay to let them work it out amongst themselves.

Emmett was okay with sharing his bed... as long as Cooper didn't touch him!

Bringing home a new dog is an exciting, happy time! With a little planning, time, and attention, it will be as seamless as it is fun!

Ahhh! Seamless!

What other recommendations do you have for introducing a new adopted dog to your existing dog?

This post is a part of Pet ‘Net 2011! Help me get a $500 donation to my shelter by clicking on that link and voting for this post! Other ways to help:

By taking any of the simple steps below on November 16, 2011, Iams Home 4 The Holidays and their Bags 4 Bowls initiative will donate bowls of food to local shelters in honor of Pet ‘Net 2011!

1. Tweet @Iams with the Pet ‘Net hastag #IHeartShelterPets and Iams Home 4 The Holidays and their Bags 4 Bowls initiative will donate 25 bowls of food to local shelters.

2. “Like” Petside’s Facebook Page to earn 25 additional bowls of food AND…

3. Share your adoption story on Petside’s Facebook Wall for the chance to be featured on as a Happy Tail story!

4. VOTE for your favorite blog on our Pet ‘Net 2011 Hub Page! Petside will donate $500 to the winning blogger’s shelter of choice.


    • Maggie says

      Thank YOU for allowing us to participate and for organizing a fun event that supports animal adoption! I can’t wait to go check out all the other blog posts!

  1. says

    Excellent advice! I think we were twin (dawgies) separated at birth, LOL! The photos illustrate the tips so well, too. Thanks for posting, this will help new pet owners enormously. (and yep, I voted!)

    • Maggie says

      Aw! Thanks, Leslie! It’s hard to remember when you’re super excited to welcome a new pet into your home, but the transition is all about patience!

  2. says

    What a great blog post! Our editorial assistant is sure to follow this advice, as he just took in yet another pup (a small, tiny 9-week-old cutie-pie mutt named Dublin!).

    Thanks for participating in our 4th annual Pet ‘Net event!

  3. Angela says

    Great post! Our oldest pup, Zeus, had a hard time adjusting when we brought Zeus home. For the first 5 years of his life he was our only “child” and he had our undivided time and attention and he was not definitely not happy when Rocky joined our family. We did most of the things on your list, but we could have definitely done some things differently, like making sure we still had plenty of one-on-one time with Zeus.
    Just like Emmett, Zeus would share his bed with Rocky as long as Rocky was not touching him and there were certain toys that were off limits. It took Zeus almost a year to completely bond with Rocky, but they are best buddies now. Inseparable!

    BTW, I love the picture of your 3 boys sitting together. Adorable!!! It makes me want to adopt a third pup! :)

    • Maggie says

      Hey, Lavanya! Sorry I missed your comment… somehow got zapped by my spam filter! I’m heading over to your Pet ‘Net post right now! Thank you so much for stopping by, and let me know when/if you decide to adopt your next dog! :) I LOVE adoption stories!

  4. says

    This is a great post and just what I was looking for. I am strongly considering fostering right now and my two biggest concerns are making sure Honey is happy and finding the time to devote to a foster dog as well as Honey.

    If you have any tips on the second issue, I’d be eternally thankful.

    Just voted for your post. Good luck!

    • says

      Fun, Pamela!! Honey will be a fabulous role model!

      As far as the time issue, I found two things made the biggest difference. First, taking the dogs on individual walks as well as together walks. It definitely takes more time, but it gives that one-on-one bonding time – in addition to time to work on individual behavioral issues! To make it work, we just shortened the walks, so, for instance, all 3 would get individual 15-minute walks, then a group 15-minute walk. It’s the same hour we would have been spending, just broken up for more individual attention.

      The second thing is that I try to spend 5 to 10 minutes with each dog and the clicker in the evenings. Obviously that can’t happen every night, but whenever I can squeeze it in, it’s so worthwhile.

      Please keep me posted on whether you decide to get a foster! So exciting!!

  5. Amy@GoPetFriendly says

    I love that picture of your boys on the chaise! It was quite an experience when we added Buster to our family – Ty was NOT happy at all. But with time and patience they’ve become good friends. I just had to show Ty that I’m more determined than him. :-)

    • Maggie says

      Thanks, Amy! I remember you telling me all about the adjustments you guys went through… you certainly exercised a ton of patience! It is all about determination!!

  6. says

    I’m so glad it worked out for you to adopt little Cooper. Good tips for introducing all the dogs. I think people just need to know that it’s not always going to go smoothly. And if the dogs don’t get along right away, that doesn’t mean they can’t live together. Or if they get into a small fight, that doesn’t mean they can never be trusted. There will be some adjusting for everyone. Patience is key.

    • Maggie says

      Yes, Lindsay! The small fight thing is something I struggled with. Obviously you want them to get along, but it’s not going to be smooth sailing all the time. I certainly got into the occasional fight with my brother and sister! :)

  7. megan says

    I LOVE this article. I just fostered my first puppy, and it was so hard to let her go, but we know she’s making another home as happy as she made ours! Our dog, Khloe, LOVED her, but was a little unsure the first couple days. I will keep all these in mind for our next foster!
    I would love to know if you know what kind of dog Emmett is! My Khloe looks IDENTICAL! We have no idea what she is, but she’s the best dog anyone could ever ask for!

    • Maggie says

      That’s so sweet, Megan! Congrats on finding your first foster a forever home!

      The best we can tell is that Emmett is a Staffordshire bull terrier/Plott mix. Hope that helps!

  8. says

    I love this…so much! Your photos are precious! You made my day! I have five Bichons and yes…we’ve definitely had jealousy issues. My husband and I started taking them on trips (alone time) with each of them in the car to run an errand and I think it makes them feel special! What a boring world this would be without our beloved pets!

    • Maggie says

      That is a FANTASTIC idea!! I think I might try one-on-one errand time with these guys! Thanks for sharing!

  9. says

    Great post with really solid advice, especially the bit about letting them “work it out” — growling is a normal canine behavior and dogs need to be able to communicate with each other. I really appreciated the photos you provided… adorable and so much better than stock photos! Cooper is really stinkin’ cute, too!

  10. Bonnie says

    We just adopted a Pit Bull/Lab mix, Chloe. She’s lived in the shelter her entire life. She’s very submissive, it seems. However, my dachsund kept barking at her and tried to take a toy from her. The new dog, Chloe, attacked the dachsund. She didn’t hurt her, and when I screamed, Chloe stopped. But it was very upsetting. What can I do to make sure that my dachsund is safe, but also that Chloe isn’t provoked?

    • Maggie says

      Resource guarding is really common. It’s something my guys struggle with, particularly between Lucas and Cooper with a highly-coveted toy. Sometimes dogs will work it out among themselves after a few skirmishes. If it doesn’t seem to be getting better on its own, remember that it takes time and consistency to get rid of this as a problem. Allow each dog to have his her her own “turn” with a toy, then offer the toy to the other dog after a few minutes for a turn. Take away toys that cause problems – for example, my guys only have problems over stuffed squeaky toys, so I take them away when I’m not around or when play escalates too much. Good luck!

  11. Renee Lookenbill says

    HI, I really love all your great advice. we have two dogs a male 1 yr old red nose pit biull and a female American Staffordshire they both love other dogs, however we just adopted a 3 yr old red nose pit bull female from a kill shelter in NY. A rescue group pulled her a day prior to killing her did a home visit (without the new dog) and days later we recieved her. She doesnt seem to like dogs at all, she grould and shows her teeth very aggressively and she will attack if take off leash or uncrated. So we are crating and rotaing so she may have time to adjust in the new environment. This is our third day and we are now able to have her in the crate in the main room so that she can get to see our other dogs more, she did snap when our dogs were near however after an hour or so, she has gotton much better, relaxed looking around and pretty calm. any advice would be helpful. I dont think a walk out doors would be possible at this point yet. thanks!


  12. says

    I love your post, I wish I would have come across this sooner. We just became foster parents over the weekend and of course my whole family fell in love with the two that I brought home. My border collie mix on the other hand has other thoughts. She wasn’t so sure about them at first. It took about a day and a half for her to stop barking at them. She now takes on a motherly instinct towards them but she still isn’t herself all the way. I told all my kids to make sure they give Sasha the same love and playtime as before so she doesn’t feel leftout but she still won’t eat. Today I was able to get her to eat half a banana, which is one of her favorite foods. She is drinking lots so I am hoping she will start eating better and be her old self soon.

    • Maggie says

      It sounds like you’re doing all the right things! Giving her time to adjust is definitely key, and all that extra attention from your kids won’t hurt either! :)

  13. john says


    I need help. I have two adult dogs – about six years old – a cairn terrier and a beagle. My daughter just rescued a 4 month old puppy – a lab/shepherd mix. The adult dogs are both males, the puppy is a female. The terrier gets along great with the lab/shepherd. At first, my beagle barked incessantly at her. We kept them separated with gates. We’ve tried walking them together in neutral places. They walked alongside each other. We thought all was well then the beagle bit the puppy in the ear hard and drew blood. We had to pull him away. Now we are still keeping them separate at home. The beagle will still snarl at the puppy. What can I do? Its been a week. Will the beagle ever accept her? Should we wait till she gets bigger so she can defend herself.

    • Maggie says

      Hi, John:

      I’m sorry that you’re in this stressful situation. I have a few suggestions, but I want to start out by saying that a week isn’t much time at all. You’ll probably have to give them a lot more time and patience. In our case, for example, Lucas hasn’t been able to be in the same room as our cat off leash, and we’ve been working on it for 7 weeks!

      A few thoughts: Walking together is a great idea, but not side by side. Walk on opposite sides of the street from each other. After doing that for a while, walk with the dogs on the outside (so dog on the left, then person, then person, then dog on the right), then SLOWLY – over the span of many walks – bring them closer together. Next, definitely keep the gates up when you’re not there and actively working with them, just for safety. I would caution you to leave them up until the puppy is grown, though, because I’m afraid that they would just develop a ton of pent-up frustration over that time – and the shepherd is going to get much bigger than your other two, so you want them to get along so no one gets hurt. Plus, that separation just isn’t realistic. What happens if one day someone doesn’t latch the gate?

      Here’s what I would suggest: Teach the beagle a “look at” cue. If you need to start them on opposite sides of the gate, then definitely do that for safety. Otherwise, put them both on leash. Have your daughter sit with her puppy and give the puppy nice, gentle rubs to keep her calm. With your beagle, stand at a good distance, and every single time he looks at the shepherd, either click (if you clicker train) or say YES! or GOOD! Then give him a very yummy treat. Every single time he looks at her you want to say “look at!” then use your praise word “good!” and give a treat. When he’s good at a great distance (warning: this isn’t one or two repetitions… this could be days and weeks of repetitions), move a couple feet closer. Repeat, repeat, repeat while slowly decreasing the distance. The goal here is to get your beagle to realize that looking at the shepherd makes good things happen! Cheese! Or meat! Or whatever you choose to use!

      Be patient with this! In the meantime, teach the beagle (without the shepherd around) a solid “leave it.” (Here’s a video: That way, as you get closer to the shepherd over time, if your dog starts to fixate or move toward her in an unfriendly manner, you can use “leave it.”

      I know this is getting super long, but… in summary, parallel walks (NOT right next to each other) for a long while, playing “look at” to reward your beagle for calmly gazing at the shepherd, and teaching “leave it.” Over time (probably a LONG time), these behaviors can really help their interactions.

      Finally, I would encourage you to consult a local positive trainer if there’s one in your area. You might be able to have someone come out to your house for one session who can watch you run through the above exercises and help you refine your training.

      Good luck. Stay patient! Keep us posted!


  14. Freddie K says

    Thank you for the wonderful advice! I have two toy poodles, Mocha (11yrs) and Cocoa (8yrs). I am thinking about adding a third little lady now that I have purchased my house. I found a cute toy mix online named Lizzy at the local no-kill shelter and started doing research to see how other dog parents handled the transition.
    It’s great to know with a lot of love, support (and patience) it can work!

    • Maggie says

      Thanks for the kind words, Freddie, and I’m so glad I could help in some small way! It sounds like you have a really positive attitude, which will go a long way! Best of luck to you… Please let us know how it goes with Lizzy!

  15. patricia says

    i’m adopting a rescue small dog but my small dog does not like her.My dog drools alot and she looks mad.What can I do cuz I want this other dog.thanks

  16. patricia says

    i’m adopting a rescue small dog but my small dog does not like her.My dog drools alot and she looks mad.What can I do cuz I want this other dog.thanks

  17. Stacie says

    I have a 15 year old Pekingese. I had another 15 yr old Pekingese that passed a year ago. I just had a 14 year old chihuahua mix pass away last month. He was left alone. Didn’t eat much. Seemed to age overnight. He has never been super friendly with other dogs. Just ours. We have a 4 yr old daughter who is an only child and full of energy. My husband came across a 1 1/2 year old boston terrier/ English bulldog mix that needed a home. She’s spayed and trained. We weren’t looking for a dog but decided it would be good for our daughter and we have always been dog people and a dog family. We brought her home. Did all of the complete wrong introductions. It has been three weeks of hell. The new dog loves everyone, is not aggressive. We have taken her on walks to the dog park etc. our older dog HATES her. Since he has been about 12 we haven’t taken him on many walk because his back and joints are bad. The older one has bit and snapped at the new dog. She doesn’t do anything. She could literally snap him in half. He has bitten us when we step in and he literally growls for hours and hours straight. Even if the new dog isn’t around. We don’t know what to do. We love them both. The older one walks around and looks for the new one and wags his tail until she actually comes to him. Is it hopeless? Did we ruin our chances of being a pack family? Please help???

    • Maggie says

      Hi, Stacie: So sorry to hear what you’re going through. My first suggestion before anything else is to take your older pup to the vet to make sure he isn’t in pain or has an underlying medical condition that might be making him grouchy or frightened (for example, if his eyesight is waning, he might not perceive the puppy clearly). Once you’ve done that, I definitely suggest a dog-appeasing-pheremone (DAP) plug-in to start calming everyone down. Then, start again with introductions! Take the two on a walk together – walk the pup first to burn off some energy, then have the older dog meet you outside and go a block (or even less if he’s tired) with them being able to sniff each other from behind – not face-to-face. In the house, keep them separated by gates if need be, but work on short, positive interactions every day using LOTS of yummy rewards! Good luck, and let me know how it goes!

      • says

        I have a ten year old Australian terrier who has been our only dog since we adopted him at four months. He is still active and we are considering a puppy of the same breed so that he can have a friend and help model the pup. We love the male personality and want a male puppy, but have been warned that even neutered males may become aggressive with each other as the puppy ages. Would you suggest we adopt a female instead of a male for this reason?

        • Maggie says

          Really, it comes down to a matter of personality, Suzie. All three of mine are neutered males. Work with your breeder or shelter to really get to know the personalities of the puppies you’re considering!

          • Suzie says

            Did either of your house trained dogs develop bad habits when a new dog was introduced?

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