How to Introduce a New Pack Member: Adopting an Older Dog

Adopting a new dog is a thrilling prospect and, like most major life decisions, one that shouldn’t be taken lightly.

This is especially the case when welcoming an older dog into a family that already has a four-legged member. From ensuring compatibility to preparing all parties for the new arrival, here is a comprehensive guide to expanding your family, four feet at a time.

Ascertain Suitability

It seems obvious but you really need to make sure that the dog you’re adopting is well suited for your family. One of the great things about older dogs is that they usually have well established (and well documented) likes, dislikes, and personality traits. Approach the rescue group with a fact sheet about your current pack members so that they can help you find a friend who is most likely to fit in.

Establish a Routine

It’s best to get into a loose routine before you bring your new dog home so that everyone in the family is on the same page. Because your newest member will need to adjust, it’s helpful to make the transition as smooth as possible for him. Start taking your current dog for walks in or around the same time each day. Establish set meal times. Brush off that training manual and start implementing basic commands that you use consistently. Before long, you’ll be able to relax things a little but in the beginning, a little structure will do everyone a world of good.

Get Two of Everything

Even the sweetest dogs sometimes get snippy, especially when they feel as if they need to protect their most prized possessions. While it’s nice to imagine your two best friends sharing their favorite toys, chances are there will be a few skirmishes before they’re able to play nice. Stock up on supplies like cuddly toys, balls, beds, and dishes for the new arrival so that there’s plenty to go around.

Temper Your Expectations

Like most of life’s most wonderful things, establishing a happy, fulfilling relationship between your adopted dog and his new family will take time and patience. Unlike a puppy, an older dog has an entire life behind him and moving in with you is bound to shake him up a bit. Give him time to get his bearings and don’t feel slighted if it takes him some time to warm up to you and his new canine sibling.

Start Strong, Stay Strong

It’s hard not to fall under the spell of soulful doggy eyes, especially when you want your new dog to know just how much he’s loved. While we’re all for showering him with praise and affection, it’s also important to ensure that you set boundaries and enforce rules from day one. If you don’t want dogs on the couch, be firm, even if you want to let it slide just this once. Make sure that everyone who will be walking the dog is on the same page as far as leash training is concerned, and explain to visitors what your policy on people food is. It’s always hard to say no but in the long run, you’re doing everyone a favor.

Meet the Author: Kate Walker

Kate is a writer and a lifelong lover of dogs. She regularly volunteers with rescue organizations and counts her years spent working alongside a therapy dog as a personal highlight. She's the proud parent of a beautiful Golden Retriever (and a tiny human, too) and is happiest when spending time with her pack.

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