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Ask a Vet with the SF SPCA: Getting A New Puppy, How To Introduce New Pets to Old Pets

Welcome to our weekly 'Ask a Vet from the SF SPCA' feature on 7x7.com. They've enlisted their Interim Co-President, Dr. Jennifer Scarlett, to answer your questions every Thursday. Got a question for Dr. Scarlett? Ask away in the comments!

Q: I have a three and half year-old Labradoodle, and we are thinking about getting another one -- how old is too old to add a new puppy to our family?  

A: There are no hard and fast rules here so we’ll have to wing it. Physiologically, your 3.5 year old doodle is equivalent to a person in their mid twenties -- still full of play and most likely willing to tolerate a new member to the household. There are two really important points to getting a new puppy: where you get your puppy and how you introduce him/her to your dog.

First, let me make a shameless plea to anyone thinking of getting a puppy or dog to please consider adopting from a reputable shelter or rescue group.  If, for whatever reason, that isn’t possible, please buy from a reputable breeder. Unfortunately many dogs sold online or through pet stores are sourced through large, commercial puppy mills. So buy local and expect to put a little work into this acquisition—after all, you will be spending the next 10 to 16 years hanging out together. This means driving to the house of the breeder and visiting with dogs and puppies.  A responsible breeder will be focused on one or two breeds of dogs— if you see 12 different breeds, think twice before you adopt. A responsible breeder will be picky about who adopts their stock, so expect to be interviewed. Lastly, a responsible breeder will take the dog back if things don’t work out.

Now, for the introduction! Ideally the resident dog should meet the newcomer on neutral ground. Check your new puppy’s vaccine status first, and assuming the vaccines are current, this introduction can be in a quiet park or even a parking lot. Keep both dogs on a loose leash and allow them to greet. Usually a puppy will be submissive and start to excitedly lick the face of the adult dog or roll over and let the adult smell them. Most adult dogs will act rather disinterested but some will cut loose and play. For a full set of instructions visit our website.

Remember, before letting any dog into your dog’s turf, it is a good idea to put away all the stuff your dog may want to guard—like his favorite chew toy, food bowl, gross stick from the park and so forth.  And as with all introductions, go slow -- better to end sooner on a good note than go too long and end on a bad one. Have fun with your new dog!

While we can’t answer all of the questions here, please feel free to ask us during our Wednesday Twitter Ask the Vet Chat.  If your animal’s problem is of an immediate nature, please call your vet or you can reach the SF SPCA at 415-554-3030 to make an appointment.