How to introduce your new
dog to your other pets
Bringing home your new dog is exciting for you, but may be extremely stressful for your other four-legged family members. You can’t force your pets to make friends, but you can try these six steps to make the process easier on everybody.
Step 1: Don’t rush into anything
No matter the sort of animal you’re introducing and the sort you already have, a slow and careful introduction is your best path to a happy and peaceful co-existence. Dogs are usually sociable creatures, but, like with humans, their temperament, age and various other factors will determine how well they get on with other dogs. So don’t rush into a meeting straight away.
Cats, on the other hand, aren’t as sociable – so introducing a bouncy new dog to an existing nervous or aloof cat can be difficult. Help them to take their time and get to know each other gradually.
Step 2: Make sure both dogs are up to date with their vaccinations
If you’ve adopted your new dog from a reputable animal shelter or breeder, the chances are that they’ve had all necessary vaccinations and medical checks. But when was the last time your current pet had a check-up? Don’t risk letting either dog get sick from proximity to a new animal. Make sure both pets are healthy to avoid any health problems down the line.
Step 3: Introduce the scents first
To animals, smells mean a lot. It can really help your pets become accustomed to each other more easily if you let them get used to each other’s scent first.
Try temporarily swapping the bedding or blankets that your pets use to transfer their scent. Allow each pet to investigate the other’s bed before they meet.
Step 4: Give them their space
To begin with, keep your new dog or puppy away from your existing pets – ideally in a room of their own. Put everything they need in there, including a cosy bed, water and food and a couple of toys. Also include some things they can chew as chewing helps dogs to relax.
It’s still important to socialise your dog during the day so they won’t become lonely, but separating them for a while at night may give everyone the space they need to get used to the new family dynamic.
Step 5: Focus on the needs of your current pet
Remember that your current pet has been your trusty companion for a long time, and that ensuring they know they’re still loved and valued is important. Older pets will need an extra helping of affection when a new dog is introduced to the household.
That doesn’t mean the new addition needs to be ignored – but while they’re enthusiastically exploring their new surroundings and meeting the other members of the family, that leaves some time for you to remind older pets that they’re still an important member of your family.
In the case of older dogs, it’s also a good idea to keep their toys and beds away from your new dog or puppy to avoid territorial behaviour. A new, excitable puppy will want to grab and chew everything in sight and will likely think nothing of curling up in your existing dog’s cosy bed. But this could bring out the possessive side in your other dog. For the first couple of weeks, keep each dog’s belongings separate.
Step 6: Conducting group playtimes
Chances are, if you’ve adopted a dog from a reputable animal rescue shelter or a good breeder, you’ll have tried introducing your dog to your other pets a couple of times already, and possibly even let them have a play together and see what each other are like. So now it’s time to begin conducting play sessions at home.
Play sessions with an existing dog
Dogs are social animals and normally love to have a play partner, but, to begin with, always try to be present while your dogs become familiar with each other during playtime. While there’s likely to be playful biting, you don’t want it to escalate.
Introducing your dog to a cat
Keep your dog on a lead as you allow your pets to explore each other. Cats likely won’t want to embark on a play session but getting them used to co-existing peacefully is still important. Reward your dog for calm behaviour – your cat is very likely to be nervous around a larger, excitable animal.
In a perfect world, your pets will become best friends. However, it could be that they merely tolerate one another. If you find they’re continually acting aggressively, talk to your vet or seek advice from an animal behaviourist.
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