Introducing a New Pet to the Family

Posted by Erin Ballinger

Are you considering adding a new canine to your crew? It’s an exciting time when you decide to bring home a new dog or puppy. But, when you have an existing pet or young children, you’ll need to strategically plan the introductions. “Fur-st” impressions are important, especially for dogs and cats. Even if your current pet seems friendly to others, he or she might not immediately warm up to their new housemate. The following tips will help get your family acclimated to your new furry friend.

“Are you my brother?” Photo by Erin

The Meet and Grr…eet

  • Let your new pup and your existing furry family member introduce themselves through scent before they meet face to face. To do this, simply take an item belonging to each pet, like a blanket or toy, and let the other pooch sniff the unfamiliar scent. It’s important to reward your good boy when you do this with a treat or a little extra petting, so that he associates the smell with positive behavior. If possible, keep up this practice for up to a week to let Fido get acclimated to the scent of his new housemate.

  • Arrange your first meeting on neutral ground, like a dog park. This is particularly important when introducing a new pooch to an existing dog or multiple dogs. Plan the introduction when you have an extended amount of time to spend together.

  • Be patient, speak in a calm, pleasant voice, and use positive reinforcement for good behavior.

  • Have realistic expectations and goals for the initial get-together. Don’t get frustrated if your pets aren’t best buds right away. Just try again another time. As with humans, it takes time to build trust between canines and to get over feelings of jealousy or insecurity because their owners’ attention is no longer exclusively on them.

  • Play chaperone. All interactions between your pets should be supervised until you know that they are getting along nicely. This is especially true if one of them has aggressive tendencies.

  • For their own safety, keep your pets separated from each other when you are away from home.

“Can we be friends?” Photo by Jametlene Reskp on Unsplash

Dogs and Other Dogs

If the initial meet and greet at a neutral location went well, take it to the house. Plan ahead to have the dogs ride in separate vehicles. If that’s not possible, have a pet carrier or crate in the car to keep your pooches safely separated during transport. When you reach home, take both dogs for a walk together around your yard or neighborhood before you go inside. All of your current pet's food and toys should be put away beforehand to avoid any scuffles. Have private areas for your dogs set up so they can take breaks from each other. Be sure to give them some alone time at first. When it’s feeding time, separate their bowls or feed them in different parts of the house to prevent any food aggression.

Dogs and Puppies

Expect an older dog to be impatient with the high energy of a puppy. Your elder sibling pooch is going to have to play the part of puppy trainer to teach the new guy a few good manners. So, don’t scold your dog when he or she growls at your puppy. This is simply a form of canine communication, and a way for Fido to teach the puppy the do’s and don’ts of the household.

“What's up pussycat?” Photo by iStock/chendongshan

Dogs Meeting Cats

Dogs should always be leashed when meeting cats. Pay attention to the body language of both animals and watch out for any warning signs. Mutual curiosity is the best indicator that the two species will coexist. If your dog seems calm when meeting a cat, and will follow commands while the cat roams freely, she’s not likely to behave aggressively toward her new furry friend in the future. However, if your dog seems fixated on the cat, and is barking or scratching at doors when the cat is in another room, the pairing probably isn’t a good match.

Dogs Meeting Kittens

Kittens are tiny and vulnerable, especially to dogs that enjoy the aggressive play. Never leave a kitten alone with your dog. Instead, set up a room for the kitten that your dog can’t access. It’s a good idea to give your pup lots of exercise before meeting a kitten, so that they will feel more relaxed. During the meeting, keep your kitty in a carrier and Fido on a leash. If your pooch can still keep his cool and follow basic commands, let the kitten out to explore while your dog is still leashed.

“These are some strange looking human puppies!” Photo by sabina fratila on Unsplash

Dogs Meeting Children and Babies

Small kids and babies can be pretty scary to new pets. With their loud, rambunctious, and curious natures, kids can be fearless around dogs, which can lead to aggressive petting, tugging, and pulling. If he isn’t feeling safe, your new dog might bite or snap instinctively, so you should never leave children and new pets unsupervised. Start off the same way you would with pet-to-pet first impressions, by introducing and positively reinforcing the scent of the child. Then, make the initial meeting short, sweet, and supervised. Teach your children the proper way to touch and hold their new furry sibling, how to play appropriately, and when to leave Fido alone (for example, while he is eating or sleeping).

Dogs Meeting Small Pets and Other Species

You never know whether dogs will get along well with pets of another species. Extra supervision is recommended around ferrets, rabbits, birds, pigs, iguanas, or other small animals. Whether or not they will be able to peacefully cohabitate will depend on the personality of your canine and if they see the other pet as prey. Behavior training can help, but some breeds will instinctually hunt smaller animals. Make introductions in as controlled a setting as possible and pay close attention to both of your pets’ body language.

Have you recently introduced a new pet to your family? Leave a comment or tweet us @BringFido!

Banner photo by Unsplash/@picsea.