Considering adding a new furry friend to your pack? Here’s the lowdown on helping your dog adjust as your family expands.
Bringing a new dog or puppy into the mix is a thrilling prospect. But if you’ve already got a pet at home, whether it’s a dog, cat, or even a little human, it’s crucial to make introductions with a bit of finesse. Even the most chill pets can be a bit touchy when it comes to newcomers. Keep in mind that each dog has its own personality and past experiences. Some are social butterflies, while others are more of the lone wolf type. Follow these tips for a range of scenarios to ensure a harmonious household, fur or no fur.
1.Bringing Another Dog into the Fold
Given that dogs are pack animals, they generally (though not always) appreciate having a buddy around. If you’re bringing an older dog into the family, here are a few steps to make the meet-and-greet go off without a hitch. First off, introduce the dogs by scent, suggests Zazie Todd, PhD, a social psychologist and founder of the popular blog Companion Animal Psychology, as well as the author of “Wag: The Science of Making Your Dog Happy.” “Start by letting the new dog get a whiff of your existing dog’s scent, then reward them with a treat to create a positive association with the smell,” she advises.
Neutral territory is key when it comes to face-to-face introductions. Start by walking the dogs side by side, then crisscross to let each dog sniff where the other has tread. If they seem at ease and ready to play, go ahead and let them meet while still on their leashes. Chances are they’ll give each other a quick sniff, then either go their separate ways or break out into a play session. Keep an eye out for any signs of aggression and step in if needed. Positive reinforcement works wonders, Todd notes. If your dog is food-motivated, treats can be a great way to encourage good behavior.
2. Patience, Positivity, and Realism are Key
When your pup doesn’t hit it off with a new four-legged family member right away, don’t lose your cool. Give it another shot later on. Building trust and rapport can take time. An older dog might not be too thrilled with a lively little one who hasn’t quite figured out the whole personal space thing. And to a tiny tot, a bigger, older dog might seem a bit intimidating. Make sure each furball has their own territory, using baby gates to give them their own zones while still being able to peek at each other from a safe distance. If, after a few weeks, they’re still not the best of pals, it might be time to get some professional advice from a vet behaviorist.
3. Bringing Your New Dog Home
When two dogs hit it off in a neutral spot, there’s still a chance things could go south once they’re under the same roof. Kick things off with a stroll outside your digs before letting them loose indoors. But keep those leashes handy just in case you need to step in. Before they make their entrance, stash your first dog’s toys and chow bowls to avoid any potential turf wars. Have a cozy crate or secluded spot ready for your new pal. Make sure each dog gets some solo time and keep a watchful eye during group hangouts. At mealtime, keep their bowls at a distance and stay close to avoid any food-related squabbles. And always keep a sharp eye on their body language, giving them the power to choose how they interact to foster a sense of confidence and trust.
4. Cat Meets Dog
Cats and dogs can be the best of buds, but your kitty might need a little time to warm up to their new energetic roommate. The key to a harmonious cat-dog relationship is pretty similar to the dog-dog one. Let your cat call the shots when it comes to their interactions with the new pooch. Never force them to hang out, and make sure the dog knows that chasing or bugging the cat, especially during mealtime, is a big no-no.
5. Baby & Woof: A Gentle Introduction
When you’re ready to introduce your furry friend to your newest human addition, start by letting them get a whiff of each other. “Before your dog and baby meet, let your dog sniff a blanket the baby’s been wrapped in,” suggests Todd. “Then, treat your pup to create a happy association with the baby’s scent,” he adds. Give your dog the freedom to exit the room whenever they wish, and spare them from any loud infant cries. Continue regular walks and provide enriching activities to prevent any signs of stress or anxiety.
6. Navigating the Waters of Puppyhood or Kittenhood
Bringing a kitten or puppy into your household. Just follow the guidelines laid out for introducing an older dog. Remember, tiny kittens and puppies can be vulnerable around larger, adult animals. So, always supervise their interactions. These little balls of energy might also get on the nerves of your older pets, so ensure there are opportunities for separation, giving your adult pets some much-needed downtime.
7. Kids & Canines: A Happy Household
Usually, a new dog or cat will fit right in with your human clan. However, always keep a watchful eye when your new pet is around small children. Little ones can sometimes overwhelm a new pet with loud noises or by getting a bit too hands-on with their ears, tail, or fur. Not to mention, large, lively dogs might accidentally knock over your tiny tots with a simple wag of their tail.
Never leave a child unsupervised with any pet, and make sure you’re teaching them the proper way to interact with animals. It’s also smart to chat with the shelter or breeder to find a pet that jives well with your family’s lifestyle. And if you ever need a hand, don’t hesitate to reach out to a certified animal behavior consultant.