Inviting a new dog into your home can complete your family but it isn’t without difficulties. For existing non-human members of the family, a new dog can be seen as threatening or frightening. If you want your new dog and existing pets to be the best of friends, it’s important to plan the transition in advance.
Being mindful of how animals cope with each other will help to ensure your newly updated pack learn to adjust to one another more easily. To find out how you can welcome a furry addition to your home without upsetting the status quo, take a look at these top tips for adding a new dog to the pack…
Introducing a new dog to other dogs
Prepare in advance
Before you bring a new dog into your home, introduce his or her scent. This gives your existing dog the chance to become familiar with it before the new dog arrives. When you visit your new dog or puppy before bringing it home, be sure to wrap them in a blanket or old sweatshirt and then bring it home with you.
Leaving their blanket in prime locations can be a good idea, so decide where your new pup will be sleeping and place the blanket there for your dogs to investigate.
Another key element to preparing your pets is to make sure they’re up to date with their vaccinations. If you’re bringing a younger dog into the pack, like chocolate lab puppies or cockapoo puppies, they won’t be able to have all their jabs until they reach a certain age. By ensuring your existing dogs are up to date with vaccinations and medications, you can minimize the risk of illnesses being transferred.
Of course, if you bringing home an older dog to join the pack, you’ll want to ensure they’re up to date with all their inoculations too.
Choose a neutral location
When you’re introducing any dogs, it’s important to do so in a neutral location. Dogs can be territorial, so your existing pets may feel threatened by someone new coming into their home. By introducing them in a neutral location, like a dog park, you can let them get to know one another without one dog feeling compelled to ‘protect’ their environment.
Introduce dogs one at a time
If you already have more than one dog, don’t be tempted to let them meet the newcomer at the same time. Meeting one dog can be stressful enough, so your new addition may feel overwhelmed if it meets two or three dogs at the same time.
Instead, make the introductions one at a time and always be sure to do it in a neutral location. Even letting your dogs meet on the street away from your home is a better option than bringing your new dog straight into their new abode.
Supervise at all times
However docile and friendly your dogs may seem, it’s essential that they’re supervised at all times. It only takes a second for things to go wrong, so it’s not worth the risk of leaving your pets alone. Even if one dog is in its cage or its leash is affixed to something, aggression could still get the better of one or both of them.
When you’re present, you can monitor their interactions and calm things down if the dogs get overexcited, scared or anxious.
Watch for warning signs
All dog owners know that their dog’s body language is an indicator of how it’s feeling. Watching for warning signs of discomfort can help you to moderate the meeting and prevent any unwanted behavior.
If either dog bares their teeth, makes stiff body movements or stares at the other dog for a long period of time, it’s time to bring things to an end. Play bows, wagging tails and loose body movements typically imply that dogs are comfortable, so look out for the differences in their behavior to understand how they’re feeling.
Introducing a new dog to cats
Contrary to popular belief, dogs and cats can be the best of friends. Of course, introducing a new dog to your cat or cats needs to be done carefully, particularly if neither animal has ever seen or been close to each other before.
Give your cat a safe space
If your cat feels nervous or apprehensive, it’s important they have somewhere safe to retreat to. Choosing their favorite place and making it comfortable for them will help them to be secure and it’s even better if it’s somewhere your new dog won’t be able to access.
You may want to move their essentials to their safe place during the transition period, as this will ensure they have everything they need. A litter tray, food, water, and favorite blankets and toys will ensure your cat feels safe while he or she adjusts to the new member of the family.
Add accessible high spaces
Cats love to climb on anything that’s high up, especially when they’re feeling nervous. As dogs can’t jump as well as cats, it should be easy to add high perches that your cat can reach. Dedicated cat perches can be a great option, or you can add custom shelving to give your cat a safe space.
When your cat is feeling inquisitive, he or she may sit up high so that they can keep an eye on the strange newcomer and get accustomed to having a dog in their home.
Of course, it’s essential to make sure that your dog can’t reach these cat perches. Larger dogs will stand on their hind legs, while puppies are known for scrabbling around on the backs of couches, so double-check your cat will be out of reach.
Keep dogs and cats separate
When you’re first introducing a new dog to your cats, it’s better to keep them separated at first. Scent swapping can be a good way to gradually introduce the pets to one another, so stroke each pet without washing your hands in between. In addition to this, move the scent of each animal around the house via blankets, so that they can become familiar with each other without any pressure.
Cats move quickly and dogs often think their movements indicate a great game of chase is on the cards. However, it’s vital to stop your dog chasing your cat, particularly when they’re first meeting. Ensure your cat has an easy route back to their favorite safe space and keep your dog on a leash.
As dogs can become over-excited, you might want to try and tire them out with a good walk or lots of play first. Similarly, having treats or favorite toys on hand to distract them can be a good idea.
Keeping initial meetings short can help each animal to become more confident, so don’t try to force things. Slow meetings tend to build for better relationships, so follow the animals’ lead and keep them separate for a little longer if either your dog or cat appears nervous or frightened.
Introducing a new dog to your family
Whether you’re introducing a new dog to other dogs, cats, hamsters or gerbils, supervision and trust-building is key. You might be eager for your pets to become firm friends straight away but rushing the introductions can lead to problems further down the line.
Instead, take things slowly and let your pets become accustomed to one another first. With constant supervision and mindful introductions, your new furry friend will soon be an integral member of the pack.