A new pup is an exciting addition to your human and fur family! And understandably, you’ll likely be eager to introduce the newest member to those in the household. However, there are nuances to be considered when bringing a new dog into a home where other pets already live.
To make introductions successful, you’ll need to ensure, above all else, the safety of everyone involved. A structured plan can help you to achieve this, making sure that all pets feel safe and are set up to become comfortable housemates.
In this post, we’ll provide expert tips for how to prepare for the introduction of a new pet to your other pets, as well as discuss the key differences between introductions involving cats and dogs.
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Developing an introduction plan for your new dog
Every new pet introduction has a unique set of considerations that are important to think about when developing an introduction plan for your new pup. Say, for instance, you’re bringing a small puppy into a household with larger, playful dogs. You’ll need to make sure the introduction doesn’t overwhelm your new puppy or put them in a potentially harmful situation. The last thing you want is to go into a new pet introduction with no game plan, which could go either way, potentially putting you in recovery mode rather than preparation mode.
Here are a few questions to ask yourself before you even start creating your introduction plan:
- What kind of animal (e.g. cat or dog) are you introducing your new pup to?
- What size is each of these animals, and how big is the difference?
- Has either of these animals had a bad experience with other animals? How might that impact their initial reactions to each other?
- What are the energy levels of each of these animals? Is one particularly rowdy while the other tires quickly?
- What is the general temperament of all the pets involved? Do they all play well with others, or do they prefer to be on their own?
- How old are each of the animals? Are you introducing a very young pup to an older cat, for instance? How might that influence things?
How to read your dog’s body language
Your dog’s body language when introducing them to another pet can tell you a lot about how they’re feeling, and can also help you to be on the lookout for any warning signs that indicate they’ve had enough for the time being. If you aren’t familiar with the meaning behind body language, there’s a chance you might misconstrue a situation, which can put both your pets and you at risk. And vice versa, you might also think they’re getting ready to fight when they’re really just being playful and getting to know each other.
Check out the illustration below to learn more about the common associations between various types of body language in dogs.
So if you notice that your pup, for instance, has their tail between their back legs, this is likely a sign that they’ve anxious and would benefit from some space.
No two pups are exactly alike. If you’ve spent some time around your new pup before even making the introduction to other pets, you’ll gain more familiarity with the unique personality of this particular dog, which will make it easier to read their body language in potentially stressful situations.
Things to do before you even make the introduction
There are tactical things you can do to set all of the animals in your household up for success before they meet each other, such as:- Give each pet an item, like a blanket, that the other pet has slept on. This will familiarize them with each other’s scents before meeting for the first time.
- With your new pup, use positive reinforcement any time you introduce them to something new so that they associate new experiences with reward, such as going into their kennel or wearing a harness for the first time. This helps to develop trust and security for your dog.
- Before the introduction, try to reduce their energy levels by going on a long walk or romping around in the yard. Wearing them out a bit beforehand will mitigate any major differences in energy levels between your pets, which reduces the likelihood that either of them will become overwhelmed due to the other’s larger-than-life playfulness.
- Use pheromones to promote a calm environment. You can purchase sprays or wall plugins that disperse pheromones throughout a space, which tends to relax and calm animals.
How to make the introduction
Introducing a new dog to a cat
When first making the introduction between a new cat and a dog, it’s important to keep meetings short and supervised, gradually building up to frequent time spent around each other. To start, keep your dog on a leash (have a strong grip on the leash), long enough that they can still explore, but short enough that the cat has a safe space where they can’t be reached. Repeat this several times throughout the day. Have the cat in a separate room with the door closed. They can smell each other under the door for a day or so before introducing face to face.
Using what you’ve learned about your dog’s body language cues, stay present to make sure they’re not exhibiting signs of aggression or distress. If you do notice these signs, separate the animals, and then try again. Once you’re comfortable with more prolonged periods of interaction, make sure that your cat has an escape route that your dog can’t get to in case they need it.
Much of the way you go about introducing your new dog to your cat will depend on what you know about your cat’s personality.
Introducing a new dog to another dog
When introducing a new dog to your other dog(s), it’s ideal if you can introduce them in neutral territory, like on a grassy spot near your house or going on a walk. This allows you to have control of how close they are together and also reduces the chance that the dog you have had longer will feel territorial. Once you return back to your house after the walk, consider giving them some space so they can take some downtime and your new pup can explore an area of the house.
However, if your new dog is a puppy and has not received all of its vaccinations, or if it’s not yet been leash trained, wandering from your premises might not be advisable. If this is the case, proceed similarly to how you would with a cat: bringing the animals together for a short period of time to sniff around each other and interact, and then separate them for a period of time before bringing them back together again. Like with the cat, weI would suggest a door be between the two for at least a day until the smell is no longer interesting.
We also recommend removing any toys to start with, as that could promote aggression in one or both of the dogs. Again, no one knows your dog better than you. So consider the unique qualities of the dog you’ve had longer and make preparations based on their temperament, personality, and history.
There’s no single “right way” to introduce your pets
While there are many tried and true pieces of advice, how you go about introducing your new dog to your other pets ultimately depends on the individual personalities of temperaments of each pet. Talking to your veterinarian is a good start. If you’re concerned about making the introduction, consider enlisting the help of a professional trainer, who can help you create a customized plan for a successful introduction.