If you want to make the introduction of a new dog to your existing pets go as smoothly as possible, certain precautionary measures must be followed. There are also a few proven tips and tricks that will make the transition easier. With appropriate planning and guidance, your new dog will quickly get accepted by the resident pet and become an equal part of the family.
Things to watch out for
Stress. After a dog is introducing into a new home, it will most likely cause him some amount of stress. Some dogs may be more stressed and anxious than others, but majority will experience a level of shock, which is unavoidable. Your first goal will be to recognize signs of stress and reduce the amount of anxiety for the new dog as much as you possibly can.
Time. With people, we tend to socialize fast and in large groups. The opposite should be done for dogs. In her article on “Three Ways to Confuse a New Dog,” a professional canine behaviorist Patricial McConnell, PhD explains how a quiet environment and a slow drip-like process of introducing people and animals to a new dog is essential. She also encourages pet owners to think long-term, meaning that this process may take from a few weeks to several months, and you should expect that and stay patient.
Dominance. The biggest danger of introducing a new dog to a resident pet, whether cat or dog, is either of them trying to establish dominance over the other. This is a normal animal behavior that has been demonstrated in studies and not something you as a pet owner can prevent. However, you can control how the process goes to avoid any problems, fights, injuries and establishing bad blood between the pets.
With these three things in mind, here are a few tips for introducing a new dog to your resident pets, and how to ensure the process goes smoothly.
9 Tips for Introducing a New Dog to Other Pets in Your Household
1. Make a Match
When you're just considering adding another pooch to your household, choose a breed that has a similar temperament as your current resident pets. Remember to take into account everybody's activity levels. Most pets are highly dependent on their routine and habits, and the less invasive new dog's addition is the more likely you'll have a successful transition process.
2. Separate the New Dog
Give your new dog and current pets some time and space to adjust to the changes. This is particularly important for the dog to get used to his new surroundings, pets and you. Have a separate room for your newest family member where he can rest if things overwhelm him. This can take any number of days for dogs.
Put a dog bed for him in this separate room and provide him with his own bowls for food and water. You should also have some dog toys he can play with while he is separated and don’t forget to spend plenty of time with your new dog as you can without overwhelming him with attention.
Once the new dog becomes accustomed to his room, begin encouraging him to walk around the house to introduce him to the rest of your household. He'll explore, sniff around and get familiar with the scent of your resident pets and the surroundings.
3. Use Scents for Introduction
Animals, especially dogs, have a great sense of smell and they often use it to learn things about the world around them. Getting your new dog used to the scent of your resident pet is the most important step in the introduction process.
Before you introduce your dog to the resident pet(s) and allow them to smell each other live, you should first use toys or blankets or any other object that has the other pet’s scent on them, which can make both pets familiar with each other even before they officially meet.
4. Use Pheromones
Pheromones can help you make the introduction go much smoother. They are released into the environment by all animals and they have an effect on the behavior of other animals. Studies have shown how we can effectively use pheromones to reduce stress in dogs.
There are commercially available dog pheromones which you can spray into the environment in order to relax and calm your new dog if he becomes too aroused, anxious or temperamental. You can also use calming collars which will ease your pet. You can do the same with your resident pet.
5. Use Food
This will help them associate something pleasurable with each other’s smell. You can try repeating this for a few days before you introduce your new dog and your resident pet.
6. Use Positive Reinforcement
Using praise, playtime or dog treats as a reward for good behavior can make the introduction process a lot easier, especially for very anxious animals. However, if you are doing a dog-to-dog introduction, this can create a sense of competition in them from the start and cause some problems in the future. Playtime can also increase the level of excitement in dogs, which can, in turn, increase the nervousness.
Use positive reinforcement based on your pet’s expected reaction to it. In addition to positive reinforcement, use negative reinforcement if one of the introducing parties displays bad behavior. Separate them immediately for some time.
7. Keep Up the Routine
You need to maintain the regular schedule and routine of your resident pets and start creating a routine for the new pet after a few days. This includes feeding, exercising, playing and potty time. This will reassure your resident pets that nothing is changing with the new arrival, which will keep them calm and composed when the time of the introduction comes, and get your new dog onto the same schedule to avoid stress.
8. Think About Safety
If you are introducing your new dog to a resident dog, you should have them both on leashes and held by two different people. That way you will be able to maintain the control of the interaction. It is also advisable to choose a location that is neutral, such as parks or backyard, in order to avoid any sense of dominance often implied by the location.
Social dominance is one of the key factors when it comes to introducing a dog to a new household. Studies have shown that there's an inherent hierarchy among dogs, and they will have to figure it out by themselves. But you'll have to ensure this is done in a controlled environment to avoid any problems.
If you are introducing your new dog to a resident cat, the dog needs to be on a short leash. You can also exercise your dog before the introduction, to make sure that his energy levels are depleted. You can also feed him beforehand to make him feel relaxed.
If you already have more than one pet in the home, introduce every resident pet to the new dog individually.
9. Be Patient
You need to be aware that introducing a new dog to your resident pets takes time. It is a process that requires a lot of patience, and there's really no specific number of days that will work for all pets. This process can sometimes take only a few days, but it is not unusual for the adjustment period to last for a few weeks. In some extreme situations, it can even take a few months.
Introduce your new dog to your resident pet in stages; start with the scent, then go to visual introduction through a crate or slightly open doors and end it with a supervised introduction. Remember to only go as fast as they both feel comfortable and to have separate rooms prepared where either one of your pets can go to if they feel threatened or scared at any point. You should never try to force the interaction; they must be introduced on their own terms.