How to Introduce Your Dog to Other Pets
Pet introductions need to be planned carefully. Each animal’s previous animal experiences will affect the introduction. For example, dogs that have been around bully cats may not be too excited about adding another cat to the household, or a cat that is used to living with a dog that chases the cats may decide to live his or her life perching in high places to avoid the dog.
It’s important that both pets have had a full veterinary exam with a clean bill of health prior to the introduction to avoid the spread of disease. Also, ensuring both pets are altered, no matter age or gender, can eliminate problems such as urine marking, fighting, or breeding. Altered cats and dogs have a much better chance of getting along.
First impressions between pets are just as important as they are between people. The following tips and precautionary steps can make a smooth transition.
Before the introduction, keep the new pet in a separate room for several days, with food, water, comfortable bedding, a litter box for a cat, and all of the necessities to keep them happy and healthy. The current pets should be free to roam the house while the new pet is getting acclimated to his or her room. If you wish to let the new pet out to explore for short periods of time, make sure the current pet is kept separate from the new pet.
During the separation period, allow the pets to sniff under the door and to vocalize. Accepting the presence of a new animal or other species is a change for them too. It is important that the door cannot be pushed open, allowing access to the other animal. Once the growling or hissing has lessened, let the animals see one another by slightly opening the door. This allows each animal to work out their defensiveness without being able to harm one another. Repeat this several times until you feel comfortable enough to introduce them face to face.
When the house is quiet, allow the new pet out of the room and let him or her explore. Unless you are certain the pet is used to other pets, make sure you have a way to control them. Do not force the pets together; instead, casually let them encounter one another on their own. Have tasty treats on hand to distract the pet if a problem does occur.
It’s entirely normal for pets to hiss and growl at one another. This behavior may go on for several weeks. Your pets shouldn’t be expected to be friends right away; however, tolerance and possibly a great friendship can develop over time.
Never leave new pets unattended until you feel entirely comfortable that they will not hurt one another. Signs of a problem include litter box lapses, severe fighting, lethargy, diarrhea, hiding, lack of appetite, and general depression. If your pet shows any of these signs, do not hesitate to call our free Behavior Helpline for advice.
Tips for Introducing Dogs
It is best to introduce dogs on a loose leash. Have your dog sit and stay before an introduction has started. Introducing dogs will work best outside of their home—“neutral territory” like a park works best.Pet the dog to keep him or her relaxed. Keep the dog’s leash loose so he or she doesn’t feel restrained, but is still under control. As the pets get closer, let them sniff noses. While sniffing, call the dog to come back to you. If he turns and comes, it’s a good sign. If the dog is curious about the pet and needs some coaxing, grab a treat and get his attention. If the dog is completely fixated on the pet and will no longer listen to you, then back up several steps and put the pet back in his or her separate room and take a break. You can start this process over from the beginning later that day after the pets have settled down. When your dog has had enough he or she will walk away or show disinterest.
If you have any questions or need further assistance call our free Behavior Helpline at (312) 644-8338, ext. 8253.