Bringing a new pet into the home can be an exciting time. If you already have a dog, though, the process can feel a little daunting.
Will they get along?
Will they fight?
Will my dog think I’m replacing her???
The key to introducing your dog to a new pet is preparation, just as it is for any big life change. Here’s where to start.
Before You Choose Another Pet…
The preparation phase actually starts before you decide whether or not to bring a new pet home. It’s important to ask yourself some tough questions about your dog. Is she sociable? Does she generally like other animals? Does she love dogs but hate cats? Is she old enough that a playful puppy or kitten might stress her out?
If you do think your dog is ready for another pet, carefully consider what kind of pet makes the most sense. If you want another dog, study breed traits carefully and choose a breed that complements your existing dog’s. The same is true for cats, who have less variation in temperament by breed but certainly all have distinct personalities, too.
- A fearful, hiding cat is a bad match for a dog who loves to chase things
- A small, timid puppy is a bad match for a dog who plays roughly
- A kitten who loves to stalk and pounce is a bad match for a docile dog
Only you know what your dog can handle. If she’s an all-day sleeper, a highly-active, vocal second pet is going to turn their whole existence upside down. At the end of the day, if you think introducing a new pet into your dog’s world will reduce rather than enhance her quality of life, think twice.
Preparing to Bring the New Pet Home
If you’re adopting a rescue, it’s smart to let your current dog meet the potential new addition beforehand (ask the rescue to help you with logistics), particularly if the rescue is an adult dog. The same isn’t necessarily true for rescue cats, who can become fearful or territorial if a dog shows up in their current home.
Next, see if you can swap blankets or other clothing items with each animal’s scent before the big day. Set up your home with two distinct spaces, one for each animal, complete with toys, bedding, and separate food and water stations. You want each animal to feel as if they’ve still got their own space.
If you’re bringing home a puppy or kitten, be sure they’ve been fully vaccinated for worms and other communicable diseases before they come home!
Bringing a New Pet Into Your Dog’s Home
The day is finally here! It’s smart to tire your dog out as much as possible before you bring the new addition home so she doesn’t have a lot of manic energy – it’s going to be an exciting day! Don’t bring your current dog with you in the car to pick up the new dog; this just confuses things.
Introducing Your Dog to a New Dog
When you get home with the new dog, allow the dogs to meet on-leash at first, sniffing and circling one another to get their bearings. Be sure to praise both animals and reward with treats when they’re being nice to one another. If one dog becomes aggressive, separate them, calm them down, then try again. Do your best not to “scold” a worked-up dog during this part of the process. If you can, take the dogs for a side-by-side walk on their leashes to break things in.
Once everyone’s calm and relatively acclimated, you can remove the leashes and let the dogs meet each other freely. Do NOT keep one dog on-leash while releasing the other! This can be very confusing and frightening for the dog on the leash. Do this in an open part of your home – no doorways or enclosed rooms – and far away from either’s food or bed. Even if things are going well, it’s smart to keep your dogs separated, especially at first, while you’re not there to supervise.
Over time, your dogs will adjust to one another. Remember that in two dog households, there’s actually not typically a “dominant” and “submissive” dog; they’ll switch back and forth depending on the situation. Reward polite behavior, sharing, and cohabitation and manage the environment carefully in the beginning to ensure no unnecessary conflicts pop up.
Introducing Your Dog to a New Cat
Getting your dog acclimated to a new cat is usually less complicated than getting your new cat acclimated to the dog. For this scenario, it makes a lot of sense to keep the two animals separated for the first couple of days in the new house so they can get used to the idea. Rotate which pet is “out” and which is confined to a large portion of the house (a baby gate at the top of the stairs or a designated bedroom works well for this.) Allow the free-ranging pet to sniff the other’s scent, then vice versa.
If your dog is having a hard time getting used to the idea of the cat – obsessively digging at the separation barrier, barking constantly, etc. – you may want to consult with a trainer. This is one of the first signs that a pairing might not work out. Once each animal is eating, pooping, and sleeping normally knowing the other is in the house, you can proceed.
For the first meeting, keep your dog on-leash and bring your cat into the room. Remain that way until everyone is calm, then gradually proceed with normal life. If your dog freaks out? Go back a step. Your new cat might be a little timid at first but as long as your dog seems unaffected, the cat will eventually get more comfortable.
Need more help? Adding a new animal to the family can be a big adjustment. Talk to your vet about what she recommends you do given the specific temperament of your dog. There’s no question too small!