If you’re thinking of adding a new pet to your family, but already have a pet or two in the house, you’re going to need to prepare for the process of introducing your new pet to your old ones. This process can’t be rushed and it’s important to establish safe and friendly relationships between your pets in the long run.
Patience and safety are key.
The point of introducing them slowly is to allow them time to get used to each other over time and reduce fear. This can be a time-consuming process, so be ready for it.
When it comes to small animals, like rabbits, gerbils, or hamsters, first ask yourself if your dog has a high prey drive. For example, when you’re on a walk, does he or she go after every squirrel and bird you come across? If they do, you could be putting your smaller pet in danger with a meet and greet.1
Some say don’t even introduce these two animals unless it’s absolutely necessary. If you do, keep them separated by a door and let your dog sniff from under the door. If your dog can stay calm, you can move onto a controlled meeting, with your dog on a leash.1
When it comes to cats, a similar process is used. Keep them separated by a door, and start giving them meals on either side of the door. This is so they can familiarize themselves with each other’s scent while doing something positive.2
It’s also a good idea to rotate blankets and beds. This is another way to get them used to each other’s scent. When it’s time for a face-to-face meeting, keep your dog on a leash and make sure they’re good at the basic commands, sit, lay down, and stay. Reward your dog for calm behavior. Keep track of how each pet is acting and end the meeting sooner rather than later. Opt for shorter meetings with more frequency.2
When it comes to meeting other dogs, take it outside. Outside is more neutral territory. Have someone help you and keep both dogs on leashes. At first, keep them far away from each other, to see how they react. If both are calm, you can shorten the distance. Eventually work up to the dogs moving past each other, behind each other, and even walking side-by-side. When you have them both in the house, you can separate them by something like a baby gate to see how they react to each other.3
Other helpful tricks to make these introductions go well are:
Positive reinforcement – get those treats ready for good behavior!
Pheromones – these can help both cats and dogs relax and feel safe
Exercise – tire your dog or cat out with some playtime before their meeting so they don’t have any excess energy built up.4
Getting a new pet is fun, and we all dream of our dogs being best friends with our other animals, but that kind of relationship takes work. Safety is the most important thing – for both the animals and the humans.4
Do you have multiple pets at home? Did you have trouble introducing them or did they get along right away? Let us know!
All the best,
Chris & the WERC Team
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