Sometimes just one fur baby isn’t enough. But how do you bring a new pet into the equation without upsetting the one you already have? It’s a delicate balance that definitely takes some time. But with the right tools and knowledge, introducing a new pet into your house doesn’t have to be so difficult.
There are a bunch of different possible combinations of introductions, but we’re going to focus on two in particular: a new dog meeting an existing dog and a new dog meeting an existing cat. For other combinations of dogs and cats, many of the same strategies apply.
The key to all introductions is allowing each pet to have its own safe space. This typically means a crate or a room with a closed door. Making sure that each animal has a place to call its own helps it feel comfortable in the space and can hopefully reduce any territorial disputes. Before you bring any new animals into the home, make sure those spaces are identified.
When you’re bringing a new dog home to your existing dog, it’s best to let them meet outside. We want to avoid triggering an intruder alert from your existing dog, so it’s best to meet on neutral territory. It’s best to do this with multiple people, each person walking one dog. Start by walking parallel to each other and let the dogs go about their typical walking business. While you’re on the walk, try doing some basic obedience tricks.
According to Samantha Cheirif from Foster Dogs NYC, this is an important step. Cheirif says that “[performing commands] will show both dogs that the human is in charge, so there’s no need to feel defensive. It also helps both dogs get into a calmer mindset, and ready to obey commands.”
If this first part is a complete disaster, don’t panic. If it seems like this outdoor introduction just isn’t going anywhere, bring the dogs in and put them in their crates. The crates should be in the same room so they can get used to each other, but far enough where they won’t bother each other.
If you are able to complete the walk and tricks outside, you’re ready to move into the home. Repeat the same side-by-side obedience process to establish dominance and show the dogs that they’re on the same page. This process should start with the leashes on, but the leashes can be taken off once you feel confident in the dog interactions.
Once you let your dogs roam free together, make sure to keep any toys, treats, or other high-value items out of the way. These items can cause fights and jealousy, especially for the existing dog. It’s best to get the new dog its own set of toys and treats.
When you’re bringing a new dog home to an existing cat, the process is a little different. It would be more difficult to arrange a meeting outside, so this process is more about slow introductions in the house.
Remember those confined, safe spaces we talked about? Those are going to be very important. When you first bring the dog home, keep your cat confined. Let the dog sniff around and get used to its new environment. Once the dog has calmed down, put it in a covered cage or room. Then, let your cat roam free and explore all the new smells. Do this a few times and keep the pets separated for the first few days.
Once it seems like your new dog is settling in (which might take up to a week), you can begin introducing the pets to each other. It’s best to start by letting your cat loose in a room with the crated dog. Observe their interactions and emotions.
According to Taylor Carey from Foster Dogs NYC, “it’s okay if your dog shows interest in the cat (or vice versa!) but try to keep the sessions short so you can end them on a positive note before either animal becomes too stressed. You may want to try this before mealtime so both pets associate seeing one another with something good.”
Now it’s time to introduce the pets without any crates. It’s probably best to have your dog on a leash so you can redirect its attention if it tries to chase after the cat. If either one of your pets seems stressed, separate them and try again later. It’s better to do this slowly and get it right, rather than try to rush and create a negative experience.
Once this leashed interaction goes well, you can move to free roaming interactions. Always keep an eye on your pets and try to shift your dog’s attention if it’s getting too aggressive with the cat. Observe how they behave together and make sure each animal has its own personal space to enjoy.
When it comes to any new pet situations, slow and steady always wins the race. The key to success is not to force the animals to interact, but to slowly allow them to get to know each other. Bringing a new pet home is super exciting, and hopefully these tips help it go as smoothly as possible.
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