Yes, dogs tend to be social creatures and enjoy being around fellow canines. But they’re also territorial and some breeds are very protective. The reality is, introducing a new dog into your home with existing pets, whether cats or dogs, can be stressful for all involved, including animals.
You set the tone for how well your animals adapt to each other. Get stressed out, and you’ll pass that on to your pets. Take a few breaths, calm down, and exercise patience as you acclimate your new roomies.
Introducing a Dog to a Cat Home
Before you introduce a dog to a cat, ensure the cat has a safe dog-free area, including food and water bowls, toys, a scratching post, and a litter box. Provide hiding spots in high areas throughout your home, such as above your kitchen cabinets (as crazy as it sounds), so your cat can escape whenever it needs to.
For at least the first few days, keep your cat and new dog separate. Confine your dog in a room with the door closed or for multi-story homes, on a different floor if possible. This separation period allows them to hear and smell the other as a way to get used to each other without any interaction.
- Next, you want your pets to associate pleasant things, like food, with the other pet. To accomplish this, you need to feed them a distance apart on opposite sides of a closed door or child-safety gate. For each feeding, move their food bowls a bit closer to the door until both pets can eat their food calmly.
- If your new dog doesn’t know basic commands, now’s the time to teach him “sit,” “stay,” and “down.” Follow the train, treat, repeat approach to positive reinforcement dog training.
- Once your pets pass the eating-behind-a-closed-door test, it’s time for a meet and greet in a common area like a living room. Here a few rules:
- Make the first few initial meetings short
- Keep your dog leashed at all times
- Allow your cat to move about freely
- Ask your dog to sit and offer a treat when he complies and for any calm behavior
- Offer treats to your cat for good behavior
- Allow your cat to leave the room at will, but don’t let your dog chase it
- Repeat these sessions each day
It’s best to end these meet and greets before one of the pets shows aggression. However, if one of them becomes aggressive at any point, distract and redirect. For your cat, this means tossing one of its toys so they leave the room, and for your dog, call its name and reward their attention. Another great way to distract your dog is to occupy its mind with a smart toy like the BarxBuddy Busy Ball. Similar to the way you discipline children, after negative behavior occurs, send your pets to their rooms away from each other.
- Once your pets seem to be getting along well, you can let them loose in the same room. Keep the leash attached to your dog, allowing it to drag on the floor so you can step on it if he begins to chase the cat.
- Repeat the above steps if your pets begin acting up again.
- Err on the side of caution and separate your pets when you can’t supervise them together.
Introducing a New Dog to an Existing Dog
You must prepare your home and current pet before introducing a new dog to an existing dog. Set aside everything your existing pet might guard, like his bones, food bowls, toys, and bedding in a safe area of the home. Even the most non-possessive dogs can rear their ugly head and fight for what’s theirs. Ensure the dog areas in your home are free of clutter as it can make your pets feel forced on each other and become aggressive.
The best place to introduce a new dog to your current dog is outside because it’s neutral territory. You’ll be using the parallel walking method, which requires two people because each dog must be leashed and walked separately. Walkers should each have a bag of treats. Patience is key; take your time going through the following steps. If, at any point, one or both dogs appears stressed or agitated, proceed slower.
- First, walk the dogs in the same direction, far enough apart so they can see each other without reacting.
- Reward dogs with praise and treats if they don’t show negative behavior when seeing the other dog.
- Pay attention to the body language of each dog. If you notice a stiff gait, hair standing up on the dog’s back, a prolonged stare, teeth-baring, or growling, interrupt the interaction calmly.
- Shorten the distance between the dogs if both dogs are comfortable and relaxed.
- Reward the dogs whenever they look at each other in a calm manner.
- Continue walking and closing the distance between the dogs.
- Once the dogs are close, let one walk behind the other, then switch.
- Walk dogs side by side if both appear comfortable.
- Allow the dogs plenty of time to get acquainted (under supervision), including some sniffing, circling, and playing.
What if you have to introduce the two dogs in the home? Separate them with an appropriately sized baby or dog gate and watch their interactions. Reinforce positive behavior with treats and praise. Once you feel they are comfortable around each other, allow them to spend time without the gate.
Introducing a New Dog to Jealous and Aggressive Dog Homes
Introducing dogs to each other is challenging; add some jealousy and aggressiveness, and it’s even more so. It is not recommended to bring in a second dog if your current dog fails to get along with all dogs. If your existing pet gets along with certain breeds, the ideal way to introduce the two dogs is through the parallel walking method discussed above. Things you can do to help your current pet act nicely around your new dog:
- Feed them separately
- Provide separate, quiet spaces where they can take a break
- Ensure each dog gets sufficient daily exercise and mental stimulation
- Avoid scolding or punishment as this can increase stress and anxiety in dogs
- Supervise interactions closely
Any time a barkfest ensues, intervene with the BarxBuddy handheld training device. A push of the button can get a dog’s attention, so you can redirect with a command and treat.
Introducing a new pet to current pets can be stressful and challenging. However, multi-pet families are common, and with a bit of patience and time, you might find your two pets are the bestest of furry friends.