Introducing a new dog to an existing pet

If you already have a dog or cat at home, and you’re planning introducing a new dog to the family, it’s important to be prepared for the new arrival and the changes that follow.

We have got some tips and tricks from our friends, the vet experts at Joii, to help you make sure any introductions run as smoothly as possible.

Things to consider before you get a new dog

Before you get a new dog, you’ll want to consider how your existing pooch or cat might react to having to share their home.

If you already have a cat

If you’re thinking of adding a dog to the family, you might want to pay close attention to how your existing cat acts around any dogs they might see in their everyday lives. From the dogs that pass by the house on their walks or any family dogs they might have met.

If they’re confident, that can be a good sign when thinking about getting a dog, whereas nervous animals, those who have had bad experiences in the past, or those that suffer from certain medical conditions might prefer to remain as the only pet.

If you already have a dog

If you want to get a second dog but you’re not sure how your pooch might react, you’ll want to watch their behaviour around other dogs they might meet on their walks.

Ideally, there should be no barking, growling or lunging. Even if they react negatively towards certain canines, it’s not to say you won’t be able to get another dog.

Like all new friendships, your pets will need to get used to each other over time and adjust to their new surroundings. Give them time, take things slowly and keep trying.

Introducing a new dog to an existing cat

Introducing a new dog to your existing cat shouldn’t be rushed, forcing your pets to interact when they are not quite ready may cause stress for all involved and reinforce negative emotions.

Give your dog time to settle

When you bring your new dog home, you’ll want to give them a few days to familiarise themselves with their new surroundings before introducing them to your cat.

Here are our top tips:

  • For the first few days, keep your cat and dog separate
  • Keep your dog in a room where your cat doesn't frequent
  • Make sure your dog's area has the following to keep them comfortable:

Do some scent swapping

Smell is an important form of communication for our cats and dogs and you can use this to your advantage while you integrate your new dog. Here’s how:

  • Keep your dog and cat separate
  • Exchange bedding between your pets
  • Stroke your dog and let your cat smell your hand
  • Rub a towel on one animal and put it underneath the other pet’s food bowl (and vice versa)
    • If your pet is not eating, remove the towel and try again another day

Calm first introductions

You’ll want to keep their first introductions as calm as possible and try not to have too people or distractions present when they first meet. Here are some top tips to help that first meet run as smoothly as possible:

  • Keep your dog on a lead but keep it slack
  • Let them smell each other (a scent which they’ll already recognise from your initial preparations)
  • Watch them closely and monitor for any changes in their body language
  • Be ready to intervene, just in case things don’t go to plan
  • Stay as calm as possible throughout the introduction
  • Provide treats for both pets if the meeting is going well

If things are getting a bit too rowdy, stop the meeting and try again later. For this to work, their interactions need to be positive (or at least indifferent).

If all is going well, after a few minutes have passed, end the session and separate the two so that you can provide some fuss to both pets. Lots of short, positive interactions will really help both pets feel comfortable.

Most importantly, be patient. Individual dogs and cats will take to new situations at their own pace so don’t force them to spend time together.

Keep providing a safe space

Even when both pets get along and are happy to spend time together, you still need to offer a space to which they can retreat if they want to be alone. If you are crate training your new dog, make sure it is positioned in a quiet place where they can be alone if they need to.

Introducing a new dog to an existing dog

It's important to take introductions slowly and carefully when it comes to getting another dog. Here are some things to consider before rushing to bring your new addition into your pack.  

Start on neutral territory

You’ll want to introduce your dogs on ‘neutral ground’ at first so that neither animal has ‘claimed’ the area or have an advantage over the other. This space should be quiet and secure, like a friend’s garden or a peaceful part of a park. It also helps to have a friend or family member take part in the introduction too so you have full control of each dog. You should:

  • Keep both dogs on the lead
  • Take turns to follow each other and try to retrace each other’s steps
    • This way both dogs can sniff the other’s scent before meeting
  • Keep a good distance between them to start with
    • Always look out for signs of stress or aggression

Meeting face-to-face

Once both dogs are happy and comfortable with the first step, you’re ready to let them meet face-to-face. This can be quite daunting but don’t worry, it’s all part of the process.

  • Keep both dogs on the lead but keep it fairly loose
  • Stay as calm as possible as your dogs will pick up on your emotions
  • Allow the dogs to meet slowly and calmly
    • Always monitor their body language and separate them if there are any signs of aggression, such as lip curling or growling
  • Give both dogs praise and a treat for good behaviour
  • Following the initial greeting, take the dogs for a walk together
    • Keep their leads on until they get to know each other

Remember: Don't try to force your dogs to interact or walk closely. Let them lead the meeting and take things at their pace.

Introducing the dogs at home

After you introduce your new dog to your resident pooch, you can finally let them meet at home. Before you do, here are some tips on ensuring your house is still standing after it:

  • Have someone take your existing dog for a walk
  • Remove any toys, treats, beds or food that might create tension between the two
  • Bring your new dog inside to give them a chance to explore new living space alone
  • Don’t leave your new dog unattended when they’re exploring
  • Bring your existing dog home so that they can finally meet indoors
  • If there are any signs of aggression, such as lip curling or growling, separate the dogs and try again later

 

If you are struggling with introducing your pets or have started to experience a breakdown in an initially good introduction, it is a good idea to seek professional help. Speak to your vet who will be able to provide you with advice or refer you to a qualified behaviourist.

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