Pleased to meet you
Introducing your puppy or new dog to other animals
What an exciting day it is when you bring your new puppy or dog home. Everyone wants to meet them and you know that all your friends and family, including the furry and feathered variety, will love this fluffy bundle of puppy fun! Or will they?
Unfortunately the statement “first impressions count” is as true for our pets as it is for people. Start off on the wrong foot (or paw!) and the relationship between your new pup and the other members of your household may never blossom into friendship.
While it is very tempting to introduce your new pup to everyone and everything all at once, imagine how overwhelming it is for a young animal. Not only have you left the security of your mum, siblings and familiar surroundings but you are suddenly tossed into a world of new scents, sounds and other creatures who are wishing you hadn’t arrived at all!
Instead, how much easier it would be if you had time to get to know your new human owners, your bed, food bowl and the daily routine of the house. Then you’d feel settled and ready to get to know your new animal family. A little forethought can ensure that your pup has the best beginning in your household.
Motivate your pets...
Puppies by nature are curious and gregarious creatures and so need little encouragement to meet your other pets. They also want to please their leader and best mate, which, of course, is you. Most puppies also enjoy their food and/or toys. Use all this knowledge to your advantage during introductions.
Also consider what may motivate your existing pets. Cats may enjoy a special treat or simply a stroke along their back. Dogs may like a doggy treat when they sit quietly. Reward the good behaviour of your existing pets during introductions to the new canine arrival.
Encourage any friends and family members you have to help out too. Having one person present for each animal is always a good idea with introductions but ensure they are capable of handling your animals.
Gradually does it
Gradual, gradual, gradual. If there is one phrase that behaviourists say more than any others, it would have to be this one.
Give your new pup time to settle in to their new environment before you begin introductions to your other pets. This may be a few hours or even days and when they finally do come face-to-face, a few minutes may be sufficient at first. Control of the situation is extremely important to avoid any negative experiences, so keep at least one of the animals restrained initially until they are used to one another.
Gradually build up the time the animals have together and their freedom within the shared space. Your patience at this stage will help all future interactions between your pets. Go at your pets’ pace.
Pet by Pet
Dog Eat Dog
Individual temperament and experience determine how your older dog will view your new pup. A well-socialised dog will likely have little trouble in accepting a new arrival, if introduced in a calm and controlled manner, but a dog who has little experience with other dogs may need to have assistance in meeting dogs, preferable long before the new pup arrives.
When your pup is settled in at home, bring them out to meet your dog. Keep both animals on a leash at first. Ask your older dog to sit while your pup walks around them on leash. Reward your older dog’s calm behaviour with a treat or praise. Also keep the pup calm.
Allow the two dogs to play for a short spell, if they wish, but monitor the situation carefully. If your older does gets irritated by the young dog’s presence, then separate them. Do not be too horrified if your existing dog tells off the young pup for too-boisterous play. This is natural.
Do not leave the dogs alone together until you are confident that neither dog will get hurt and always make sure that both have a place to retreat to when they need some space.
If you are introducing an older dog, it may be best to do so on neutral ground rather than within your existing dog's home territory.
Rabbits, Rodents and Feathered Friends
Dogs are the natural predators of small mammals such as rabbits, guinea pigs and mice and will give chase when stimulated by the rapid running or fluttering movements of these smaller animals. Approach these introductions with extreme caution and unless you are present to supervise, you may decide never to allow these species to meet face-to-face, without the safety of a cage or leash.
Dogs that are introduced at a very young age to small mammals and birds will often accept them as family members throughout life and it can be a joy to watch your rat crawl all over your dog!. This is the exception to the rule, however, and if you want these animals to become firm friends then you will have to put in the effort.
In general, dogs and fish in fish tanks are fairly safe together, providing the tank has a lid on it. Supervise the first couple of meetings to ensure the dog does not jump against the tank.
Ponds in the garden may require a little more work. Some dogs will go fishing whilst others are content to paddle! Be careful with your young puppy around water until you know that he can safely get into and out of the water (or keep it covered) and doesn’t drink too much pond water!
As most cat owners know, cats have a way of looking after themselves. Those canines who come close will inevitable get a hiss, a spit, a scratch or a bite. Few dogs make the same mistake twice!
Of course there is the potential for serious damage to one or more species, so go gradually. With one person present for every animal, bring your dog on leash into the room where the cat is present. Ask your pup to sit and reward their calm behaviour. Never ever allow your puppy to chase your cat.
With your cat in a carrying case, allow your pup to sniff through the bars. Do not allow your pup to climb all over the case or bark at the cat, especially if your cat has had little exposure to dogs. When you feel confident in having both animals in the same area without restraint, ensure that each has space to get away from the other.
You may need to relocate your cat’s food dishes and litter trays as puppies have the habit of investigating, playing in and ingesting these!
If you have a horse, then chances are they have already been exposed to dogs in the past. If they are fearful, then you may need to work on this prior to bringing your pup home.
Horses are prey species and so naturally will fear dogs, their potential predators. Keep your pup on leash and reward their quiet behaviour around your horse. Give your horse a special treat for accepting your new dog.
It is important to introduce your puppy to a variety of people – men, women, and children of all ages. Reward your pup’s calm behaviour around people. This process of socialisation is one of the most important stages of your dog’s life so ensure that you give her lots of positive experiences like puppy pre-school, as well as some basic obedience training to teach good manners.
Remember: We all make mistakes...
Don’t feel too guilty if all does not go according to plan or you have a setback or two in the introductions phase. Establishing relationships takes time and your pets have to get to know one another’s personality and behaviour. Do seek help from your vet, a dog trainer or an animal behaviourist if you have difficulty in establishing or maintaining good relationships between your new puppy and other family members.