Adding another pet to your household is exciting but should be done with careful consideration. With some forethought, you can avoid common mistakes and set your pets up for a better chance of success. As with us humans, first impressions are very important for dogs. Whether you’re bringing home a new puppy or an elderly rescue, the veterinarians at East Valley Animal Hospital want to help you prepare for introducing dogs to other dogs or household cats.
When it comes to domesticated animals, there is an endless combination of bonded pet relationships that can form. From cats and potbelly pigs to dogs and deer, unlikely pet friendships are our stories! For most, though, the traditional dog-dog or dog-cat relationships are the most common to navigate.
If you already have a pet and are considering getting another dog, it may be helpful to adopt a companion that is already accustomed to living with other animals. Adoption not only saves a life, it also saves you money. However, we do not recommend bringing your pet to a shelter to see how it will react to other animals—this is a stressful experience for your pet, as well as for the other animals.
There are a few general rules to follow for any type of new pet introduction:
- Always make new pet introductions in a controlled, neutral setting.
- Plan the introduction for a time when you can all spend at least a full 24 hours together.
- Be patient, speak encouragingly in a calm voice, and praise/reinforce good behavior.
- For their own safety, keep new pets separated from each other (in crates ideally) when you are away from home.
- Always supervise interactions until you are 100% sure that the two pets are getting along.
Five Types of Doggie Introductions
1. Dogs Meeting Other Dogs
Depending on a dog’s temperament and history, canine interactions can be unpredictable. A careful and slow introduction is the best way to go. Consider introducing the dogs in neutral territory, like the neighbor’s yard or a park. Keep both dogs leashed and have a friend or family member helping with the new introduction. If the dogs are enjoying each other’s company—friendly sniffing and play—you can let the leashes drag. You’ll want to make sure neither pet can run away.
For the second stage—a home introduction—take both dogs for a walk together around your neighborhood or let them play in the yard before you go inside. The resident dog may feel territorial if you immediately introduce the new dog inside the house. Keep the two dogs separated whenever you are away from home until they have become accustomed to each other.
2. Dogs Meeting Puppies
First, we always recommend letting the new puppy stay with its mother and siblings until they reach the age of seven to nine weeks. During this time, puppies learn basic good manners and how to communicate with other dogs. Older dogs can be impatient with frisky puppies. The more puppies can learn about the rules of play and polite doggy behavior, the better they will get along with adult dogs. Adopting too soon could cause more harm and make home-adjustment difficult. If your resident dog growls at a puppy understand that growls are a form of communication, and the older dog is teaching the puppy how to respect boundaries. With this in mind, you can follow the instructions above on how to introduce two dogs to each other.
3. Dogs Meeting Cats
As with dogs meeting other dogs, when a dog is meeting a cat, he/she should always be leashed. Pay close attention to the body language of both animals and watch for warning signs. Mutual curiosity is the best indicator that the two will get along. Indifference is also an ok first encounter. If your resident dog seems calm when meeting a new cat, and will obey sit and stay commands while the cat roams freely, it’s not likely that your dog will behave aggressively toward the cat in the future. If you are introducing a new dog to a resident cat, you may want to limit the interactions until you get a sense of how responsive the dog will be to your commands. This could mean keeping the cat behind closed doors while the dog roams. Or keeping the dog in a crate while the cat roams.
4. Dogs Meeting Kittens
Kittens are small and vulnerable, especially to dogs that enjoy aggressive play. A dog may not intend to harm a kitten, but one playful nip could be detrimental. With that being said, you should never leave a kitten alone with a dog. Prepare a room for the kitten that your dog does not have access to him/her. Exercise your dog before he meets the kitten, so that he will be more relaxed. During the introduction, keep the kitten in a carrier and your dog on a leash. If your dog remains calm, and obeys sit and stay commands, let the kitten out to explore while your dog is leashed.
5. Meeting Pets of Other Species
It’s difficult to tell whether dogs will cohabitate well with rabbits, birds, lizards, or other small pets. Extra supervision is always required. Cohabitation will depend on the personality of your dog, and whether or not they have already been socialized with other animals. Behavior training can help prepare dogs for accepting other animals, but some breeds will instinctually hunt smaller animals. Make introductions in as controlled a setting as possible, and observe your pet’s body language carefully. Make sure your exotic animal has a safe space to reside while you are making slow introductions (these types of introductions can take days, weeks or months).
Local Vet in Gilbert
If you’re in need of more advice about introducing dogs or another new pet to your home, the veterinarians at East Valley Animal Hospital are happy to discuss different scenarios with you. We have seen a variety of thriving pet friendships. Our team is committed to educating our clients in how to keep your pets healthy year-round, with good nutrition and exercise. We stay on top of the latest advances in veterinary technology. And, above all, we always remember that every single animal deserves to be treated with loving care for every check-up, procedure or surgery.