Introducing a New Pet to your Old Pet

Adopting a new pet?
In the animal world, first impressions are critical.

Here’s how to peacefully introduce your new furry family member to the rest of the gang.

Introducing Dogs

Go for a Walk
Take your new dog for a walk around the neighborhood with the sole purpose of tiring him out. Don’t worry about teaching commands or correcting bad behavior at this point. Have someone else take your other dog and meet you at a neutral point outside. If you let the two dogs meet in your house, it could end up creating territory issues.

Positive Reinforcements (AKA Treats)
This is a time for lots of treats and positive reinforcement, since you want the dogs to associate good things with each other. Let them sniff each other, but only for a few seconds before redirecting their attention to something else fun like a treat. Walk the dogs together and let them interact briefly at intervals. Watch both dogs closely for signs of aggression (direct stares, growling, hair standing up) and interrupt it immediately. If one or both dogs assume a play posture, you can begin to let them interact more. When they appear to be comfortable with each other, you can take them home. Give both dogs plenty of emotional support by allowing them to peacefully work out who will be the dominant dog.

Give Them Their Own Space
Each dog will need its own space and toys, especially at first. They’ll eventually work out among themselves how to share toys, beds, and you.

©istockphoto/knape

©istockphoto/knape

Introducing Cats

First Impressions
Introducing new cats to each other is a similar process. Keep in mind that while most cats can learn to tolerate another cat, not all will be best friends no matter what you do. With cats, first impressions are critical. For a few days, your new cat will need her own room with toys, bed and litter box. Place your new cat’s bowl near the door in her room and the resident cat’s bowl on outside of the same door. This way they can get use to smelling each other while they do something they associate with fun (eating). If there’s too much hissing or one of the cats won’t eat, move the bowls farther apart. Gradually move the bowls closer until both cats are relaxed while eating across the door from each other.

Start the Bonding
A two-sided toy, such as two catnip mice tied together at the tails, is a great way to get the cats to start playing together while safely separated by the door. Create a new “group scent” by wearing an old sock over your hand while you pet each cat. This helps spread both cats’ scents from one to the other. At least once a day, let the cats switch places for a while. The resident cat can investigate the new cat’s scent in her room while the new cat safely explores her new house. When they seem comfortable, it’s safe to have a supervised face-to-face meeting. At the first sign of trouble, go back to the separation arrangement and try again later.

While it’s exciting to bring home a new pet, give them time to rest and adjust. Pets who have been in a shelter need about three days to decompress before meeting friends or expectations. Patience in the first few days will pay off in years of a peaceful household.

Meet the Author: Robin Howard

Robin Howard is a full-time freelance writer who lives in Charleston, South Carolina. When she’s not writing you can find her traveling the world or kayaking, paddleboarding and racing sailboats in the Charleston Harbor. In addition to ghost writing for SMBs and Fortune 500 companies, she is a regular contributor to Charleston Style & Design, Charleston Magazine, IBM Systems Magazine and Computer Technology Review. Robin is the author of Moving to Charleston: The Un-Tourist Guide and is currently working on a guidebook entitled Pluff Mud Pie: A Traveler's Guide to Unforgettable Days and Nights in Charleston.

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