Thereʼs a few things to consider when introducing a new dog at home when you have other pets.
Bringing a new puppy or rescue dog home is exciting, but it needs to be handled carefully to ensure it’s a positive experience for everyone involved, particularly when it comes to other pets.
Introducing a new dog is best on neutral territory
Neutral territory is always best for first encounters between dogs, so having them meet outside and go for a walk together is great. If your pup isn’t yet fully vaccinated, a friend’s or neighbour’s place is good, and ensure all other pets are fully vaccinated
Keep it calm
Ensure the pup has a quiet, settled experience when entering the home to give them time to sniff around and check out the surroundings.
Children will be understandably excited but should be encouraged to sit down and just allow the puppy to come to them. Greeting it with a gentle pat, treat and calm voice.
Your other dogs should be introduced to the pup in a controlled manner, allowing plenty of space between them.
Create a positive association
Introducing a new dog at home can upset the other pets who may not welcome sharing their home and the attention, so we want to make any interactions they have when the puppy is around, positive.
Introduce other dogs in a controlled manner, allowing plenty of space between them. Never force interactions or allow the puppy to jump all over your other dog.
Use treats or other rewards to help create a positive association with the new family member, rewarding calm behaviour and good interactions. Also ensure you give each equal time and not make a big fuss over the puppy so that your other dogs in particular resent having the newbie around.
Watch their body language and play styles
When playing, watch both dog’s body language and for any signs of anxiety including the subtle tongue flicking, yawning, tail tucked or submissive behaviours, and any aggressive reaction from either dog, which can also be a fear-based response.
If this is an ongoing issue, please see a trainer as soon as possible. Remember punishing a dog who is reacting out of fear, can make it worse.
Make sure the play is not one-sided, ideally they will be mimicking each other’s play style, and reward bigger dogs for playing gently with the younger or smaller pooch.
Give them their own safe space
When introducing a new dog at home, set up a safe and comfortable space for the new pet to retreat to if they are feeling a bit overwhelmed and keep children and other pets away from this area.
Dog crates are great for this and can help with toilet training too. Set it up with their blankets, toys, a long lasting chew or treats to create a positive association with being in there. Learn how to Crate Train your dog HERE.
Avoid Resource Guarding
Remove all items your current dog may be protective of such as toys or food. Remember you are highly valuable resource too, so you’ll need to give each pet equal attention so older dogs don’t resent having the newbie around. CLICK HERE to learn more about Resource Guarding.
Keep cats separate
If you have a cat, you should start with them separate rooms or areas with the doors closed for a few days, so they can sniff and smell each other under the door.
Use a Feliway pheromone diffuser or catnip to help keep them calm.
Once comfortable always give the cat somewhere up high to retreat to and allow observation from a vantage point. Never force animals to interact.
If going out, always ensure a barrier is between other animals until you are sure there arenʼt going to be any problems. For some animals, a barrier may always be needed.
For more tips on introducing a new dog at home to cats, click HERE.
Give older dogs time out
When introducing a new dog at home, never favour one dog over the other, take it slowly and give senior pets some time out, ensuring any aches and pains from osteoarthritis or other niggling issues are taken care of before puppy arrives.
If fighting breaks out
Not all dogs, like people, will necessarily get along. If you find yourself struggling and the dogs are starting to fight, or one is getting stressed and anxious around the other, take a read of our article and watch the video for some tips to help HERE.
Always get the help of qualified trainer at the earliest sign of trouble as it is important to get on to any behaviour problems as soon as possible, as they don’t get better, they just escalate.
As your puppy may have only had its first round of vaccinations, it may not be fully protected from the core diseases canine distemper, hepatitis and parvovirus, so when introducing a puppy to multiple pet households, ensure parasite protection is up to date on all animals as well to keep them safe from fleas, ticks and intestinal worms, and that any playmates are up to date with their vaccinations.
It’s best to avoid areas where there are lots of dogs – dog parks, catʼs and communal dog bowls or just pick them up in these areas.
Vaccination regimes differ slightly depending on the area so itʼs best to check with your local vet about when itʼs safe to get out and about. Nexgard SPECTRA will provide them with protection from these and other common parasites and can be given to puppies from 8 weeks of age and over 2kg.
And to check out the Vitapet treat range for puppies and adult dogs, and some more puppy training tips, visit the Vitapet website.
About the Author: Lara Shannon is a certified dog behaviourist and trainer, pet food nutrition specialist, Executive Producer and Host of Pooches at Play on Channel 10 and editor of Poochesatplay.com. Lara also runs her own dog training business in Melbourne’s Bayside area and is the Author of World of Dogs and Eat, Play, Love Your Dog