If you own a pet, chances are that they mean the world to you and you may want another one. However, do you think that your current pet will feel the same? Many pets struggle with another one being added to the family. So, what can you do to help your current pet get used to the new pet while helping the new pet feel comfortable and safe in their new home? Continue reading to learn more about bringing a new pet into the family.
Bringing A New Pet Into The Family
Prepping Your Home
One thing that you should do before you bring home the new addition to your family is taking some time to pet-proof your home. Even if you have done this in the past for your current pets, take some time to double-check everything because there could be things that your current pet never got into, that your new pet might. Check out one of our previous articles to learn more about Dog Proofing Your Home.
Another thing to do before you bring your new fur baby home is to establish some house rules. The best way to do this is by holding a family meeting and discussing guidelines and ground rules. Some things to cover are who will take care of feeding the pet, and when and where you will do it. Another thing to discuss is who is going to take them for walks. Decide whether they will be allowed on the furniture. Determine if there are specific rooms or areas of the house they are not allowed in, for example, the upstairs or the guest bedroom, etc. Lastly, make sure everyone knows where the pet will sleep and where they will take care of their business.
Once you've established house rules and bring your pet home, you are going to want to let them get used to their new environment. Let them take their time getting used to sights and smells while also starting on training them. If they are already trained with some basic commands and are housebroken, you can work on teaching them the house rules you set in your family meeting. If not, check out this article to learn about Dog Training 101.
Introducing Them To Other Pets
The first time your current pet and your new pet meet, you want it to go as smoothly as possible. To ensure this, have them meet at a neutral place for their first time. Meeting at home could result in your current pet feeling like the new pet is invading or taking over their territory, which can make them hostile. One of the best places to meet is a local park that your current pet has never been to or one that they less frequently visit.
When they meet, it's a good idea to have them both on leashes held by separate people. Make sure their interaction is brief and if they show any sign of hostility, separate them and try again. When they are being friendly, praise them and reward them with treats.
Keep Bedding Separate
When you finally allow your pets to be at home together, you may want to continue to have temporary separation while they get used to each other and learn to integrate. Some ways you can do this are to make sure they have separate belongings such as food bowls, bedding, and toys. This may help avoid or diffuse confusion and possible aggression due to one pet or the other being territorial. You may also want to allow them access to separate parts of the house using a baby gate or something similar between them to distinguish territory. If the pets have been getting along, and consider the other to be family, then you can put their bedding together in the same room. If there is contention, separate them again.
Once your pets have started to get along more, you can introduce playtime. This should be done when your current pet can be around the new one without hostility. Make sure that you are watching and prepared to intervene the entire time they are together as one or the other could become irritated and/or aggressive. If you see any signs of real aggression and not just playful aggression, then you need to separate them and try to calm them down. If you can't tell between play aggression and real aggression, check out a previous article to learn about Aggressive Behavior in Dogs. When you see them playing well together, remember to positively reinforce it by giving praise and treats.
Cats to Dogs & Dogs to Cats
When introducing a new cat to a current dog, or vice versa, there are some things that you can do. When bringing in a new cat, give them their own room complete with a litter box, bed, food, and water. Then feed your current pets on the outside of their door to get accustomed to the smell. Another way to do this is by swapping blankets so they can smell them. Once they are comfortable with the smells, you can let them meet by following the rules above. However, Paws.org states "You may want to keep your dog on-leash and with you whenever your cat is free in the house during the introduction process." That way if your dog tries to catch the cat, whether it is for play or due to predatory instincts, then you can control the dog. Another thing to note is when you are not home or are unable to supervise them, separate them unless you are certain the cat will be safe.
One thing to remember is that bringing a new pet into the family can take time and effort from everyone. It may seem stressful, but after a little bit of time, you, your family, and your pets can live happily together. If you think that the pets will never end up getting along, you can always enlist the help of an animal trainer, or animal behavioralist. If that still does not work, which rarely does it fail, you may want to consider finding a new home for the new pet.