Your puppy checklist is complete, and you’ve purchased everything from chew toys to puppy pads to a monogrammed food dish. You’re almost ready to bring home your new arrival, but in the excitement you forgot about one thing: your other pets.

Well, we’ve got you covered. Week 3 of Dog Tails’ Puppy Month is all about introductions. We’ve consulted the experts, and shared their rules, tips and tricks with you. Learn the correct steps to a successful first meeting between puppy and the resident pet, and hopefully it will be the beginning of a beautiful friendship. And don’t forget to capture these eventful first meetings with your camera – a perfect way to preserve the memory AND a perfect way to capture a great image to enter into our Puppy Photo Contest on Facebook!

dog and catIntroducing Your Puppy to Your Cat

The most important rule of introducing your new puppy to your cat is to take it slow.  When it comes to a dog and a cat’s first meeting, do not just open the door and let them chase each other.  Instead, let the two animals slowly move closer to each other, while maintaining control of them at all times. For this reason, it is best to have another person help with the introductions, so that both animals can be quickly pulled away if necessary. Finally, for particularly nervous cats and boisterous pups, we suggest starting off with the pets in crates placed near each other, or separated by a baby gate.

On your puppy’s first day home, schedule sufficient time for the introduction. The best time for it is often after your puppy has had some exercise and a meal. This will put him or her in a more calm mood for what can be a stressful situation for all involved.

During the introduction, be sure to reward good behavior. As always, treats are helpful signal for both animals. Ask the puppy to look away from the cat and look at you. If he complies, give him a treat – he is doing very well! If he does not comply, continue working with the dog to calm him down and divert his attention away from the animal. Toys and treats and words of praise are all helpful here.

Finally, don’t forget about your cat in these whirlwind first days. Make sure to give your cat plenty of time and space to adjust to this new situation. You should designate areas that are off-limits to your puppy. The blog Raising Spot suggests giving your cat “safe zones” where she can roam peacefully and not feel “evicted” by the puppy.

One last note: some dogs will need more guidance and training than others – it depends on the dog’s breed, and prior history. It is also important to remember that some dogs may not be suitable for a home with a cat or cats. Certain breeds – specifically, sighthounds (greyhounds, whippets, etc.), pit bulls and terriers – are more likely to be aggressive towards cats. We says this not to malign these wonderful breeds, but to prepare you. Some aggressive and predatory dogs may attack or even kill a cat if left unsupervised.  This activity could occur even if the dog and cat appear to get along when you are present; as a result, experts recommend separating the animals when you leave the house.

Luckily, starting early is often the key to a good dog-cat relationship. According to the ASPCA, puppies raised with cats are less likely to be predatory towards them as they grow older.  Most dog experts report that nearly any dog can learn to live comfortably around cats, if they are properly introduced and trained.

Introducing Your Puppy to Your Dog

When it comes to dog-dog introductions, the same basic rules apply: take it slow, reward good behavior, and be alert. At the same time, resident dogs require their own set of tips and tricks.

One of our favorite dog sites, Dogster, suggests starting with your dog’s strongest asset: his nose. Prepare both your new puppy and your current dog(s) by letting them sniff objects with each other’s scents (for example, toys, towels, beds or even you own clothes). These “smelling sessions” give the dogs opportunities to pick up information about each other and be prepared for their first meeting.

When the big day comes, we suggest enlisting a family member or friend to assist you. That way, each pet has his own handler, who can give treats and encouragement for good behavior, and, importantly, can pull a dog away if he or she senses hostility or aggression. If your current dog has a history of aggressive behavior towards other dogs, we strongly recommend that you hire a skilled professional dog trainer to supervise and guide you through the introduction process.

dog and puppyThe initial introduction should take place in a “neutral” area – such as your neighbor’s yard or a nearby park. That way, your resident dog will be less protective of his turf. Allow the dogs to approach each other slowly. If the puppy is very small, ask your assistant to hold him while you allow your bigger dog to watch and sniff briefly. After a few of these quick “visits,” you can start to put the puppy down and slowly walk him towards the older dog.

With all dog-dog introductions, start with short periods of sniffing and greeting, followed by time apart. Be alert at all times during these meetings, and watch out for aggressive behaviors, such as hair standing up on one dog’s back, teeth-baring, deep growls, a stiff-legged gait, or a prolonged stare. If you notice any of these behaviors, separate the dogs immediately. Distract both dogs with toys and treats, and reward them when they switch their attention away from the other dog and back to you. Once they both have calmed down, you can try again.

As with most dog training tasks, consistency is key. Repeat these meetings over and over again, extending them a little bit each time. Once they are comfortable together, try the introductions at home, again starting with quick meetings and then gradually increasing the length. Stay positive and patient – it will help you and your dogs get through the process much more smoothly. Eventually, if all goes well, you can progress to group walks and off-leash play sessions!

For those of you blessed with a full house of dogs, experts suggest introducing new puppies to one resident dog at a time – for your sake and the dogs! Another good tip for multiple dogs: start with the least excitable dog first, and work your way up to the feistiest one!

We hope these tips help your new puppy make a great first impression! Share you own experiences here in the comments, or via Facebook. And don’t forget to check back soon for more Puppy Month fun!

Dog and cat photo by fazen via Flickr.

Dog and puppy photo by Jim Winstead via Flickr.