May 16, 2022
Introducing A Second Dog To Your Home: How To Prepare And Do It Successfully
You’ve crunched the numbers, got the blessing of your current dog (or reached a tentative agreement with your cat), found the perfect candidate at your local shelter, or decided on a reputable breeder, and now it’s official. You’re ready to introduce a new four-legged family member into your home.
Bringing a new dog into your home is a big deal! But, before you get too excited imagining the prospect of your new pup becoming best friends with the dog you already have at home or cuddling up and sharing naps with your cat, you’ll have to consider the best way to introduce them to your home and family.
Dog Compatibility Is Key
The first thing you’ll want to do when bringing a new dog home is to make sure that their personality and general needs will be conducive to your lifestyle and complement the pets you currently have. If your family is active and always on the go with activities like hiking, swimming, or camping, you could wear out a low-energy dog like an English Bulldog. Conversely, if you’re busy and don’t have time for several hours of exercise a day, the infinite energy of a Border Collie would probably be a poor match. You want to make sure your new dog’s personality and activity level are on par with your current dog.
Size is another consideration when bringing a second dog into your home. If you currently own a large dog, such as a Bernese Mountain Dog, they could easily hurt a smaller breed dog even during an innocent play session. If you currently own a small dog, adding a large dog to the mix can cause similar concerns.
The breed also plays an important role when introducing a puppy to an adult dog. Herding dogs such as Australian Shepherds may try to control the puppies’ movements, and working dogs such as Terriers may see the smaller animal as a threat and become aggressive. When you have a puppy and adult dog who is more compatible, assimilating the new puppy into your home becomes less challenging. If you introduce a high-energy, large breed puppy into a home with a smaller or senior dog, the puppy’s enthusiasm may be too much for the older dog, causing anxiety, aggression, or potential injury.
It’s important to consider gender as well. While opposite-sex dogs are most likely to get along with limited issues if they are adopted together, it may be a safer bet to go with breeds of the opposite sex when introducing a new dog to a dog already established in the home. Male and male or female and female combinations may cause dominance issues, which may lead to aggression from one or both dogs as they try to sort out who is the “alpha” and who is the “beta” in the home.
While breed and gender don’t always dictate personality, it’s usually a good indicator of what you can expect. Here’s the DogWatch guide to breed exercise and activity needs!
Preparing Your Home For Your New Dog
Before your new pup arrives, you’ll want to get your home ready. It’s always best to buy new everything for your new dog to avoid any dominance struggles over your current dog’s favorite toys, beds, or bowls. Make sure to double-check your supplies with a checklist to avoid any potential headaches.
Once you have your supplies ready, temporarily rearrange your home to make it conducive to the introductory process. When your new dog enters your space, be prepared to keep it separate from other animals for at least 24-48 hours. Move your current pet’s essential items to a defined space and restrict access to that area. Keep your new dog near you during their first couple of days. Before allowing them to explore the home, walk them through each room on a leash to help familiarize them with the layout. You can even consider keeping them on a leash for a couple of days until they get used to your routine. Always keep things consistent with a new dog and set any major ground rules from the start. Your new pup will assimilate themselves into whatever routine you provide, so make sure they have a proper understanding of house rules and boundaries!
If you’re bringing a new puppy into your home, you’ll need to take additional precautions. Much like having a toddler, you will want to puppy-proof your home to reduce the number of potentially dangerous situations. This will include tasks like moving electrical cords out of reach, securing cabinets with cleaning supplies, putting medications away, and keeping doors and windows closed at all times. Here is a helpful checklist for puppy-proofing your home! Remember that once your new pup is in your home, they will be overstimulated and overwhelmed. Keep things simple, remain calm, and introduce them to their new surroundings slowly.
Dog Meet Dog
You’ll want to move slowly with this process to ensure success. The first meeting should be outdoors in a calm, controlled environment on neutral ground. It will always help if you have a second person to assist you, and the ideal situation would be on a walk. Walk the dogs in the same direction while maintaining a safe distance of 30-40 feet. After 10-15 minutes, find an open area and slowly allow the dogs to move closer to each other while on leash. Monitor the body language of each dog and be prepared to separate them at the first sign of aggression. Remember not to pull dogs apart or use tight leashes or collars – this will only associate the meeting with negative reinforcement.
If you plan to introduce your pets in your yard or at your favorite dog park, you’ll want to take similar precautions. DON’T force an interaction; it’s okay if one or both dogs don’t seem interested initially. Remain upbeat, and allow them to take the time they feel necessary to get acquainted. If the dogs show signs of aggression or agitation, give them a short break before attempting another introduction. If the meeting goes positively, allow your dogs to play for a few minutes. Be sure to end the interaction while things are still going well, this will help both dogs associate the other with only positive experiences. Pay attention to your tone and how you interact with the dogs during this process – provide plenty of treats and verbal praise when the dogs are doing well!
When you return home, pick up all toys, food bowls, and beds and move them to separate areas. You do NOT want the dogs competing for possessions. Use baby gates to create barriers that allow the dogs to see each other without directly interacting. Only allow face-to-face interactions under direct supervision and remember to provide regular breaks, especially if either dog shows signs of aggression. Make sure you are feeding your dogs in separate rooms and separate bowls, and allow them to finish eating before interacting again. This will help prevent potential resource guarding. You can gradually begin to move their bowls into the same room if there are no signs of aggression.
Dog Meet Cat
As with another dog, you’ll want to ensure your cat has a safe, separate space with all essential items for the first 24-48 hours that your new dog is in the home. Leash your dog and allow your cat to roam the house, investigating your new pup’s bowls, toys, bed, or any other items. Make sure to provide your dog rewards and praise if they are remaining calm. Perform these interactions intermittently throughout the first few days your pets are together, always keeping them short, only a few minutes or so. If both animals seem to be comfortable, you can start letting your pup off their leash.
Watch your cat’s body language closely during interactions. If they show signs of fear or anxiety, such as pinning their ears back or puffing out their tail, do NOT allow your dog near the cat. You always want to allow your cat an “escape route” so they don’t feel threatened. Once your new dog sees your feline family member, they may become a bit obsessed with the idea of chasing them. If this is the case, your best bet is desensitization. Dogs can easily cause serious injury to cats even during innocent play. Allow your dog to see your cat without interacting with them, offer them toys, attention, or work on obedience commands to direct their focus away from the cat. Offer them praise and rewards for leaving the cat alone. Until both animals are comfortable with each other and can remain calm, ONLY allow face-to-face interactions while your dog is securely on-leash.
Take It Slow With Your New Dog
Even after a successful introduction to your other pets, you’ll want to continue to take it easy on your new pup. Entering a new home is incredibly stressful for a dog, and they can quickly regress or become anxious if they aren’t allowed a smooth transition. This also applies to pets that are already in your house. Keep interactions positive and provide space and time away from each other when necessary. Remember to keep an eye out for signs of aggression or resource guarding, and make sure to address them immediately if they arise.
Adding a new dog to your pack is one of the most exciting things you can do, but you’ll want to ensure you are doing it appropriately and keeping your pet’s perspectives in mind. Welcoming a new pet can be stressful for your four-legged family members, so take it slow to ensure a smooth transition.