7 Helpful Tips for Introducing a New Pet to the Pack

By Jackie Shelton, writer for Two Rabbits Media

Adding a new pet to the family can be a wonderful thing if you take the right approach to your growing fur family. Introducing a new dog to your other pets calls for a strategy to integrate everyone slowly by giving them time to adjust. With these pet introduction tips, you can smooth out the rough edges and reduce stress for everyone.

Create a Safe Environment

Pets need a secure home where they feel safe. The new cat or dog will be looking for designated space that they can call their own. Pet owners can start well from the beginning by dividing up the home into two zones: one for the new pet, and one for the animals already in the house. Each zone should have:

  • room to move and stretch out
  • a comfortable place to sleep
  • access to food and water
  • periodic attention from the residents of the house

This gives your new pet enough time to adjust to the home before meeting new friends.  

Encourage Sensory Exploration

Keeping a pet’s mind sharp is important to its overall health and animals like cats and dogs learn a lot about their environment through scent. This may be an unfamiliar concept for people, who are used to sight and sound being their primary sensory educators.

At periods throughout the day, homeowners can switch which animals are in which zone. This provides an opportunity for all the pets to get used to each other’s scent in a non-threatening way. People can also occasionally place a few items used by a pet in one zone into another zone, to foster some things in common.

Offer Encouragement

Meeting new friends can be stressful for anyone, but pets especially. At this time, they need to know that they are loved and cared for. This is an excellent time to reinforce good behavior with treats, and provide lots of attention. Each pet deserves time to relax and cuddle with their hoomans to create a higher sense of security within the new arrangement. You can also give your dogs a calming supplement to help them relax and grow accustomed to their new environment. 

Maintain Regular Routines

A new dog coming into the home might have different routines than the household. That is a good time to start slowly transitioning from the old routine to the new one.

As much as possible, pet owners should try to stick to the standard for their current pets. Pets rely on routines to know what is expected of them, and a good routine helps to minimize stress. This can include anything from times your pets get up, eat, go on walks, and go to bed. People should continue with the gentle discipline approaches they regularly use, so that all their pets feel confident that the changes are under control.

Aim for a Neutral Meeting

After a few days, people can consider allowing their pets to meet each other. A new dog meeting strictly indoor cats may need to do so inside the house, preferably in rooms that are more neutral for the cats. Experts suggest that introducing dogs to each other ought to happen out of the home, in a location that is neutral for both parties. Each dog should have a handler who can maintain control of the leash and watch the dog carefully for their reactions. It may take time for the dogs to get used to each other. Patience and a willingness to try more than once may yield a better result.

Monitor for Conflict

Once the pets have all been allowed to meet each other and explore each other’s spaces, it may still make sense to keep use of the separate zones for a time. If the animals seem headed toward conflict, putting the divider between the zones for a short time can offer everyone time to plan and prepare. Giving each pet an opportunity to learn about each other, with the protection of a safe space when they need it, will ensure a happier long-term transition.

Consider Professional Assistance

People may have had dogs their entire lives, but still not know all the tricks of managing more than one dog, or multiple pets, in a home. Fortunately, there are several groups that pet owners can reach for information about introducing new pets to each other, or in improving their dog’s behavior. Owners who feel overwhelmed by the process might think about hiring a dog trainer or other behavior specialist to help with the transition.

Bringing in a new dog to a family of pets and people may seem complicated, so a good process in place is useful. When pet owners take time and care to make a slower introduction, they may have a better experience and a happier family in the end.

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