Dogs are naturally social animals that tend to bond well with each other and with people. Nonetheless, introducing a new or foster dog to the other animals in your home can be tricky. Some animals can be fearful, overly excited, or even aggressive. So, to keep those first meetings safe and pleasant, here are a few tips you can follow.
How to Introduce a Puppy to Your Dog
If you have a dog that’s been your sole pet for awhile, introducing a new puppy can be daunting. Dogs are social animals, but they are also territorial. You want to assure your resident pet that the new arrival is now “part of the pack” and not a threat. Some dogs may get on well from the start, but it’s best to proceed with the introductions slowly.
You may want to begin by having your dog meet the new pup on neutral ground, where neither has territorial claims. Have each dog on leash but keep the leashes slack, so both animals are relaxed. Let them get a nice long look at each other before you let them approach and sniff noses. Reassure both animals that they are good dogs and reward calm behavior. Keep these first introductions brief, and separate the animals if tensions arise. The older dog will likely want to be boss, even if it’s a smaller breed than the pup. That’s okay. They will work out their long-term dynamic as they go. When you are away from home, keep the dogs separated until you are certain they get along well.
Editor’s Note: Jaime Migdal of Fetchfind shares additional tips for properly introducing dogs, socialization, and participating in doggy play dates.
Introducing a New Dog to Cats
If you already have cats and are bringing a dog into your home for the first time, there are a few things you can do to smooth the introductory period. First, be sure your cats have access to their food, water, and litter pans in a place where the dog is restricted. When bringing your new dog inside, allow it to remain in a crate or carrier for the initial meeting. Cats are naturally curious, and will want to check out the new arrival, but a new pup bounding through their environment is likely to be jarring—even if they’ve had pleasant encounters with dogs in the past. If the dog is too big for a crate, set up a secure pet gate between the dog and cats. Such “through the fence” introductions let the cats know they can approach the dog without fear. Be sure to praise your dog for calm behavior.
Slowly introduce more face-to-face meetings in a safe and supervised environment. Supervise all interactions between your cats and their new companion until they feel comfortable enough around each other to share the living space. And always be sure your cats have a safe and comfy place to escape to if they become frightened or over-stimulated.
Introducing a Foster Dog to Other Dogs
Introducing a foster dog to a home that already has resident dogs can be tricky. Likely your dogs have already set up a pack dynamic that works for them (e.g., who sleeps where, who eats first, etc.). And keep in mind that your foster may be coming from an environment where it was a stray on the streets or in a crowded shelter.
As suggested earlier, you may want to have the first meeting on neutral ground to minimize the chances for territorial or aggressive behavior. If you have more than one dog, you may also want to introduce your foster to each resident dog separately before letting them meet as a group. This can lessen any anxiety your foster pup may feel, and it will reduce the chances that your resident pets will “gang up on” the new arrival.
As always, reward calm behavior and cut the session short if problems arise. If you are accustomed to fostering you may already have a “guest pet area” in your home where your foster can feel safe as it becomes acclimated. If not, you may want to keep your foster separated from your other pets when unsupervised.
Bringing a new pet into your home is an act of love and should be approached from that perspective. How well your pets get along as a family will depend to some degree on the behaviors you encourage and the vibe that you put out. So be calm but assertive, and don’t be stingy with praise when your dogs behave well. Remember, they are taking their cues from you, as well as from their own instincts.
If you do find yourself overwhelmed, ask for help. Animal behaviorists and dog trainers are skilled in identifying and smoothing trouble spots in dog behavior, and they can offer practical guidance that you can apply in your daily interactions with your pets.
Cecily Kellogg is a pet lover who definitely has crazy cat lady leanings. Her pets are all shelter rescues, including the dog, who is scared of the cats. She spent eight years working as a Veterinary Technician before becoming a writer. Today she writes all over the web, including here at Figo.