Tips on How to Safely Introduce your Puppy to New Animals
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When bringing a new puppy home, we are often blinded by our own excitement and the joys of puppy parenting that we assume our resident pets will be as well.
After all, why wouldn’t the thought of a new animal that knows no boundaries, commands, or manners be exciting for a pet that is already set in his or her own ways?
In reality, the way your new puppy is introduced to the resident animals is very important for keeping the peace within the household.
Especially if your new dog is slightly older than a weeks-old puppy, a proper introduction can be the difference between the atmosphere of doggy day care or World War III.
Here’s a few things to consider when that moment comes.
Introducing Puppy to Resident Dog(s)
When bringing home a new puppy, it is important to remember that resident dog(s) likely already have a sense of territory that they do not want infringed.
One of the absolute worst ways to introduce a new puppy is to walk into the home, set the puppy down, and let the resident animals decide whether or not they are happy with the puppy, which probably also looks (and sounds) like a chew toy.
Instead, (if at all possible), the dogs should be introduced one by one, first in neutral territory, such as a nearby park or trail.
Always make sure that both animals are either on or off leash, but never try to introduce one dog that is leashed to an off-leash dog, as this will cause the leashed dog to feel trapped and potentially lash out.
Instead of introducing the dogs face to face, allow them to sniff one another’s rear ends.
Dogs secrete chemicals from anal glands that signal to the other dog everything he or she needs to know: the dog’s age, sex, emotional state, and diet.
Thankfully this weird ritual is confined to the canine world, or else blind dates could get really uncomfortable.
If the resident dog is not showing any signs of aggression (i.e. barking, lunging, hair standing on end, growling, snarling, snapping, or a stiff stance), then this introduction can next be repeated in the resident dog’s own territory, such as the front or back yard.
Bear in mind that a dog may act differently on its own territory than it did on neutral ground.
Finally, if the yard introduction goes well, the dogs can be introduced for a final time inside the house.
Keep in mind that it is extremely rare for a young (less than 18 weeks old) puppy to show aggression towards another dog or animal, just as it is abnormal for a resident dog to be aggressive towards a submissive puppy.
However, if the puppy is older or especially rambunctious and the resident dog is behaviorally dominant, problems may arise but should not be a deal breaker for bringing home the puppy.
Instead, see section below on what to do if the introduction does not go well.
Introducing Puppy to Resident Pets of Different Species
What if you have a cat, rabbit, ferret, or pet goat you want to introduce to your puppy?
The success of the introduction often hinges on the age and breed of the puppy, as well as the attitude of the other animal.
For instance, beagles are known for having a high prey drive, especially towards rabbits, but if the dog is introduced to a rabbit at a young age it can be taught to live harmoniously with the animal.
The best way to introduce a puppy to an animal of a different species is to keep the puppy leashed during the introduction.
Simply bring the pup near the other animal and observe the dog’s behavior.
Look for signs of extreme interest, such as pulling on the leash, lunging, whining, or yipping, which could indicate that your puppy needs to be slowly socialized in order to avoid an unfortunate situation.
Also beware of what the other animal is doing.
If your cat is hissing and clawing at the dog without having been provoked, your cat may need to have training.
If your dog is only mildly interested, allow him or her to sniff the animal while keeping close watch on its behavior.
What to Do if the Introduction Does not Go Well
Unfortunately, sometimes introductions between two animals – whether of the same species or not – simply do not go well initially.
While this situation can be distressing, it should not send the owner into a complete panic yet.
There are a number of ways to acclimate two animals to one another.
Is Owner Anxiety a Problem?
Before deciding that two animals do not get along, ask yourself whether owner anxiety may be the issue.
Animals are extremely intuitive and often gauge their own responses on that of their owners.
If you are a frenzied mess anticipating that one of the animals may not get along and holding the resident dog on a tense, short leash, the chances of your dog reacting defensively are increased.
If you feel this may be the problem, enlist the help of friends to introduce your pets in a neutral manner.
If you are struggling to introduce your dog to a resident animal, a crate can be your best friend.
If, for instance, your beagle thinks your pet rabbit is a snack instead of its new bestie, you can crate your dog while your rabbit has free reign of the house.
Similarly, if your two dogs are not getting along, the “crate and rotate” routine is a great short term solution while they grow accustomed to one another.
Even if the initial introduction does not go as planned, often simply growing used to the other animal’s scent and realizing that the other dog is not going away can help the two forge a relationship.
If the problem is mild, such as the resident dog doling out an occasional nip when the puppy becomes too playful, a second option is to keep the resident animal leashed in the puppy’s presence until the resident dog becomes accustomed to the puppy’s behavior.
A correction should be given whenever the resident dog misbehaves, in order to help him or her understand what is expected.
If the new puppy is having problems getting along with an animal of another species, keeping the puppy leashed in that animal’s presence can also be beneficial with appropriate correction.
Enlist the Help of a Trainer
Unfortunately, pet owners occasionally give up their animals because they assume that issues among animals are unsolvable.
If you are dealing with severe aggression among animals, the final step before re-homing one of your pets is to enlist the help of a trainer.
It is extremely rare to have an unsolvable issue, so it is important to try working with a behavioral specialist.
Overall, the vast majority of introductions between resident pets and puppies are favorable.
It is important to first introduce dogs in neutral territory to avoid territorial aggression, and to always supervise introduction among animals of different species.
If problems do arise, using a crate or leash in the home can help avoid unwanted confrontations.
As a last resort, a dog trainer can help bring harmony to the home.
Ultimately, we want your animals no matter what their breed to have every chance to live in harmony. Although we cannot make this happen, we can help the process by providing the best possible environment and opportunity for them to bond naturally.
Pup Update – Eleven Months
At Eleven months, Jerry is close to leaving his puppy days behind. Although I’m not at all convinced that this will see him suddenly mature into a devoted, stay at heel dog – who wants to follow me everywhere and snuggle at my feet all day. Jerry’s enthusiasm for life is extraordinary, his energy abundant – which at times, can be testing. Thank goodness when his energiser batteries run out he’s able to crash – anywhere!
These are the puppy days I missed terribly when our two Beagles grew old and frail, so I am conscious of not wishing these days of puppy chaos away. I know that before too long, Jerry will settle (although I have been told not to hold me breath!) Hmmm… maybe when a Cocker is about ten I have been told…
Ash Sukhwani a.k.a. Mother of Jerry
Jerry – Born ‘Royoni Naughty-on-Arrival’ June 17, 2017
Follow Jerry’s adventures on Instagram @jerrythecockerspan
Ultimately, socialisation among animals is the best way to avoid serious problems, of which we will discuss next.
Watch this space – Chapter Sixteen – Coming Soon
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Photo Credits: Milo, Remi, Arlo – @arlothecavoodle, Calvin – @calvinthecockerspaniel, Maisie, FADM, Barry, Jax, Bailey – @baileyb767, Bella, Jerry – @jerrythecockerspan