Introducing a new pet to a resident pet

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HAPPY HOUSEHOLD: Takes effort.

BEFORE bringing home your new dog, introduce your new pet to your resident pet in a neutral area like a park. Keep both dogs on leashes for a short time.

Be matter-of-fact about the situation but stay alert. If either dog reacts aggressively, consider getting a different second dog or none at all. Keeping two dogs that do not like each other under control is a huge and dangerous task.

After a few minutes take the leads off and let the dogs explore each other, at this point walk away and keep quiet.

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Dog fights generally involve a struggle between an existing resident dog and a new arrival, often of the same gender. Dogs in the household, just as in a wild pack, have a hierarchy, with one animal being the dominant one. Respect this hierarchy when you introduce the new dog; you will cause conflicts if you treat both dogs equally.

Assess which dog is the dominant one, it is usually the older pet and act accordingly. The dominant dog generally should be first when greeting the owners, passing through a door or getting fed. But he shouldn’t mistreat the new pet in any way.

Reinforce your own position in the household by teaching your dogs the commands ‘down and stay.’ Giving them a ‘down-stay’ command while they’re side-by-side communicates to them that this is your house, and they will behave themselves here regardless of how they feel about each other.

To get a cat and new dog used to each other put the new dog on a leash when they meet. Prepare yourself for some major upset on your cat’s part. Do not get too concerned over a good-natured cat-and-dog chase, but do correct your dog when it happens. Ask your pup to ‘sit’ instead and praise him when he complies. If you feel it’s necessary, keep the leash on the dog so you can step on it to correct him mid-chase. 

Your cat will take awhile to adjust to the newest member, possibly even a few months. Help by ensuring she has open doors and windows to escape.

Give her a place to eat where she can feel secure, like a tabletop or a strictly ‘no-doggy’ area.

Keep the litter box out of your dog’s domain. Put the dog on a ‘down-stay’ while you pet your cat; she will know she’s still loved, and your dog will realise the cat is not to be touched simply because you say so.

Some cats prefer to adjust on their own. Try putting yours in a room with food, water, toys, a litter box and a scratching post. Open the door after a few weeks and let her decide how extensively she wants to interact.

Keep a baby gate across the door to the room so she can escape when things get too hectic. You may want to consider keeping her in her crate/carry case so the dog can sniff her and she will feel secure.

Don’t hesitate to seek professional help if you don’t feel able to teach your pets to get along. A professional trainer will implement methods to help your current pet cope with the new arrival. Well-trained pets adjust better to changes and are easier to control when conflicts arise. Contact your vet or a trainer immediately if any of your animals react aggressively. They will decide if you should try to keep everyone happy or make other arrangements for the new dog.

Keeping a happy household with more than one pet takes a lot of effort. Be alert and attentive while everyone’s getting used to each other and never let them forget who’s boss.

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