It is very common to share your life with more than one companion animal. When you want to extend your furry family there are a few things to consider. Each introduction will vary depending on variables such as species, number of animals in the home, age, sex and temperament.
Here are some tips to help the transition transpire smoothly.
NOTE: It is never a good idea to leave two animals alone to ‘work it out’. It is unfair on both of the animals, can result in high stress levels, put them at risk of aggression, and not getting along in the future.
- Initial confinement – Confining your pet from the sight of your other pets allows for a calm and safe environment for your new pet to gain confidence while exploring his new surroundings. You want to choose a comfortable room to start such as a spare room. As you progress and let your new pet explore more rooms of your home, isolate your other pets.
- Keep it positive – When introducing your pets you want it to be the most calm and positive experience possible. Keep a close eye on their behaviour, watch for fearful and aggressive behaviour and separate them if this occurs. When good behaviour is present you can reward them both with treats.
- Restraint & back up- Safety first. It is a good idea to have two people present for the introduction, one person per animal. If the introduction does not go according to plan, having the animals restrained on a leash makes it much easier to separate them.
- Introduction time – Always supervise introductions, start with a brief time such as 5 minutes, and slowly work your way up to 10 minutes and so on. Increasing the time incrementally with positive experiences builds trust between your pets.
- Nip it in the bud – If your pets show aggression, do not punish them. Remove them from the situation. If you punish them, they may associate it with the other pet, and could lead to increased aggression in the future.
- Patience- Several short introductions over a few days or weeks is optimal, it is much more effective then a few long introductions.
By taking the time at the beginning when you introduce your pets to one another you can help prevent aggressive behaviour that can be difficult to resolve in the future. Remember that not all dogs are suitable to live with small animals. If your dog has a habit of chasing small animals, gets overly excited easily and doesn’t respond to commands, is possessive over toys, food or water or likes to chase furry toys, then you have an increased likelihood of encountering problems.
If a pet has grown up with another species they are more likely to accept that particular species in the home. It is still advised to keep dogs separate from smaller animals when unsupervised.