A How-To Guide: Introducing Your Dog to Other Animals
Adults with children love when their child makes their first friend. It’s an incredible experience, seeing them make a connection outside of your household.
For us adults with dogs, there’s just as much awe in seeing your dog make their first friend, whether it’s at the dog park or with a cat you recently adopted. But introducing your dog to another animal can be equally worrisome. How will they react at the sight of another dog in their presence?
It’s understandable to be worried, but you can do it with grace. Whether it’s slowly introducing them or coaxing them along with healthy dog chews, you can introduce them to another animal while helping them remain calm.
Watch for the warning signs
Before you consider introducing your dog to another animal, you should be aware of the key warning signs that they are either in fear or going to act out aggressively in response.
First off, how has your dog reacted to animals in the past? This involves other dogs while out on walks, stray cats, squirrels, rabbits, and more. In each situation, were they increasingly hyper? Did they react by barking aggressively and showing their teeth? Did they cower near you out of fear? Those past reactions are sure to influence any future interactions, especially if they haven’t met any other animals in the meantime.
Second, how does the size of your dog compare to the size of the animal you’re meeting? If we’re talking just dogs, the size difference can really make a — well — difference. For instance, if you have a chihuahua, they might not do well upon their first time meeting a Leonberger. Similarly, a large German Shepherd might not react too playfully with an anxious Jack Russell Terrier.
Similar to our last point: How do the energy levels of the animals compare? Do you have an old dog that will be quickly tuckered out by a puppy? Or do you have a puppy that’s going to be way over-the-top for a calm, pensive cat?
Lastly, what’s your pet’s personality like? Are they the type to cling to your leg whenever someone new comes around? Are they a little too rough when playing with new dogs? Or are they happy to be wherever, whenever? Similarly, how does the new animal compare? If it seems like a good pair, introduce them to one another! Otherwise, do it slowly to see how they are.
Introduce your dog to a new dog
Some of the above tips can really influence your decision when introducing your dog to a new dog. But here are some general rules of thumb to follow:
- Give them space — Introduce them to one another in a space where they can be by themselves, if they want to, whether it’s a large living room with other adults in it or a spacious backyard.
- Think about age — Make sure an older dog doesn’t get overwhelmed by a puppy companion or energized dog. And if things get out of hand, give the old dog some time to relax.
- Introduce them slowly — Don’t rush the introduction process. Keep them separate. If you’re bringing a new dog home, let your dog first get accustomed to scents of the new dog in your space, whether it’s a blanket or letting them hang out in a room the dog has briefly been in.
- Reward them — A new dog can be imposing, especially if they’ve been the only canine in the house. Show them you appreciate their consideration by rewarding them with healthy treats throughout the process.
Introduce your dog to a cat
If your dog has never met a cat, they might be suspicious upon first sight. However, they may hit it off after some sniffing around — and a few scratches from the cat. Cats and dogs can actually make great friends, especially if they have similar personalities. It’s when they differ that your dog might run into issues. A fearful cat might run away from your dog, and a happy-go-lucky dog might give chase. Similarly, a fearful dog might be afraid of a new cat suddenly approaching them for rubs and pets.
Here are a few common tips to keep in mind:
- Separate the two animals to begin with. Don’t introduce them face-to-face to start. Instead, consider separating them to see how they interact under supervised cover. You’ll get an idea of whether it’s a good idea before they’re able to come into physical contact.
- Reward your dog — Provide your dog with healthy dog treats or long-lasting bones for showing calm behavior. You’ll reinforce them to keep acting calmly.
- Make introductions slow — Don’t leave them alone in a bedroom and close the door. Consider letting them out into a fenced in backyard, where they can still take their own space.
- Work on training — If you plan on bringing a new cat into your home, meet with a dog trainer beforehand. They can work on integration training to help prepare your dog for their new feline friend.
Introducing them to new animals
Interacting with a new cat can be a sudden change, but other animals might not be the same. For instance, introducing new animals like birds, ferrets, guinea pigs, or rabbits might not go that smoothly. The reason being is it might invigorate the prey side of your dog.
You’ve probably seen your dog go into hunting mode while on a walk. Maybe they spotted a squirrel climbing a tree or it was a little mouse scurrying beside a trail. Either way, you probably lost control of them as they started to rush after them. You don’t want the same to happen inside of your home.
Rather, remain calm and introduce your dog slowly. Use their favorite chews and toys to keep their attention, too.
Simple ways to keep them safe and comfortable
Make sure your dog can remain relaxed when meeting a new animal. It’s sure to be either exciting or fearful to them, so provide them with simple things to calm them down and maintain their attention when they need the help. From dog bones to positive reinforcement to their favorite toy, you can keep them comfortable in the face of a new friend.