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Acquiring a new pet is a thrilling experience that means more love, more vacuuming – and more household conflicts. If you already have a dog or cat, it’s important to get them thoroughly acquainted; pets not on good terms can make life difficult in the household. Fortunately, there are some tried-and-true tricks to creating a positive first impression between your pets.
Remain calm and use a happy voice
Dogs can easily pick up on body and facial cues – if you’re nervous or tense about your pets meeting, they’ll feed off that energy. Keep your face and body calm and use a happy tone of voice when speaking. Pet both dogs, giving them equal attention.
- It’s recommended that you have another person with you for the dogs’ first meeting – both dogs should be leashed and held loosely. Take them on a short walk together. Pay attention to body language, such as raised hackles, tucked tails, and ears pulled back.
- Allow the animals to do their usual sniffing, but don’t force any interaction. Distracting the dogs from each other with treats or asking them to “sit” or “lie down” prevents aggression from surfacing.
- If neither dog has showed any signs of fear or aggression and they appear relaxed and comfortable with each other, bring them back to the house together!
- Remove any toys from your house – your existing pet may display signs of aggressive possessiveness if the newcomer discovers them. Lead your new dog directly to their separate bowls and bed, and place them in a location far from your other dog’s possessions.
- When you leave or can’t see your dogs, secure them in different rooms to prevent any squabbles from breaking out. At any signs of trouble, place them in these areas.
Is your dog friendly to felines?
Cats are extremely territorial and are often threatened by dogs’ size. However, some animals become lifelong friends. It’s important not to force the animals to interact and let them (literally) sniff things out on their own.
- Make sure your new pooch readily responds to basic commands like “sit,” “stay,” and “lie down.” Ask the shelter if the dog has experience with felines; it’ll make the task ahead much easier if they have!
- Keep the dog loosely leashed for this first meeting – dogs can see cats as equals to chase and roughhouse with, and this can result in injury on the cat’s part. On the flip side, allow your cat plenty of room to escape if he becomes uncomfortable.
- Casually bring your dog into the room where your cat is, and allow both animals to gently sniff each other out. If either pet displays any signs of aggression, remove the dog from the room or distract him with a command.
- When both animals can co-exist without running in fear from the other, your job is done. Getting to that point may take weeks or months, however – leashed meet-and-greets between your pets should continue until the duo seems tolerant of each other.
Bringing a new dog home can be threatening to already existing pets – they may jealously guard their territory through displays of aggression or become needy and whine for attention. First impressions are important, even among animals, so set a tone that’s casual and calming in order to get off on the right paw.