Many dogs live peacefully with other animals, large or small. Not all dogs, however, are suited for a multi-species household. Introducing a dog to a small animal is potentially risky and needs to be planned carefully. You can be more confident that a dog will accept other animals in the home if the dog has lived with other animals in the past. However, some dogs will learn to accept a particular family pet, but not others.
To ensure you set your new and resident pets up for success, make sure to follow the advice below. An improper introduction can have lasting consequences. Follow the steps and remember, be patient. Give all members of the household ample time to acclimate.
Dog to Cat
- Before you bring the new pet home, remove anything the dog might guard, such as food bowls, bones, chew toys, toys, and beds.
- Have the dog on a 4- or 6-foot leash.
- Have the small pet settled at one end of the room, handled by your assistant. Bring the dog in the room and remain on the far side of the room. Sit down on the floor with the dog and engage the dog to interact with you. Praise him for paying attention to you. Stroke him if this helps him to relax. If the dog is more interested in the other pet and will not attend to you, use treats to entice the dog to turn away from the pet to face you.
- With the dog paying attention to you, have your assistant entice your small pet to walk a few feet back and forth. If the pet will not move willingly, the assistant can support the animal comfortably and hold him just above the floor. Move the animal a short distance. Permit the dog to look, and then try to redirect the dog back onto you. Use treats if necessary. Help the dog to stay calm and relaxed, even while watching the pet move about.
- Move the dog one to two feet closer to the pet. See that the dog stays calm for five minutes, and then have the pet move around a bit. The dog should look at the pet while remaining calm, and then, turn and listen to you while you talk to him. Praise and/or offer him a treat. Allow the dog to look at the pet again and gain his attention back to you. Continue until the dog is comfortable looking at the pet and looking back at you, all the while remaining calm and controlled.
- If possible, allow the pet to move freely about the room. Do not do this if the pet is inclined to approach you. Can the dog still remain calm and relaxed? Can the dog see the animal moving about and still switch his attention back to you? If so, great! If not, stay at the previous step longer. If, at any time, the pet attempts to approach within the dog’s range, have the assistant move the pet away. To be safe, you do not want the dog and pet sniffing for the first time while the dog is sitting or lying next to you, especially if he knows there are treats nearby.
- Stand up and allow the dog to move to the end of his leash. Continue to speak to him intermittently to be sure he will pay attention to you. If the pet approaches the dog, allow them to sniff. Keep the dog’s leash loose so he doesn’t feel that he is restrained. However, be very vigilant because if the dog lunges at the animal, you need to be close enough to pull the dog away before contact is made.
- While the dog is sniffing the pet, call him to you. If he turns and comes away from the pet, fabulous! If he needs a bit of coaxing, that’s okay–as long as he is able to focus on you once you get his attention. If the dog becomes totally engrossed in the animal and won’t come away, then go back to a previous step and work at that level a bit longer before trying this step again.
- The final step is to allow the animals to interact more freely. Begin with short periods of time together, especially after the dog has been well exercised. Keep a close eye on the dog. As you gain more confidence, give the animals more time together. Make sure there are plenty of escape routes and safety refuges for the small pet, such as kitty condos, shelves and areas behind furniture to which the dog cannot reach.
- For safety sake, keep them separated when you cannot directly supervise your pets.
Dog to Dog
Enlist the help of a family member/friend, so there is a person to attend to each dog during this initial meeting. It is best not to introduce the dogs in your house or yard because the resident dog may become territorial.
- Find a neutral location such as a park where neither dog has been before. Take the dogs on a walk together. Allow them to walk in front of/behind or beside one another. Do not allow them to meet face to face. Walk them until they become very tired. Then bring them into the house together at the same time. Pick up anything they may fight over such as toys, bowls or beds. They may sniff each other, circle each other, urinate, play, or just decide to ignore each other. Don’t panic if they push each other a bit, growl, or even try standing up on each other’s shoulders. Allow them to do what they do to establish a relationship, with as little intervention from you as possible.
- If you see signs of serious tension, such as a freeze in motion, growling, showing teeth, prolonged stares, or snapping, call the dogs away before things escalate.
- Permit the new puppy or dog to explore the room or house on the leash. If the resident dog acts in a friendly manner, let the new pet off the leash.
- Always supervise interactions between the dogs. Keep your mealtime, bedtime, walk and play routines the same as before the new dog arrived, so things don’t seem too different for the resident dog.
- It is very important that you spend time with each dog alone so that the resident dog continues to receive one-on-one attention and the new dog develops a bond with you. Each dog should have his or her own food bowl, bed, and toys.
What not to do
Do not put the dogs in small spaces together, such as a car, crate or small room before they are completely comfortable with each other.
For more information on introducing a new dog, visit: https://positively.com/dog-behavior/new-dogs/dogs-and-cats/