Imagine handing out treats and name tags at the front door of your home for your new dog and your resident pets. Imagine happy munches and friendly woofs (and/or meows) as they blend and bond instantly and forever.
Then blink twice and remember that you are living in the world of reality and not in an ideal parallel universe. But armed with a set of realistic expectations, your reality may ultimately be just as ideal.
Introducing your new dog to the pets already in your home is a process. To succeed, you must start with a plan and a promise – to yourself -- to be patient. The process can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks (and in extreme cases, a few months).
To improve your chances of a happy blending of old and new, choose a dog as close as possible in temperament and activity level to the pets you already have. Dogs and cats are creatures of habit, and most dislike any disruptions in their daily lives and routines.
Some dogs are naturally more relaxed and more social than others. Some are more territorial and don't enjoy sharing at all. Unhappy with the arrival of a newcomer, they may demonstrate their disapproval by fighting with the perceived “intruder” or by marking.
Allow your new dog to adjust to you and to his new surroundings by keeping him in a separate room with his bed, food, water and toys for several days. Spend as much quality, comforting time with your new arrival as possible.
Maintain your other pets’ regular routines – from feeding and pottying to exercising, playing and together times – to reassure them that nothing has changed.
Since smells are of utmost importance to animals, get them used to each other’s scent as soon as possible. One way is through that most reliable standby: food. Feed your resident pets and your new dog on either side of the door to his room, encouraging them to associate something pleasurable with one another’s smell.
Once this has been successfully accomplished, walk your new dog slowly through your home, room by room, allowing him to become familiar with its sights, sounds and smells. Keep your other pets behind the closed door of his room to allow your new dog a sense of safety and privacy, while promoting a further exchange of scents between them. Repeat this several times a day for a few days.
Next, use two doorstoppers to keep the door to your new dog’s room propped open just enough for all of the animals to see each other. Repeat this several times a day for a few days. BUT remember! Every time you leave your home, leave your new dog in his room with the door closed.
Hopefully, when you’re ready to make the “formal” introductions, your patience and your animals’ pre-preparations will have paid off. And they will not only recognize, but also start to accept one another by what they see and smell.
Armed with the tastiest treats and most tempting toys, you can expect sniffing, approaching and walking away. Reward good behavior with praise and treats, but discourage bad behavior by promptly separating the offending parties and gently, but firmly correcting them.
Once again, patience is key. This too is a process, which may take time until the blending is successful, and your family is calmly and contentedly one.
If, however, certain problems persist, speak to your vet or consult a recommended animal behaviorist.
Be an informed adopter and make your new dog’s entry into your world as pleasurable as possible.
If this is your first dog, establish yourself with a vet or register your new dog with your established vet. Then apply for the appropriate licenses, etc., required in your area.
Remember that a dog’s true personality may not reveal itself for several weeks. Therefore, these first few weeks require an atmosphere of calm and patience, not anger or punishment.
Knowing your new dog’s established schedules for meals, pottying, walking and exercise beforehand are essential to maintaining his sense of continuity.
Once you arrive home, bring your new dog to his designated pottying place.
Spend time letting your new dog get accustomed to the place, and if he potties, reward him with praise and a treat.
Repeat this (whether your dog potties or not) to reinforce it, but be prepared for accidents. Even a housebroken dog will be nervous in, and curious about, new surroundings.
Your new dog may also pant or pace excessively, suffer from stomach upsets or have no appetite at all due to the sudden changes in his life.
Give your new dog the same food that he ate before.
After 30 minutes, remove the food whether it’s been eaten or not. Do not allow your new dog to “graze.”
(If you want to switch brands, wait a week. Begin by adding one part new food to three parts of the old for several days. Then add half new to half old for several more days, followed by one part old to three parts new until it’s all new food and the transition is complete).
Learn the commands your new dog already knows and don’t attempt to teach him any new ones for awhile.
Walk your new dog slowly through your home allowing him plenty of time to sniff around and become familiar with all of its sights and smells.
If needed, teach your new dog proper house manners from the start -- calmly and patiently. Reward good behavior with praise and treats for positive reinforcement.
Introduce your new dog to the other members of your household one by one. Unless you know that the dog enjoys approaching new people, instruct everyone to sit, silent and still, on a couch or chair and ignore him.
Allow your new dog to approach them, sniffing, whether it takes several seconds or several minutes. Only when he is relaxed should they begin to pet him lightly and gently.
Children in particular should be closely supervised to ensure that they follow these same guidelines.
Show your new dog where’s he’s to sleep (begin with a crate and progress to a doggy bed) and place a few treats around the area as added incentives.
Give your new dog some quiet, alone time to get used to his space while you remain in the room for reassurance.
For the first few days, remain calm and quiet around your new dog, allowing him to settle in comfortably while you become familiar with his likes and dislikes, quirks and habits.
Begin the routine you want to establish (according to your own lifestyle) for your new dog’s pottying, eating, walking, playing and alone times, and maintain it -- calmly but firmly.
Initial resistance is to be expected, but remain firm – without impatience or anger – while your new dog gradually becomes accustomed to his new schedule.
To make the process as pleasant and reassuring as possible, spend quality time with your new dog, stroking him or brushing his coat, while talking gently and soothingly to strengthen the bond and trust between you.
If you want to change your new dog’s name, begin by saying his new name and giving him an especially good treat (chicken works well) or a belly rub. This will teach your new dog to love the sound and respond to it. Repeating this numerous times a day will speed up the process.
Limit your new dog’s activities to your home, potty and exercise areas, keeping away from neighbors and other dogs, public places and dog parks.
Invite a relative or friend over to meet your new dog. Hand them treats and tell them to be calm and gentle in their approach unless your new dog calmly approaches them first.
Gradually accustom your new dog to being alone by leaving your home briefly then returning, repeating this several times over a period of a day or two and gradually increasing the alone time from a few minutes to a half hour to an hour. This way he won’t feel abandoned. When you return, walk in calmly and don’t fuss over your dog until he’s settled down.
If your new dog whines or cries, don’t cuddle or console him. It only reinforces this “bad” behavior. Instead, praise him for good behaviors such as resting quietly in his crate or chewing contentedly on a toy. And treats always work wonders.
Slowly begin introducing your new dog to your neighbors and other dogs, closely monitoring his reactions, especially towards the dogs.
Bring your new dog to the vet to introduce them to each other, address any health or behavioral concerns, and get a new rabies certificate. For any behavioral issues you can’t resolve on your own, ask your vet for the name of a trained animal behaviorist.
Remember: making your new dog the newest member of your family is a process, and consistency is the key.
Your reward? A loving, loyal and happy companion, and the satisfaction of knowing that you’ve saved this precious pup’s life.
A puppy-proofed home is a pet-safe home whatever the age of your new dog. Before those front paws cross your threshold for the first time, your home must be a health zone, not a hazard zone.
Begin the process of pet-proofing by walking through your home, room by room, searching methodically for things a dog might climb, knock over or pull down, and either secure, remove or store them. Keep all trashcans behind closed and latched doors and wastebaskets (covered if possible) out of sight. Ensure that all heating/air vents have covers. Snap specially designed plastic caps over electrical outlets. Tie electrical cords together and tuck them out of reach.
Install childproof latches to keep inquisitive paws from prying open cabinet doors in kitchens and bathrooms, and always keep the toilet lids closed. In bedrooms, keep all medications, lotions and cosmetics off accessible surfaces such as bedside tables. Store collections – from buttons, bottle caps and coins to matchboxes, marbles and potpourri – on high shelves, while keeping breakables on low surfaces to an absolute minimum.
Most chemicals are hazardous to dogs and should be replaced, wherever possible, with natural, non-toxic products. A partial list of toxic chemicals includes: antifreeze, bleach, drain cleaner, household cleaners and detergents, glue, nail polish and polish remover, paint, varnish and sealants, pesticides and rat poison.
Many indoor plants, however pretty, can prove poisonous to a dog. Since dogs are, by nature, explorers – not to mention lickers and chewers – protecting them from harm is essential. A partial list of such indoor plants includes: aloe, amaryllis, asparagus fern, azalea and rhododendron, chrysanthemum, corn plant, cyclamen, Dieffenbachia, elephant ear, jade plant, kalanchoe, lilies, peace lily, philodendron, pothos, Sago palm, schefflera and yew.
Seemingly harmless “people” food can potentially be lethal to dogs. A partial list of these includes: alcohol, avocado, chocolate, caffeinated items, fruit pits and seeds, grapes and raisins, macadamia nuts, onions, and all products containing the artificial sweetener, Xylitol.
Although prevention is the key to your new dog’s well being, accidents can and do happen. The truly protective pet parents are prepared pet parents and know to keep a list of vital numbers handy:
24-hour veterinary emergency clinic
ASPCA Poison Control: 1-888-426-4435
Pet Poison Help Line: 1-800-213-6680
Hopefully, these are numbers you’ll never use. And as long as you remain vigilant, both you and your new best friend can rest, assured.