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.