For a dog that’s just been adopted, the world can be a frightening and unpredictable place. Just when they were getting used to a shelter or foster home, everything has once again been upended. There’s a different routine, different humans, different scents and a whole new set of expectations they must learn to navigate.
One of the most stressful parts of the transition (at least from a human point of view) is introducing a new dog to the most vulnerable members of the household: kids and other pets. Even if your dog was evaluated with children or other dogs prior to adoption, there’s no way to be 100% certain that they will be fast friends with your kids or your dogs—not to mention your cat.
Taking some extra time and care when introducing your new dog to kids, cats or other dogs in the home is important to restore your family’s equilibrium as quickly as possible. Here’s what to keep in mind before and after you bring your pup home.
Your new dog, they’re like the new kid at school. They’re not sure where they fit into the social circle and they’re nervous about making a good first impression on the other dogs in the home. Let them get to know each other on their own terms while providing the support each dog needs to feel secure.
Introduce your dogs in a neutral location
Many dogs are sensitive about unfamiliar pups entering their territory. By introducing your resident dogs to your new dog in a park or a fenced-yard belonging to a friend or neighbor, you give them the chance to make friends on equal footing.
Don’t change your routine
Bringing a new dog into the family is a big change. Reassure your resident dog(s) that the new family addition won’t impact them negatively by inserting the new pup into the existing routine of meals, walks and playtime. The structure and predictability will also help your new dog to adjust.
Give each of your dogs their own space
It’s likely your resident dogs already have a bed or crate of their own. Providing your new dog with the same can offer them an additional sense of security. Adding extra beds/crates to the mix can also help diminish competition over comfortable sleeping spots.
Supervise, supervise, supervise
Even if your dogs appear to be getting along, there are still plenty of opportunities for things to go wrong in their first weeks together. Supervise their interactions, especially around toys and chewies, to prevent squabbles. Feed your dogs apart from one another and keep close watch to be sure one doesn’t go for the food of the other. When you cannot supervise or are away from the home, separate your dogs until you are certain they are comfortable together. Even then, you may want to hold off on leaving out puzzle toys or chewies until they’ve gotten to know each other a bit better.
There’s a pretty good chance that your new dog hasn’t spent much time around cats so it’s important to introduce canine and feline carefully. By gradually increasing their interactions over time, you’re more likely to get this tricky relationship right.
Introduce through sight and sound first
During the several days your new dog spends in your home, your cat should remain completely separated from them in a safe space that meets all of their toileting, mealtime, and mental stimulation needs. Your new dog will become familiar with the cat’s scent elsewhere in the home while, in their safe space, your cat will become familiar with the sounds of the dog. When you take your pup out for walks, allow your cat to sniff around the rest of the home.
Manage your cat and dog’s early interactions
After their initial introduction via scent and sound, your pets can get to know each other visually from a distance. Use baby gates, crates/carriers, and/or a leash to prevent your dog from being able to access your cat. Encourage your dog to remain calm and relaxed and reward them frequently for doing so with tasty treats.
Supervise, supervise, supervise
Eventually, your cat and dog will be able to exist in the same space without having to constantly manage them. That’s a big step forward but it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re ready to be together when you aren’t present. Continue to supervise your dog and cat’s interactions and separate them when you leave the home until you are certain they are comfortable together.
To properly introduce your new dog to kids, it’s crucial that the kiddos know in advance the right way to act. Have an age-appropriate conversation (or many) with your kids before the dog comes home to set them both up for success.
Prepare your kids for the new dog
Talk to your kids about the best ways to interact with a dog who is likely to be extra-sensitive in their transition from shelter or foster to forever home. Teach them how to pet a dog (along the body, avoiding the head and legs) and how to recognize signs that the dog might be uncomfortable. Discuss why dogs need their own space and why it’s important not to crowd a dog while it is eating.
Introduce your new dog to your kids in a wide open space
If your new dog hasn’t had a lot of experience with kids, they may feel threatened when they first encounter them. Make them more comfortable by doing initial introductions in a large space where your dog can be safely unleashed and can get space from the kids if they become too intense.
Set rules for young children
While older kids can be integrated into your new dog’s daily life and training, a few solid rules can help make sure younger kids develop a positive relationship with them, too. Never let little ones wake a sleeping dog or approach them while they are eating. Never leave a little one unsupervised with a dog and teach them that when the dog is on their bed or inside their crate, they must be left alone. And, of course, inform your little ones that hitting, tugging, or otherwise hurting your dog is never okay.
Supervise, supervise, supervise
While it’s important to always supervise young children with your new dog, older kids should be encouraged to form their own relationship and chip in with the daily duties of walking, feeding and training. Hedge your bets against something going wrong by supervising older children in the beginning to make sure that both are comfortable in their interactions.