“Five tips to follow when bringing a new pet home” by Sylvia Wes was originally published in Santa Monica Spotlight.
Bringing a new pet into the home can be a difficult adjustment. Throw in a pet who already inhabits that same home, and that integration can become even harder. Use these 5 tips to make bringing a new pet home an easier transition for all members of the household, both two and four-legged.
FIRST IMPRESSIONS MATTER
When first introducing your new pets, start in a neutral place outside the home. If you can, take both dogs for a walk together. If your new puppy can’t walk on leash yet, carry them while you walk your existing dog. Tandem parallel walks are a great way to have your new pets spend time together while enjoying neutral space. Continuing this practice can help establish common ground and help dogs find activities to enjoy together.
REMOVE ALL HIGH VALUE RESOURCES
Keep the stakes low by not leaving any food or high value resources like bones or bully sticks out in the open. If your existing dog has a favorite toy, put it away for the first few months of their cohabitation. Free feeding is definitely not recommended in a multi-pet household as it’s hard to tell who is eating what/when and how to control the most important resource in the house, food.
CREATE SAFE AND SEPARATE SPACES
Give all pets the dignity of their own space and the option to opt out of interacting with each other. Baby gates are a great way to create separate spaces within the home. Give each pet time to themselves to soothe, enjoy mealtimes and anytime they need to be left unattended. Try giving your original dog a solo walk every now and again so they can enjoy the walk they’re used to with just you.
REWARD CALM BEHAVIOR
When the pets are together in the same space, reward calm and neutral behavior. Try this: Have each pet access their own bed and perform a “sit” or “down” cue. Once there, simultaneously reward each pet from both hands instead of one at a time. Make sure the rewards are small enough that each pet can rapidly consume and not break apart where crumbs or chunks on the floor might become a point of contention.
CONNECT WITH A PROFESSIONAL
Lastly, connect with a certified dog training professional early on in the process, to help ease the changes and create healthy and long-lasting patterns of behavior. It is crucial to manage multi-pet households effectively from the jump to ensure long-term relationship balance. Additionally, latent learning is a primary learning mode for dogs, so ensuring your new dog doesn’t pick up bad habits from the original dog — and vice versa — is very important.
Training both pets together is not only a great bonding activity, it also helps them focus on something other than the other pet in the room. Helping your pets learn to focus and be neutral around one another is one of the most powerful forms of socialization they can learn.