While bringing home a new pet can be exciting for the human members of your family, it may be less-than-thrilling for your current pet. “Multi-pet households can be very complex,” said Eric Goebelbecker, CPDT-KA, owner of Dog Spelled Forward, a dog training school in New Jersey. To help ease the transition, Goebelbecker has a few suggestions.
Goebelbecker suggests starting with your current dog before adding another pet. “Train the dog you have first,” he says. “Just having one of the two dogs trained can make a huge difference in being able to proactively avoid problems.”
Consider crate training your dog. That way, if you need to separate the dogs, you can place the “senior” dog in a spot he feels comfortable. Also, figure out where everyone will eat and sleep. “Some dogs that have never guarded things like food and beds from people will from other dogs. Be prepared for that,” Goebelbecker said.
Introducing a Dog to a Dog
Introduce your new dog to your current dog in a “neutral” territory. At the neutral site, walk them in parallel for a few minutes without letting them greet. If all goes well and both dogs seem calm, take them to a safe, fenced-in area and let them off the leash. According to Goebelbecker, the off-leash portion is key. “On-leash greetings are not an accurate indication of how the dogs will get along,” he said.
When it comes time to bring the new dog home, Goebelbecker suggests having them meet outside for a nice long walk before entering the house.
Introducing a Dog to a Cat
Unlike dog-dog introductions, introducing the cat with the dog on leash is fine. “In this case they really, really, do not have to be best friends,” Goebelbecker said. “It’s great when they are, but they really just need to be able to co-exist.”
If the dog seems obsessed with the cat, you may need to separate them when you’re not around to supervise. Training you dog to respond to a solid leave it can go a long way, too. Also, always ensure that the cat has a way to leave. If the dog bothers the cat and the cat just leaves, problem solved.
No matter how carefully you plan, you may still encounter problems in a multi-pet household. Goebelbecker offers a few troubleshooting tips:
- Squabbles often arise over “resources” like toys, food, space, and even people. “If the dogs are squabbling over toys, don’t leave toys out. If they squabble over food bowls, separate them,” he says. “Getting in the middle of these arguments is how people get bit!”
- Don’t pick a favorite pet.
- Supervise play and institute time outs to keep dogs from getting carried away.
- Walk your dogs daily. Tired dogs fight less often.
- Spend time with each pet separately. “Fights over attention from Mom or Dad can be a problem. If you take the time to develop a relationship with them separately, this problem can be diminished.”