Bringing a new pet home

Bringing a new pet into the family can be a joyous and exciting time for you, but for your animal residents it can be a stressful experience. Understanding their boundaries and how to properly introduce your new pet can help lay a stable foundation in your home with decreased risk of rebellion, fights and isolation. I know we all wish that our pets will become best friends with their new siblings and these steps and suggestions can help to allow for these relationships to form.



Dogs are mostly social animals so many will interact with other dogs outside of your home, may it be on walks or at the dog park. While these instances will help you gather an understanding of how your dog interacts with other dogs this does not determine how a dog will interact with another dog inside your home. A dog’s home is their territory and like cats they see it as their kingdoms. When you do decide to bring a new dog into the family be prepared for the best or worse situations. Dogs read our body language, and this can impact a new interaction depending on how you go into the process feeling. A 4-step system can help you be more relaxed and prepared, setting a positive atmosphere for both your dogs.


Step 1.) First date. Dogs can become very territorial in their homes and property making it not an ideal setting for first interactions. With the help of another, “introduce” the dogs to each other in a neutral setting such as a park. Keep both dogs on leashes always with 10 feet between each other. Do not let the dogs stop and stare at each other or meet up close- keep them occupied and busy. This will allow them to get used to each other’s presence without meeting.


Step 2.) Play date. On the second day go to an enclosed setting where both dogs can run around without feeling too confined. Keep them both on leashes that they can drag around. These leashes will allow you to safely intervene if there is a fight. Let them do their own thing and if they decide to interact and play that would be great. Let them interact for a few minutes then get their attention away from each other for a bit. Slow and steady wins here with mini interactions. End on a positive vibe for all.


Step 3.) Time to move in. If you have a fenced in yard let your resident dog play outside or have someone take the dog outside to walk around. Do not just have the dog sitting outside waiting as this will cause them to sense something is off. Bring the new dog inside and allow him/her to take in their new surroundings and smells. Again, leashes that they can drag around here are ideal. It is time to have both dogs in the house. Bring the resident dog in but hold onto their leash so they don’t go straight for the new dog. Once they have met inside drop the leash and allow them to interact. Take mini sessions doing this with separating them every few minutes until you are sure they are good together. Remember if they sense your nerves the interaction can go awry.


Step 4.) You are now a family! When you go out separate your dogs from each other. If your resident dog roams the house usually when away put the new dog in a crate or other room. This will keep the interactions safe, not cause jealousy for your older dog and prevent fights.


Bringing a new cat into a home with a dog is the most difficult but not impossible process. Make sure your dog is considered “cat safe: beforehand. To determine this some shelters will have set ups where they can help you conduct a testing with cats in a safe way. If you cannot find a shelter that does this, you can call rescues. If you are unable to perform this test, then look for cats that are not skittish. Upon bringing the cat home keep interactions nonexistent. Alternate 4 days where one of the animals is confined. This allows time for them to learn each other’s smells. If the dog barks while confined this could be a trigger for the cat to fear the dog. Sometimes bringing the dog to another home can help during its “off” days. Like dog to dog interactions, make leash interactions allowing the dog to watch the cat and observe if the cat wishes to address to dog as well. This should be done multiple times. When you feel your dog and cat are at ease with each other you can use the of leash technique where the dog will still have one attached to them dragging. As their time getting to know each other progresses they will grow more at ease however it is best to never leave the animals alone together while out for at least a month.



When you have decided to bring a new cat into the family keep in mind the personality of your current cat. Cats with similar personalities are more likely to bond than opposites. If your cat is older and has been the main feline resident of the home for some time then bonding may take more time and effort on your behalf.

Here is a guided introduction process:


Step 1.) Isolation is not a bad thing! Keep your new cat isolated in a small room for around a week. Make sure that they have the necessities: litter box, food and water. Add in a scratch pad/post and some toys and a bed to provide a warm happy atmosphere. During this process feed both cats in opposite rooms and as the week grows move their bowls closer to the door till they are side by side with the door in the middle at the end of the week. This will give them the ability to smell each other in a happy setting of eating.


Step 2.) Trading places. Before you get to trading places switch the bed of each cat with the others so that they have time to adjust to their smells in a more potent way. Confine your current feline resident and let your new cat out to explore the house with increasing their access 1 or 2 rooms at a time for a few days. This will allow your new cat to get used to their senses without being followed.


Step 3.) First date. Slowly allow the cats to see each other through the doors by putting a door stop to prevent them from pushing out or in. Once you sense they are ready to venture out together is when you will find out if they are an immediate match. In lucky situations the cats may bond immediately or will keep their distance and watch each other. Never force them together, let it be natural. If things turn for the worse this is where you will need to intervene. If you see signs of ears going back, hissing or swatting then clap your hands or throw a pillow to distract them and separate them for 24 hours. If this continues start the isolation process over again.


Introducing your cat to a new dog is usually a quicker process. Your cat should have a “safe place” in each room, may it be a cat tree or a cabinet they can jump on out of the dog’s reach. Allow your new dog to roam the house while your cat is isolated before taking the dog out for a walk. During this time allow the cat free roam again. Upon returning home feed the dog so it is more likely to be tired and content. Holding onto the dog’s leash, introduce him/her to the cat at a distance. Don’t be upset if your cat hisses, this is natural in this interaction. For a couple of days continue this process of not giving the dog free range. If the dog shows aggression corrects it with a sit command. Do not allow the dog to “bully” the cat. Once you feel the bond has been made, slowly increase your distance to the cat until they are face to face. Do not remove the leash until you are confident in their relationship.


Happy Home, Happy Family, Happy Pets


Having an animal-loving family can be a very positive, fun way of living. Many animals are social creatures who enjoy having a companion while you are not home. Bonds can form with different species while dog and cat relationships can be stronger than same-species relationships. Helping your pets form these bonds can also build your bond with them. During the bonding process never show animosity towards your resident pet if the interactions do not go as smoothly as you would have liked the first few times. Remember, for pets, first impressions are not the same as human first impressions. They are in new environments, confused, and may have been an only “child” for many years. Setting a positive atmosphere, going in with a positive vibe, and showing patience can help lead to a long happy life for your pets.


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