Very often, our pets are our first children. And, just as two-legged children need to be introduced, so do the four-legged. With calmness, neutral territory, and safety zones, multiple animal households can be safely merged. When bringing home another dog, cat, or other animal, it is important that you do so with care if you have other animals in your home as well. Consider this advice when introducing a new shared living situation with your pets and your partner’s.
- go slowly
- set up dividers or barricades
- introduce dogs on neutral territory
- diffuse essential oils
- know your pets and be honest about what behavior to expect
- rush things
- expect species to change behavior
- leave animals unattended
- panic if an altercation occurs
- hesitate to ask for help from a behaviorist
It can take three months for dogs to get used to each other, same for cats. Meanwhile, blending dogs and cats can be a shaky truce for quite a while. Patience and safety measures will bring your new family together. If you and your partner have talked about moving in together, consider introducing both of your pets months in an advance so that they can get a chance to know each other. Taking walks together with your dogs or bringing your cats over to your loved one’s house will help them acclimate before the permanent move happens.
Safety zones allow cats to get away from each other and to escape dogs who may chase a bit too hard. Baby gates and high perches provide physical separation for most. Also, make sure there are ways for your pets to go potty on each side of the barricade. Separate food and water dishes will help prevent any jealousy and territorial issues as well.
A walk in the park can be a great place for dogs to meet for the first time. They can learn to play with each other then walk home together like normal. Especially if your dog is particularly territorial around your home, walking home and inside together will help prevent this from happening. If your dog does happen to get too aggressive when they are in the home together, behavioral training might be the best course of action.
Lavender is well known for its calming action. A few drops of lavender on a blanket or bandana or diffused into a room can help take the edge of anxious pets, and humans, who are worried about making new friends. Flower essences can help as well. Speak with your vet about other calming options that are safe for your pet.
If you have a dog or cat with some attitude – make sure the new family knows and everyone will know what to expect. Just because your pet has a reputation for having a bossy attitude doesn’t mean your new family can’t mesh together. Understanding what triggers the bossy behavior also will help the whole family know what to expect. Ask your dog trainer and veterinarian about how to get rid of bossy behavior and help recognizing triggers for your own pet.
Because it can take three months for pets to get used to each other, keep the safety measures in place for at least that long. Sometimes, some attitudes just won’t change and the safety measures will always be needed. That doesn’t mean you can’t have fun with all members of the family, it just means that you need to be careful. Rushing your pets into a new living situation, especially with other animals involved, will usually cause problems unless you prepare in advance.
The reality is that dogs chase cats, but truces can be achieved. Some dogs are raised with cats and don’t mess with them. Some dogs know who the family cats are and will leave those alone but might be aggressive towards other cats. Some dogs have really strong prey drive and will always look to chase cats. Know where your dog fits on that scale to know how to keep cats safe.
Big dogs and small dogs being introduced to each other might also have the same problem. Some big dogs are only aggressive towards other big dogs, and some will be the exact opposite. It is best that you take time in advance to consider how your pet will react to other pets.
Until you know it’s safe, don’t leave animals alone with each other. Even when it seems like things have gone well, all it takes is one wrong move for a dog or cat to get injured or worse. Again, it usually takes three months for animals to really blend and accept each other. Safety is the best policy. Consider investing in separate kennels for your dogs or cats, or put the in different rooms when you leave so as to reduce any chance of something bad happening.
Remaining calm is the best method to prevent escalation of a fight. Because it does take time for families to blend, keeping a calm head and preparing in advance will be the best safety measure in your home.
Some trainers are masters of understanding behavior. But unfortunately, sometimes the issue is our own behavior. Humans want the best for their four-legged family but accidental miscues from their owners may actually lead to problems. An outside expert can often quickly diagnose these miscues and prevent future issues. Search around your local area for a behaviorist that can help.
Pets are full of unconditional love – at least for us – but sometimes pets need a little retraining to redirect what are often normal behaviors. Time, patience, and safety zones will meld two households with multiple pets.