Getting a new dog or puppy? Read this before making any introductions.
Yes, you fell in love instantly with your dog the moment they placed their paw in your hand–no further introduction needed. But it might not be such a smooth transition for everyone else in your household, or for your new pup.
Spoiler alert: There will be a lot of feelings to handle.
Your new pup might be a little scared and unsure as they settle in and learn what’s theirs and who’s who in their new home. The pets you’ve had forever might wonder if you’ll love this new dog more or if they’ll have to share their food or favorite blankie. If you have kids, there will be a lot of teaching moments (“Tails are not for pulling” is a great book, btw). And then you’ve got roommates or significant others that might need time to adjust, unless they’re dog people.
If you want everything to go right, follow these tips for introducing a new dog to your home.
Prep Work for Bringing Your New Dog Home
Before your pup even comes home, make sure you have a welcome package ready, complete with their own dish, bed, blankie, leash, harness, toys, and so on. You want them to know that they’ve come to their forever home and they have their own spot on the bed and in your heart. If your dog had a favorite stuffie or toy at the shelter, ask if you can bring it home to ease the transition.
Dog calming pheromones can really help nervous dogs in new environments. These are synthetic pheromones that mimic the ones that mother dogs give off when they are nursing their puppies. It still works for adult dogs and makes them feel safe and secure.
You can get this in a plug-in diffuser and place it in their special spot, or get several to place around the house. This will help your resident dogs keep their calm, too. If you have cats in the house, you’ll want to get some feline pheromone diffusers to get them ready for the big day. Do this several days to a week before you bring home the new dog.
If you have time, take a towel or blanket to the shelter and let your soon-to-be pup lie on it or rub against it to put their scent on it. Then bring it home for your current pets to sniff and get used to.
Introducing Your New Dog to Their New Place
Put your other pets in other rooms, or have someone take your dog(s) for a walk when your new dog comes home for the first time. You may want to make sure you’re the only person around at first, too.
Let your new dog sniff around the house, and show them where all of their things are. Give your pup a little tour of your home and let them sniff the other pets’ stuff. Remember that they aren’t going to know any of the rules or schedules at first, so they will probably make some mistakes.
Take your pup for a walk to see their new neighborhood, and give them a treat when you come home. Keep the house quiet and calm and get in some quality snuggle time or playtime, depending on their mood.
Meeting the Resident Pets
After the new pup has had time to check out the place without any other pets around, you can introduce them to their new pals. You never know how pets will react to each other–they may become buddies from the second they smell each other, or they may decide not to engage for a while. There may be some hissing or suspicious looks, or none at all.
Introduce the resident pets one at a time to the new dog. If you have a super-shy cat or dog, you may want to keep them separate for the first few days before you do this. During that time, you can let them smell each other’s bedding to get used to the new scents. Give your current pets lots of attention, too.
When you’re ready, let the first pet out, give everyone their own treats in their own corners, and watch for signs of fear or bad vibes. For cats, this might be hiding, hissing, their hair standing up, or flattening their ears. With dogs, it could be growling, yawning, licking their lips, staring, becoming stiff, or also putting their ears flat. If you see these things, you may need to take a break.
You can also try distracting them with toys so they’re more focused on playing than each other. This is best when you have someone who can play with the resident pets while you play with the new pup.
It could take several sessions or days before the pets start getting more comfortable around each other. Don’t leave your pets alone with each other in the same room if you are not sure they are getting along well enough. If things get really rocky, you may need some help from a professional trainer or pet behaviorist.
It may also be that even if your pets decide they won’t be best friends, they can learn to live with each other and share the space through an unspoken treaty. Sometimes animals come up with timeshares and know which spots are whose, and they kind of stay out of each other’s way. That may not have been your dream scenario, but it can still work out this way.
How to Introduce the New Dog to the Kids
Hopefully, you will be able to bring your kid(s) to the shelter with you, and they will take part in picking out the new dog. That way, you can see the dog’s reaction, and you’ll need to make sure you’re looking at dogs that are known to be good with kids.
If your child is around 5 or younger, you’ll definitely need to supervise all interactions, especially if your kid has never been around a dog before. Babies and toddlers just can’t resist pulling tails, and they have to be taught to treat animals properly and with respect and kindness. Toddlers are notorious for throwing things, and they might sometimes throw them at pets without thinking.
Go slow and try to limit the first interaction, watching for any signs of fear or feeling threatened from the new pup. Model for your child how to hold your hand out for the dog to smell, and how to gently pet them if they are okay with it. Give your new dog lots of treats, too.
Make use of baby or dog gates and give your dog breaks from children if they need them. Always be vigilant when you have your children around the new dog. It helps to get your child books about dogs and how to treat dogs that are appropriate for their age and start reading them before the new pup comes home.
Roomies and Significant Others
If you’re lucky, you have awesome, dog-loving people living in your house with you. And in this case, it should go pretty smoothly. Or, you may live with people who have never been around dogs before.
Either way, you can do the introduction outside the house–maybe by going on a walk together. You hold the leash, and tell the person not to approach the dog while you’re walking. It’s okay if your dog seems to want to approach them, though.
After the walk, or when your dog seems ready, have the person offer a treat while seated. They should let the dog sniff their hand first and not try to pet them right away. If your dog approaches and accepts them wholeheartedly, that’s great! If not, don’t be disappointed. It will just take a little time. The main thing is for the person to remain calm and to let the dog approach them first.
Again, if things don’t seem to be going well, you may need some professional help from a trainer or pet behaviorist, and that's okay! It's and adjustment for everyone involved, but a worthwhile one.