Training Tip – A Proper Introduction

Seems like the past few months, for one reason or another, I’ve been focused on introductions between a new dog and existing pets in the home.  I was asked to write some training tips for an article in an upcoming puppy issue of the Dog Fancy family of magazines, then several clients have needed assistance with helping keep peace in the household after bringing in a new dog.  And finally, this past Friday, we got to do A Proper Introduction between our new canine kid, Cody (1 year old Australian Shepherd who came to us from the Valley River Humane Society), and Gibson, our 5 year old Australian Shepherd.

After you’ve done the proper research to determine the type of dog that best suits your home and lifestyle and are taking the new canine kid home, just how does one go about making a proper introduction to other pets in the household?  As a professional pet dog trainer, this is question I’m often asked (but sometimes too late!).  Your goal is to give all animals involved the time and space they need to adjust.

So, what is the proper way to introduce a new dog to other animals in your house: dogs, cats, birds, etc.? It’s important to supervise, make introductions slowly and allow all animals to take it at their own pace so that everyone maintains maximum physical and emotional comfort.  Giving in to temptation and pushing too fast can mean lots of remedial training.  First, ask a friend to assist with the introduction.  Have the new dog and your existing dog on loose leashes and let them meet on neutral territory (a friend’s backyard or local park).  Be encouraging with your words, let them briefly greet and sniff one another and follow with a tasty treat.  Be sure not to force the interaction.  Once the dogs are home, you can continue to let the dogs get to know each other through a baby gate or other barrier, letting your existing dog visit the newcomer at his leisure.  Introducing the newcomer to other species of animals in the house should be done just as slowly and cautiously, but introduce the newcomer to only one pet at a time (allow a cat to set the pace and be sure a bird is in its cage).  If at any point in time either pet appears unduly uncomfortable, it’s best to solicit the advice of a positive trainer for the well being of your animals and peace in your household.

Some of the common road blocks to success when introducing a new dog to existing pets in the household are moving too fast, not giving the existing pet the time and space needed to adjust and forgetting to pick up your current pet’s prized possessions.  Be sure to supervise and make introductions slowly, give your older, loyal friend his own safe place to go (away from the newcomer), pick up all toys and bones so there’s nothing for the pets to have an argument over and make sure your older pet is healthy enough to enjoy interactions with a high energy puppy.  And last, but not least, remember to reward all good behavior!

So how’s it going in our home, you ask? Well, since bringing Cody home, we’ve been supervising all interactions between our 4 cats, Cody and Gibson.  If neither Brad nor I can be around to supervise, then Cody goes back to his crate for a short period of time until we’re able to keep our eyes on everyone.  We’re managing the environment by keeping all toys, Kongs and bones picked up, unless each is occupied with one of the same and then both are immediately picked up after the two are finished.  We’ve been training “Name and Attention” so that if Cody happens to get too focused on a cat (when they run) we can redirect him easily by happily saying his name to get his focus back on us.  And did you know that soothing, classical music has been proven to reduce canine stress?  You can purchase Through a Dog’s Ear from a variety of places, including www.dogwise.com.  And last, but not least, Comfort Zone, a dog appeasing pheromone is helpful in reducing stress.

Both Gibson and Cody are respecting one another’s space quite well and have actually even been lying very close to one another at our feet (even touching at one point last night).  And thankfully, Cody is quite comfortable with the kitties and they’re reasonably comfortable with him.

Peace in the household is priceless!

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