You’ve prepared to adopt a puppy and it’s time to bring him home! …Now what? Socializing your new puppy with your current family is an important step. Whether you hope your new puppy will become best friends with your older dog, your cat, or your kids, these tips should help you ease the way into becoming one big happy family.
Introducing Your Puppy to Your Older Dog
- If you haven’t already, make sure your resident pets are friendly to other animals before bringing a new puppy into the mix – it helps if they’re well socialized and have had past experiences with other dogs.
- You as the owner must remain calm and confident during introductions. If you’re nervous or tense, the dogs are likely to feel this.
- To prevent your older dog from feeling like the new puppy is invading his turf, introduce the two in neutral outdoor territory like a quiet park, on a walk around the neighborhood, or in a friend’s yard. Keep both dogs on leashes, but keep the leashes slacked so they don’t feel confined.
- Allow the dogs to sniff and become familiar with each other on their own terms and don’t force them to interact if they’re not in the mood to do so. Reward your dogs with affection for friendly interactions and encourage them in a gentle voice. Your older dog may ignore the puppy at this point, but that’s fine – give him time to warm up on his own.
- If all seems to be going well, take them on a walk together, but keep initial interactions brief. If growling occurs, quickly separate your dog and your puppy and let them cool down for a few minutes before trying again.
- When you get home, it may take time for both dogs to get used to each other’s scent everywhere in the house. Put your puppy in his crate, since he may need Safe Zone time to observe his new surroundings without the stress of meeting new people or other pets.
- Gradually, once both dogs have become more familiar with each other, monitor the time they spend together and continue rewarding them for friendly interactions.
Introducing Your Puppy to Your Cat
- Before your puppy and cat ever meet, make a towel or blanket with your puppy’s scent available to your cat to sniff, and put a towel or blanket of your cat’s in your puppy’s crate. They’ll check out each other’s strange scents, which may help with the “real” introduction.
- Next, put your puppy in his crate, playpen, or behind a baby gate in the living room or kitchen where he’ll have plenty of company and can get accustomed to the sights, sounds, and smells of his new home. (It’s worth noting: you shouldn’t leave your puppy in a room unsupervised – there are too many interesting things to chew on, he may chase the cat, or even have an accident on the floor.)
- Let your cat check out the puppy and don’t force her to get close if she’s not comfortable doing so.
- Reward both your pets for calm, friendly interactions without hissing or barking.
- Once several interactions have gone well with a barrier between them, it’s time to allow your pets to explore together. Keep your puppy on a leash to avoid any chasing and let your cat set the pace for the meet and greet. These monitored on-leash interactions may last a couple weeks, so don’t be afraid to take it slow.
- If barking or chasing occurs, distract your dog by engaging him in some obedience exercises and treats to keep the experience a constructive and positive one. Make sure your cat doesn’t feel confined, and give her plenty of space and time to cool down if she feels threatened.
- Make sure your cat has private safe spaces if she doesn’t want to play and higher ledges where she can observe your new rambunctious ball of fur. Her litter box, food, and primary sleeping space should be in places your puppy can’t get to.
Introducing Your Puppy to Your Kids
- Before bringing your puppy home, check to see if he’s been socialized and does well with kids. Some dogs, even puppies, might never feel completely comfortable around children.
- Especially if they’re very young, teach your kids how to gently pet a puppy by practicing on a stuffed animal before the puppy comes home. Sometimes kids can forget that puppies aren’t playthings that they can poke, squeeze, and carry around!
- Puppies can easily be frightened by loud noises and unpredictable movements, so have your kids sit as still as they can on the floor and remind them to speak in quiet, gentle voices. (You can even turn this into a game – who can speak the quietest or sit like a statue.)
- With the puppy in his safe space carrier, playpen, or behind a baby gate, allow him to observe the area. Let your kids know that when the puppy is in his crate, they need to give him alone time.
- Once both the kids and your puppy have had time to settle, let your puppy out of his carrier to sniff around and explore the room on his own terms. This will help him gain confidence in his new surroundings.
- Encourage your kids to interact with the puppy in a calm and friendly way.
- Be sure to reward your puppy with kibbles from his bowl, treats, or words of encouragement so he associates good behavior around new people with good things. (If you’re using food rewards, be sure to take from his regularly allotted supply to avoid overfeeding.)
- Once the kids and puppy are comfortable roaming a larger room together, remind your kids that rough play, chasing, and squeezing are off limits. Don’t exhaust your puppy with a marathon play session – start short (about 15 minutes) and lengthen the sessions of play so he doesn’t get stressed out or over excited.
- Because your puppy will need some quiet time, provide him his own private space away from kids and other pets where he can feel safe.
While these tips for socializing your puppy should help ease the transition into the family, we also recommend enrolling your puppy in obedience classes to continue teaching him manners and preparing him for a variety of social situations he may encounter throughout his life. Congratulations on your furry bundle of joy!
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