Whether you are getting a new puppy from a breeder or rescuing a cat from a local animal shelter, you are about to change this pet's life – and yours. Making a smooth introduction will be helpful for your entire family, including your newest four-legged member. Here are some tips from Vetoquinol veterinarians on how to help ease this transition:
- Plan Ahead: Before bringing your new pet home, decide where they will be spending most of their time. Designate an area just for them, such as a crate or cozy area with a bed, toys and water. Set up your house before bringing your new pup home! This will allow you to focus on your new family member.
- Prep the Family: Make sure your human family members are prepared for the new addition. Talk to your children about how to approach the dog or cat without scaring him or her. If a puppy or kitten, be sure to teach your kids how to lift him and play with their new pet safely. You may want to read children's book about new pets and their care ahead of your new pet's arrival.
- New Pet Makes 2 or 3: If you have another pet at home, the introduction of your new animal is very important. Allow your new pet to decompress and get use to your house before introducing them to any other pets. This allows your newest family member time to get used to their surrounds. When you're ready to introduce your pets, pay attention to their body language. Watch carefully for body postures that indicate a defensive or wary response, including hair standing up, teeth baring, growling, a stiff-legged gait or a prolonged stare. If you see such postures, immediately and calmly interrupt the interaction by separating your pets and interesting them in something else. If both pets seem relaxed and comfortable, you can reintroduce them.
- Create Structure: Pets are creatures of routine - especially dogs. Animals often crave rules, repetitive habits and boundaries. Make sure everyone in the family helps create this structure for consistency. Keep to a walk schedule, sleep schedule and feeding schedule.
- Sniff it Out: When making introductions, it's important to take time to let your pet get used to you and your smells. Put a few pieces of dirty laundry in your animal's crate/bed – this allows your pet to get used to the smells in your home. Go slowly until your pet is comfortable with you.
- Keep Calm: Your home can be a scary place for your new pet! Over time, your dog or cat should be more comfortable around you and your family. Make sure to monitor your pet’s behavior for signs of anxiety. Zylkene®, a non-drug behavioral supplement, can be started a few days before introducing him to new people to help pets cope in new surroundings. Ask for Zylkene by name at your local veterinary clinic or online at Chewy.com or Healthy Pets.
- Vet your Vet: If you don’t have other pets, it will mean you will be looking into a veterinarian for the first time. Many local areas have Facebook groups where you can ask neighbors for local recommendations, or speak to family and friends about their veterinarian practices. Some people choose certain vets because they specialize in certain areas and breeds, while others may offer boarding services that will come in handy. Call to set up your pet’s initial examination and/or additional vaccination needs.
- Proper Training: Proper training is KEY. There are many books and online videos that you can read ahead of your pet's arrival. If you don’t feel ready to do all the training yourself, ask your vet practice about local pet trainers - many offer group, individual or at-home training classes. Even if you are adopting an older dog, some training may still need to be done or refreshed.
- Be Patient: Sometimes housebroken pets will have accidents or cry at night. This will go away with positive reinforcement and patience.
If your new pet's behavior changes in any way, call your veterinarian. They can rule out any underlying medical issues as well as make additional recommendations for training.