Introducing new pets
By Oluwatobiloba Onipede
Pet socialization is crucial for fostering healthy relationships between new and old pets or new pets and family members. This is important because it equips your pets with behavioral skills that encourage positive interactions between themselves and family members. Pet socialization typically begins with an introduction, and most pet owners don’t usually put a lot of thought into this stage, which incites a total upheaval within the household. Thus, to create an environment where all parties can happily exist and cohabit, you must know how to introduce pets to each other and your family. But first, let’s delve deeper into the importance of pet socialization.
Importance of pet socialization
Pet socialization is imperative to positive associations between pets and humans and fostering an all-around healthy environment. All pets need socialization regardless of their breed, age, past (as in the case of a rescue), or type. There are so many benefits of pet socialization. Here is a handful of them:
Dogs and cats often exhibit fearful behaviors when they aren’t properly socialized or well-adjusted. Unless it’s a police dog or one bred for security, no one likes an aggressive pet. By introducing your new rescue to your old dog or a new puppy to an older dog, you’re equipping them with the necessary social skills they need to be the best version of themselves. Pet socialization involves everything from pet-to-pet introductions to family meets and greets and familiarizing them with objects within and outside the house. This way, they won’t get rattled if another dog or cat comes around them or they come in contact with a foreign object.
Let’s face it, you’re not always going to be around your pet, and socialization equips them with the coping skills they need to be good pets even when you’re not around. While some breeds like the Labrador Retriever or the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel have separation anxiety , which can make them act out when their owner isn’t around, socialization helps them adapt to different environments, smells, scenarios, and people easily . Thus, it helps keep their inherent anxieties on check.
Best ways to introduce dogs to family
Think of introducing your dog to the family as a journey, not a race. You’re familiarizing your dog with the people he or she will mostly be interacting with. So, it’s best to take things slow, you don’t overwhelm or spook your dog. Introducing your new dog to your family is a transition, and a calm approach should be applied. Don’t go throwing a ‘meet the family’ party and rattle your new dog. Here’s the best way to introduce your new dog to family and friends.
Use the Scent-First Approach
To ease the transition, you should first introduce your dog to the human’s scent. If it’s a toddler-pet interaction, introduce the dog to the baby’s blanket. If it’s an adult human, a jacket will suffice.
Create Positive Associations
Once your dog inhales the family member’s scent, reward him or her with treats. This way, your dog associates the scent of the family member with treats and warms up to them. Do this at least three times before bringing your baby or family member to meet the dog.
During this introduction, the dog should approach the family member first. You can place a treat in the family member’s hand to achieve this. However, you should always monitor the dog and the family members and take note of their behaviors around each other. This will help future interactions. Keep a close eye on your new pet around children, babies, and toddlers, as they can be rough.
When to introduce your new dog to family members
Timing is important for fostering positive interactions between your dog and family members. It’s often best to introduce family members to new pets when they’re trained. So, you might want to train your dog before introducing them to the family. The age of the dog and the amount of training he/she has might influence the socialization experience. It’s advised to socialize your pet between 12-16 weeks. So, you’ll need to begin training during that time if it’s a puppy.
Behavioral indicators to watch out for
When socializing your dog by introducing them to family members, take note of their body language and responses. If they display tense postures, bare their teeth, growl, bark, or strike a defensive pose, you might want to discontinue the meet and greet. However, if they’re docile and relaxed or they’re wagging their tails, then you can go ahead to give them treats. The dogs that display hostile behaviors are probably afraid, so you should calm them down and continue the process some other time.
Introducing two dogs
As a dog parent, you’re probably wondering, ‘How do you introduce dogs to each other?’ There are several ways to introduce two dogs to each other, but this is the best way to do it:
Meet and greet
When introducing a new dog to the family dog, you might want to take the family dog out for a walk first. Then take the new dog inside the house to familiarize himself. Follow this up by taking both dogs outside for a meet and greet. Note the body language, as the family dog might be territorial. Ease into it, and remember to be patient. They may not turn into best buddies in a day.
Putting both dogs on the same bed might be a recipe for disaster. So, while they’re still getting to know each other and acclimating, get them separate beds. The same thing applies to feeding and water bowls. Preferably, you can feed them in separate rooms and eventually transition to one room once they’re fully acclimated.
Adopt a routine
Pets thrive on an established routine which should include daily walks and trips to the park. This is also the best way to socialize with other pets and humans. However, we understand some pet parents have busier schedules than others and so may not be able to take time off to help their pets socialize in this manner. Although if you sign up to our Lifetime Protection Membership, you will receive a $30 Rover discount which could help you save on dog-walking services from Rover.com.
Pointers for introducing a puppy to an older dog
The pointers above will suffice if you’re introducing a new puppy to an older family dog. However, do not neglect the older dog and tend to the puppy alone. Let both pets feel loved and prioritized, which will help them acclimate better. Get new dog toys and use positive reinforcement to train them together.
Pointers for introducing a rescue to a family dog
Some rescues can be unpredictable, especially with their temperament. Hence, you’ll need to tread carefully. Apply the scent-first approach, separate them initially as needed and take note of their behavioral responses to each other.
Your dogs are your best friends, so it’s only natural to want them to get along with each other and with your family and friends. So, the first step to socializing a new pet is introducing them to one other. While it may sound easy, this requires great preparation and a lot of patience.