Your human children, if you have any, are probably gleeful that the new Puppy is finally home. Your other animal companions, however, may be much less enthusiastic. Your task is to make the introductions and make sure the interactions don’t get out of hand
DOG, MEET DOG
Here’s a peek at normal canine greeting rituals. In addition to sniffing, you may see a lot of bluffing: the showing of teeth, raising hackles, and shoulder pawing. Don’t panic, even though your older dog may look like he’s just barely tolerating the precocious puppy skidding around him. Your dogs are doing what dogs do when they first meet: sizing one another up in order to determine who’s dominant. It’s an essential first step if you ever hope for harmony in your dogs’ relationship.
If your other dog is much larger than your puppy, the shoulder pawing may be a problem just because of the sheer weight and power of the bigger dog.
Here are some suggestions for keeping the initial meetings between your pets calm:
- Stay close by but don’t interfere unless you think that the bluffing is escalating to aggression. Your dogs have to come to their own conclusions about each other.
- If you notice any signs of aggression, end the introductions immediately. Signs of aggression include
• Crouching and hugging the ground, with ears pinned back to the head
• Glaring (hard stares)
• Deep-throated growling
• A general, tense stillness
- If you’re not sure how your older dog is going to react, put both dogs on leashes before the introduction and have someone there who can help you pull the two dogs apart if things get out of hand.
- Don’t force the dogs to interact. Some dogs rush up to sniff at the new puppy; others stand back and observe for a while. Similarly, when your older dog is ready to leave, let him. Don’t force him to stay and submit to any more juvenile antics. If the puppy tries to follow him, hold the pup back.
- Let the dogs establish their hierarchy and then abide by it. Until the puppy earns a higher place in the pack, she’s the low dog on the totem pole as far as your other dog is concerned. Although she may become the dominant dog later, she’s not now. Don’t undermine this hierarchy — even unwittingly. Follow these suggestions:
• Don’t hold the puppy up for introductions. Height equals status to dogs. The higher dog is the more dominant one. So let the dogs greet each other at their natural levels.
• To help your older dog come to terms with the new arrival, reinforce his dominant status by greeting him first and giving him the most attention.
After your dogs settle the dog hierarchy and accept their individual status (as either dominant or submissive), your home is going to be pretty peaceful. But as your puppy grows and her personality becomes more apparent, the dynamics between the two dogs continue to shift. Occasionally, they get along fine; other times they snap and argue with one another. You usually see these upsets at hot spots — places where dominance challenges are likely to happen: food dishes, doorways, favorite pillows, treat time, and so on.
When you have a pppy, especially if your other dog is much larger, be aware of where the hot spots are so that you can eliminate any problems or intervene if things get rough. For example, you can feed the dogs separately, if necessary.
Maybe your cat will become great friends with your new puppy (a likelier scenario if she’s a kitten when he’s a pup). Maybe she’ll consider him nothing more than a toy to wind up and let go. Maybe she’ll avoid him entirely. As unfair as the situation may be from the canine perspective, the creature in control of this relationship is the cat. Why? Because she doesn’t have to stick around any longer than she wants to, and she has the tools (speed and agility) to escape.
The introduction between your puppy and your cat is likely to be brief, consisting of however long it takes the cat to decide she’s seen enough — an opinion she may very well form from the top of the refrigerator without bothering to get up close and personal.
- Keep the puppy on a leash when the cat comes near. If the cat runs, your puppy may give chase.
- If the cat hisses or swats at your puppy, stay calm. Don’t scold her and don’t baby him. Simply call an end to the introduction (if the cat hasn’t done so already).
- When your cat is ready to leave, let her go. The goal of the first meeting is simply to make introductions, not friends — yet. That may come with time (and without your interfering). And if all you manage to achieve is noncombatant status, that’s fine, too.
HERE’S THE REST OF THE GANG
If you have birds, gerbils, hamsters, iguanas, geckos, or other such pets, you need to make introductions (that is, let the animals see one another) only if you let the other critters out to roam the house — even if they roam in a critter cruiser — or if your puppy can access their living environment. Introduce them to each other a few days after your puppy’s homecoming, when she’s had a chance to get used to her environment but you’re still closely supervising her.
Keep these pointers in mind:
- Make sure you don’t unintentionally encourage inappropriate behavior. Laughing at her behavior, trying to coax her out of it, or giving her anything she can construe as positive attention will give her the impression that jumping and barking at the guinea pigs in the guinea pig cage is just A-okay with you. Instead, say “no” in a firm voice and take her away from the cage. If she persists, give her a few minutes of timeout in her crate.