Trying to introduce another dog, cat, rabbit, or bird to your resident animals? Avoid disaster and lots of stress down the road by following these simple rules.
- Go slow. If you feel like you’re going too slowly, then slow down. The goal is that by the time the animals meet each other, they are so bored of one another that they don’t care to interact. You want their interaction to be, “Oh, hey, it’s you. I’ve seen you around for a while. Have a good day.” Your mantra should be, “are we bored enough yet?” Use baby gates, leashes, ex-pens, crates, and closed doors to slowly let them get used to the sight, sound and smell of each other without having to actually interact.
- Safety first. Remember that your little lap dog is still a predator at heart. No matter how sweet and trustworthy your dog or cat may seem, you can’t fight nature, and a kill happens in a split second. Use closed doors, baby gates, leashes, ex-pens, crates, and cages to control everyone’s interactions, until you are absolutely, completely sure that no one is showing a little too much “interest” in anyone else. See number 1 above.
- Keep everyone on leash or behind a gate so that they can’t learn to chase. Dogs only chase cats because it’s so much fun. Cats chase dogs because … well, it’s fun. Parrots nip dogs and cats because … it’s fun. The thing is, they don’t know how much fun it is to antagonize their housemates until they try it, and find out. The bottom line is, if you can keep your pets from learning how much fun it is to terrorize each other until they’re REALLY bored with each other, you’re in the home stretch. Don’t be afraid to use a leash in the house.
- Teach your dog a “gentle” command. This shouldn’t be something that you shout at your dog after the fact, but rather a reminder to move slowly and calmly, and turn their head away if one of the animals comes up to them. Start with your dog on leash in your home, with the other pet in a cage, crate, or behind a gate. Say “gentle” – calmly – and lure your dog’s head away from the other animal with a treat. Reward and praise (calmly) when they’ve moved away. Repeat and practice until when you say “gentle,” your dog moves away from the other animal and looks up at you hopefully. Your bunny comes up to sniff your dog? Excellent time to use “gentle.” Cat sticks her bottom in your dog’s face? “Gentle.” Not only are you helping your dog make a calm, happy emotional association with the other animal, but you’re teaching them how to move away calmly if the other animal is in their space.