Adopting a second pet

I have a dog and I would like to get another animal.

How to introduce new dog, a cat or an exotic animal to the dog already in your household?

Pet lovers like you and us often have a hankering for more than one companion. A survey by Association des Médecins Vétérinaire du Québec (in small animal practices) showed that 19 % of the households have a cat or a dog, and that a family has an average of 1,2 to 1,7 pets.

For a harmonious cohabitation between animals

To put the odds of a good cohabitation in your favour when you introduce a new pet in your home, the team of Passionimo prepared a list of questions and answers.

HOW SHOULD I INTRODUCE A NEW PET IN MY HOME?

First, take the time to really think about it. Here are a few things to consider: How much time can I invest? What is the space available? What is my budget?

Even if your child claims to absolutely want a dog or a gold fish and to be prepared to take care of the pet day and night; in reality, that commitment might last a few weeks at most. Instead of telling children that their pet will have to go back to the shelter if they don’t take care of it, keep in mind from the get-go that the pet will often wind up being your responsibility…Remember that pets are not toys: they are sensible creatures who will form a bond with their family, often in a very short time!

Get information on the breed you’re interested in to make sure it fits with your lifestyle.

DO I NEED TO TAKE SPECIAL PRECAUTIONS IF I HAVE CHILDREN?

Yes, keep a watchful eye on the situation! Pets, just like humans, have different levels of patience. Introducing a new pet in a home environment is a stressful experience for everyone involved. Caution should be exercised.

Going in with the false notion that a pet will never bite is akin to thinking that a mom will never yell or lose patience…It’s essential for pets to have a corner or spot where they can seek refuge to be left in peace. Be mindful that the new pet will not know where this place is from the get-go! We then have to show the newcomer where it is and make sure that everyone in the household understands that when the dog is in that special place he should not be disturbed.

Is there a risk that my new furry friend will transit diseases to my current pet?

Yes, and sadly, this happens frequently, including transmitting fleas and intestinal worms and contracting respiratory diseases. Here are 2 rules to follow:

  1. Make sure that your current pet is properly vaccinated.
  2. Before taking a new pet home, bring it to your veterinarian, especially if it’s an outdoor pet or if it’s coming from a shelter, a pet store or if you don’t know he history.

Additionally, some diseases can remain dormant for several days before showing signs or symptoms, and yet be contagious. That’s why it’s so important to protect the pets you already own.

I want a second dog. How can I make sure that my current pet will be able to coexist with the new one?

The general idea is to make sure that there is no competition over resources and that the first dog can keep its routine and favourite spots (like a couch, its bed, etc.).

A cozy nest

Make sure that each dog will have a place where he can feel safe and where you can leave them when you cannot supervise their interaction or when they need a time out. Crates where you can leave a blanket or a cushion as well as food dispensing toys, which are precious allies. We have to make sure that each dog is comfortable while being confined.

First interaction

The best way to introduce dogs is to have them meet un neutral ground, e.g. taking them on a walk. This way, they can get to know each other while having fun. In doubt, use basket muzzles and keep them on a leash during the early stages of introduction.

Exploring the surrounding

When it is time for the newcomer to explore the surroundings, it is better for the dog to do so freely without worrying about your current dog. Therefore, it is good time for one of the owners to go for a walk with the current dog while the newcomer goes exploring under the supervision of a second owner. To prevent losing control the first time a dog goes exploring, walk around the house with the dog on a leash.

Supervised contact

First meeting, check! House exploration, check! They are ready for a few quick supervised interactions. Faites bien attention d’avoir retiré les jouets préférés de chacun et les os afin de prévenir la protection de ressources. For the event, make sure to remove the favorite toys and bones to prevent them from having protective behaviours. Make sure to pause the game often by recalling one or the other dog to you. If you notice signs of stress in one of the dogs, or if it becomes difficult to pause the games, End the session and let them take a break.

For a better harmony in the household, make sure that there is no competition over resources: provide 2 food dispensers, 2 or 3 water bowls, many resting spots, etc.

Are there specific advices to introduce a cat in the house with my dog?

For better chances of making sure that the first impression is a success, we have to make sure that the dog will not pursue the cat. This can be achieved in various ways. Introduction will have to include several steps over many days, depending on each animal’s personalities.

A cozy nest

The first thing to do is to find a very comfortable room where you can lock in the newcomer, making sure not to use your dog favourite spot! Put some food, water, a new litter box, toys, etc. Put some food, water, a new litter box, toys, etc. Everything he may need.

Indirect interactions

Indirect actions are preferred to introduce the newcomer to your current cat by placing interesting objects on each side of the door. It can be treats, food, toys, etc. The goal is to encourage exploring the area using positive stimuli. Using a toy that has 2 large extremities with a smaller area in the middle that can be jammed under the door will be a great opportunity for the dog and the cat to play together.

After a few days, it could be smart to switch the items used by the pets, like blankets, to help them become familiar with the other animal’s smell.

Supervised contact

After a few days, when indirect interactions are going well and the two pets don’t show many signs of stress, open the door to let the newcomer out while keeping the dog leashed can also help prevent rough movements toward the cat. It is a good timing to have treats in hand. Start with a short and monitored interaction. Put the newcomer back into his room before things get too tensed. Let the cat and the dog know each other at their own pace. Don’t force contact between them. With time, increase the length and the number of interactions.

To ensure a harmonious cohabitation, make sure that the cat can easily access resources without the dog disrupting him and the cat can rest out of reach of the dog. Using a baby fence is especially interesting to keep the dog out of the cat’s room. Choose higher ground to locate the cat’s food and also its bed.

Beware, cats and dogs may not feel like siblings, even if they live in the same household. Some dogs feel the urge to prey and all it would require would be a squeak or a sudden move from the cat for a lethal chase. Some dogs can be love bugs with cats indoors but chase them around as soon as they step outside. So supervision is essential.

What should I do to introduce an exotic pet in a home with or dog?

We often see those touching stories of dogs and bunnies or birds sharing a beautiful friendship on Facebook. This can happen in real life, but there are also sad tales of predation that could easily have been prevented in some cases. Think of those retired greyhounds who suddenly share a home with a rabbit… After being trained to run after a prey for years, there’s a good chance the dog might attack the rabbit.

Therefore, physical distancing and supervision are key!

Remember that we only have one change to make a good impression! Each house being different, check with your veterinary team before adding a new member to your family. This way you can work on a plan that is specific to your reality. Introducing a new animal in your household is a good example when prevention is better than a cure! A little planning can go a long way and save you a lot of trouble.

Have more questions?

Please do not hesitate to contact the Passionimo veterinary clinic near you.

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