According to the United States Human Society, about forty percent of the population owns at least one dog and almost thirty percent have two or more dogs as well as other animals in the home. So, clearly everyone has dealt with the issue of integrating a new dog or other animals at some point to their pack.
Size, breed, and how well pets are trained can help or make integration more difficult
Over the past two decades, I’ve been the proud owner of dogs and cats, but have never had them together at the same time – it was either all dogs or all cats. Integrating new pets is stressful, but I am always up for a challenge.
Currently, I have a puppy and a kitten. They were both adopted last year at the same time, but the kitten was brought home first. Integrating my new dog with a cat was different than expected. I believe it has to do with the cat being smaller than an average size of a couple month old herding breed puppy.
Ultimately your success depends on how well your current pets are trained. Another story on pet integration you may find helpful during your process.
Here is Colby at 6 months old right before we brought him home. He’s sitting patiently in his glass kennel area at the animal shelter, excited to come home with us!
Tips for best integration
- Be vigilant; astute when you start integration
- Keep a stress free environment
- Gradual first meeting, calm
- Always keep a collar/harness on all animals and a leash
- Scents: let all animals sniff the newbie’s collar, or a cloth (while in a separate space)
- Try to prevent conflicts before they occur
- Correct dominance issues
- Show them eating areas; always keep separate
Other tips to be aware of for the integration process:
Make integration gradual, stress free and always be vigilant
It is already a major task for your new puppy to get familiar with their new owner, let alone another animal or animals. The task of having the animals meet for the first time can be stressful, but you need to make it as stress free as possible, gradually introduce them to each other, be careful and things will go smoothly.
All humans should talk in regular indoor voices to one another to keep pets calm. All family members: humans, canines, felines, and other animals need to be present when integration process begins in a room or yard. Make sure you are vigilant and closely watching the interaction in case you feel the need to separate the animals for any reason and re-try the next day.
The first meeting can pose a lasting impression on your new dog and your current pets. The important issue at hand is: you want to take it gradually – not too long of a meeting, about 20 minutes.
My puppy and kitten integration experience
When I brought my new puppy home from the shelter in 2017, I already had my kitten at home for about 48 hours. So, both were new to my husband and I and the animals were green to each other. We did some reading on integration of a new kitten and puppy; practice makes perfect! Our kitten was only 2 lbs at the time and puppy was about 28 lbs. – enough to do damage if our puppy got overly excited around her and he was!
For the most part our initial meeting went okay, however, our puppy wanted to play and chase our kitten. Over the course of several days things got light-hearted between puppy and kitten, but you want to keep integration sessions short and sweet. Remember this is a process, and you don’t want to overwhelm the new addition or additions to your family.
Use harness or collar with leash before roaming free in home
Snowie (kitten, 1 year old, Siamese albino) and Colby (puppy 1 year old, Australian Shepherd). Using a collar or harness and leash during integration of new pets is imperative for them to recognize boundaries and know that the other animal is living in their space too. Keep leashes / collars loose, keep a friendly, calm, stress free atmosphere, especially during the first meeting.
As I learned more about Siamese cats not only from my reading, but in person, I realized our kitten was fond of walking on a leash. So this way easier than expected. For their first meeting I had both my kitten and puppy in a harness and on the leash, in our living room.
My Australian shepherd was overly excited and jumped around a lot; this initial meeting only lasted a few minutes. He was excited and was happy to have another animal with him. He wanted to play too much, and was a bit rough with my cat, but over time we allowed them to be off their leashes and in the same room. It took about two weeks and it could take you longer or shorter.
Regardless of sticking to the tips listed above, sometimes time frames vary depending on animal personalities.
- Be careful with a dog and a cat because the cat could easily get trampled
- Never start integration without collars and leashes
Aggression and dominance issues
Jealousy can ensue when you bring home another pet. When you see a fight or dominance trait coming out in any animal correct them immediately and say, “No!”
If you feel your pets aren’t ready to be in the same pace without the leash method, continue to use until you feel they can handle being off the leash and act calm and friendly toward one another.
Always remember to maintain a calm, stress free environment among humans in the room so pets feel at ease.
Boundaries, eating and sleeping areas, a new scent
Setting boundaries is important right away, so they won’t repeat the same scenarios in the future.
Show each animal where their food is. Always keep these areas private and separate. This allows your new dog to feel comfortable and safe when they are eating and shows boundaries from the other pets in the household. This is a huge part of making a successful introduction. The less stress while eating is very important.
Keep dogs in separate rooms or cages at night. My dog is in a cage at night, while my cat roams the house. This works out fine. My cat has her own bed, right next to my dog’s cage.
Also, let each animal sniff the other animal’s collar, a cloth, or a favorite toy to let them know this will be a recurring smell and will get them acquainted faster.
Never give up during integration process
Because this is a stressful task, it can take some time and the key is: never give up!
Luckily my kitten and puppy became friends rather quickly. However, it still took about two long weeks (that felt like a few months) to allow them to roam freely in my home while we are home.
We still use the cage at night for our puppy because he has GI medical issues and I keep an eye on him at night.
If you give up on making the interaction between your cat and dog or two dogs, or whatever is your animal population in your home, then the interaction may never be calm. You never want to stop teaching your animals how to behave appropriately around other animals, otherwise their wild nature will come out and you will have perpetual behavior problems in and outside your home.
Get more advice from friends, vet, or local shelter
Other than basic tips and common sense when integrating a new addition to your pack, talking to other dog owners can help. Also, talking to your vet or local shelter for advice or tip pamphlets can also be beneficial. They want you to continue to be the forever home and help in any way they can! And for some more immediate advice you can read from the guru dog trainer, Cesar Milan.
Snowie trying to claw at Colby’s face – this is why it is important to separate them when you’re not home or at night – to prevent injury and aggression. Until you feel comfortable, then you can let them freely roam your home.
Always keep animals separate when your aren’t home during this process
Anytime you aren’t home during this new integration phase, make sure your animals are separated until you know how they act around each other. Using two different cages or different rooms is best. If you have a cat it’s a tad easier because you can keep the dog in a cage and the cat roams the house and has access to the litter box.
With patience and time, you will be successful
It’s not easy integrating new pets. With patience and time everything works out, but you should set boundaries immediately in a stress free environment. If you follow these tips, you will have success letting your new pet explore and love their new home and new canine and feline family members.
Colby (puppy) and Snowie (kitten) able to be together, relaxing, off leashes. This was about two months after they met for the first time.
Jen Jones is a professional dog trainer and behavior specialist with more than 25 years of experience. As the founder of ‘Your Dog Advisor’ and the ‘Canine Connection’ rehabilitation center, she applies a holistic, empathetic approach, aiming to address root causes rather than merely treating symptoms.
Well known for her intuitive and compassionate approach, Jen adopts scientifically-proven, reward-based methods, encouraging positive reinforcement over punishment. Jen specializes in obedience training, behavior modification, and puppy socialization. Her innovative methods, particularly in addressing anxiety and aggression issues, have been widely recognized. Jen has worked with many of the world’s leading dog behaviorists and in her free time volunteers with local animal shelters and rescue groups.