Bringing two families together can be an exciting time, with lots of changes. Add to that integrating multiple pets into the same household and your furry family member can have a new companion for life. However, all these changes can also be a little challenging, so there are a few things we’d recommend you consider and a few things to keep an eye on.
So how can we make this transition as easy as possible?
The first thing is to make a plan in advance, introducing new animals is best done gradually, and there are some preparations you can make.
Meeting a strange animal – whether they are the same species or not – can potentially be stressful, but there are several aids we can use to help manage this anxiety.
For example, we can use nutritional supplements or plug in pheromone sprays to help our pets feel generally more relaxed, but the trick to these products is that they take time to work. Ideally you need to give your pets several weeks on either or both options to allow them to start to take effect.
These products have a number of different names, but if you’re interested in using any of them give your vet a call and they can talk you through a range of options to find what will best suit you and your pets.
If you’re introducing two or more dogs, the first few meetings are best done on ‘neutral territory” e.g. out on a new walking route rather than in the home. Make sure you have plenty of people to help you handle and reassure all the dogs, and keep the experience positive with plenty of praise for good behaviour. Don’t try to force the dogs to interact and keep the first meeting brief. It can be as short as a quick “hello” of a sniff and check and then walk away. They may take a few meetings to warm up to each other – try to relax and let it happen. If you’re taking treats along to these meetings, don’t give them while the dogs are interacting or playing together – wait until they are relaxed and separated to give the treats.
If you are hoping to blend multiple dogs into a pack, it is best to start of with one to one meetings – don’t have multiple familiar dogs meet one single one for example. Separate each dog to meet individually, so they don’t feel overwhelmed.
After a holding a few regular meetings together you will start to see your dogs get used to one another – they will be less excited or settle down more quickly with each other when they meet. Once everyone is calm and relaxed, behaving in a friendly way it’s time to think about heading into the home.
You should still supervise the interactions of your dogs whilst in the home. Even if one pet is crate trained, do not leave them able to contact each other unsupervised until you have built up a trusting relationship.
You’ll need to plan how to give each animal their own space from each other in the home – it might be sensible to designate one room for eating and sleeping for each pet for the first few weeks. You can also remove any toys that your pet feels are “theirs” temporarily and instead introduce new shared toys after the newcomer has settled. These steps are part of looking at potential triggers for conflict in advance and then managing or removing them. Food is a very common trigger for problems when two dogs are adapting to sharing a home, so pay attention not just to their meal times, but human meals, and anything edible being accessible or accidentally left around them.
Over time you’ll be able to let your dogs interact over longer periods in the home, without needing to give them breaks, or manage the interactions, build this time up gradually and be guided by their behaviour. There’s no set time for these things.
Ensure there are plenty of resources
If you’re looking to introduce multiple cats to the same home, you’ll also need to make some preparations with regards to toileting. In multi cat households we’d recommend having at least one more litter tray than there are cats in the home. So, if you have two cats, you’ll need at least three litter trays. Spacing them out around the home and using the litter types your cats are used to will also help.
If you’re planning to integrate new furry family members into your home your vet will doubtless be happy to talk through each unique situation, and share their best advice and recommendations to make this as easy as possible specifically for you, your family and your pets.