New Puppy Introductions

by Heather Jelks | Animal Care Center Castle Pines, CO

Follow these general rules for any type of new pet introductions:

  • Always make new pet introductions in a controlled setting. 
  • Plan the introduction for a time when you can all spend at least an entire day together.
  • Be patient, speak encouragingly in a calm voice, and praise good behavior.
  • For their own safety, keep new pets separated from each other when you are away from home.
  • Always supervise interactions until you are 100% sure that the two pets are getting along.

Types of Canine Introductions

1: Dogs Meeting Other Dogs

Canine interactions are always unpredictable! Try to introduce dogs to each other in neutral territory, like a park. Avoid traveling with both dogs in the same vehicle. Recruit a helper to handle the new dog, and keep them both leashed during the introduction. When you all arrive home, take both dogs for a walk together around your neighborhood before you go inside. Keep the two dogs separated whenever you are away from home, until they have become accustomed to each other.

2: Dogs Meeting Puppies

Let the new puppy stay with its mother as long as possible. Puppies learn basic good manners and how to communicate with other dogs from their mothers. Older dogs can be impatient with frisky puppies. The more puppies can learn about the rules of play and polite doggy behavior, the better they will get along with adult dogs. Don’t scold your dog if it growls at a puppy – growls are a form of communication, and the older dog is teaching the puppy how to respect boundaries.

3: Dogs Meeting Cats

Dogs should always be leashed when meeting cats. Pay close attention to the body language of both animals and watch for warning signs. Mutual curiosity is the best indicator that the two will get along. If your dog seems calm when meeting a cat, and will obey sit and stay commands while the cat roams freely, it’s not likely that your dog will behave aggressively toward the cat in the future. However, if your dog seems fixated on the cat, lunging or scratching at doors when the cat is in another room, this probably isn’t a good match.

4: Dogs Meeting Kittens

Kittens are small and vulnerable, especially to dogs that enjoy aggressive play. Never leave a kitten alone with a dog—you could be putting it in danger. Prepare a room for the kitten that your dog can’t access. Give your dog lots of exercise before meeting a kitten, so that they will be more relaxed. During the introduction, keep the kitten in a carrier and your dog on a leash. If your dog remains calm, and obeys sit and stay commands, let the kitten out to explore while your dog is leashed. 

5: Meeting Pets of Other Species

It’s difficult to tell whether dogs and cats will cohabit well with rabbits, birds, lizards, or other small pets. Extra supervision is always required. Cohabitation will depend on the personality of your cat or dog, and whether or not they consider small animals as prey. Cats will usually hunt birds, just as dogs will usually chase rabbits. Behavior training can help prepare dogs for accepting other animals, but some breeds will instinctually hunt smaller animals. Make introductions in as controlled a setting as possible, and observe your pet’s body language carefully.

6. Meeting Kids and Babies

Small children might seem frightening to new pets – they make loud, unexpected noises and sudden movements that can startle some animals. When startled, they might instinctually bite or scratch. Never leave children and new pets unsupervised. Teach children not to disturb pets while they are eating or sleeping, how to touch them gently, and how to play with the pets. Eventually, they will become best friends.