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Introducing Your New Dog To Your Current Pets

March 4, 2024

introducing your new dog to your current pets

Adding a dog to your household is an exciting step, and it requires careful attention to detail if existing pets already call your house Home. Animals - even of the same species - are just like people and they don’t necessarily like one another right off the bat. 

It takes patience, time, and a slowly but surely approach to protect the safety of your pets and other occupants - especially small children.

The Steps To Introduce A New Dog To Old Pets

By taking these careful steps and honoring experts’ advice, your pets will eventually accept your new dog as one of the family - even if they don’t necessarily become best friends.

Choose the right dog for your household

We can’t emphasize this enough: choosing the right size and breed of dog for your household is essential to everyone’s happiness and well-being. The large majority of dogs who end up in animal shelters are there because their humans didn’t understand their breed traits and what they needed. 

Some breeds are known to have an issue sharing attention with other animals (or people!). However, all dogs are different. If you’re bringing a puppy into the home, you have a chance to socialize them from the get-go, improving their odds of getting along with other pets.

Prioritize shelter dogs

There are huge advantages to adopting dogs from local shelters. First and foremost, you’re saving a dog’s life and helping to eliminate irresponsible breeding practices. That said, adopting a dog at a shelter grants you access into a variety of factors - especially if the dog was surrendered by their former owners who provided inside information.

From the shelter, you can learn essential information about the dog, such as:

  • Whether they’ve lived in a home with dogs, cats, children, babies, etc. If you learn a dog chases or attacks cats, that’s important to know if you’re a cat owner!
  • Their energy level and exercise requirements.
  • How they play and interact with other dogs (dogs in shelters have lots of time to play in groups and be observed. Many shelters divide them into categories like “aggressive play groups” or “dainty paws play groups” which helps to determine whether they’re a good fit for your current dog(s).
  • Observations of their behavior by shelter employees and volunteers.
  • The opportunity to meet with them, interact with them, introduce your current dog to them at the shelter, and so on.

An added benefit: many shelter dogs are already potty trained - or well on their way - making the transition even easier.

Use animal-specific guidelines

The rules for how to introduce a new dog to existing pets differ according to which types of animals you have. 

Other dogs

Choose a neutral area to introduce a new dog to yours. This might be a park or a dog park (during slow hours) or a street a block or two away. This makes your dog feel less territorial. 

It’s best to have someone help you - with each person walking a dog on the leash. Don’t let the dogs physically interact. Instead, walk them by or near each other and pay attention to their body language. As always, use treats and lots of positive reinforcement for positive behaviors. If things are looking good, allow them closer interaction. In most cases, you’ll know in 15 minutes or less whether it’s a good fit. 

Even so, we highly recommend crate training - or room segregation - as needed during the first few days and weeks. Even dogs that react positively to the new addition may feel overwhelmed or possessive of your home, their toys, etc. (or vice versa). 


While it’s hard on the cat, we almost always recommend isolating your cat(s) to a specific room or area of the house if you don’t have information about the dog’s history with house cats. Negative dog/cat interactions can be extremely violent, upsetting, and fatal. It’s worth it to take the time necessary to slowly integrate them.

Sometimes, a new dog who likes (or doesn’t have a prey instinct) towards cats integrates pretty quickly. If the cat has enough upper-level spots to flee if necessary, the transition may not take long. However, if you notice ANY signs of aggression from the dog toward the cat, take extra careful precautions. 

Read the Humane Society’s page How to Introduce a Dog and Cat. It may seem tedious, but it’s well worth the time and effort if one has excess aggression towards the other. For every story of a new dog attacking or killing a resident cat, we’ve also seen horrible injuries inflicted on non-aggressive, curious dogs who triggered the resident cat’s defensive mechanisms.

Other Animals

Pets range from birds in the cage to those allowed out. You may also have caged/tanked or free-range rodents, reptiles, amphibians, and so on. In all cases, these animals need to remain safely in their cages or habitats and away from potential attacks so your new dog can see and smell them without any access - even exuberant, well-meaning greetings from the dog can go south with smaller, more fragile animals.  

When you expose the dog to these animals, keep the dog on a short leash so you can monitor their response, looking for any indication of a fixated “predator” instinct: wide eyes, erect ears, and tail, salivating or quivering in a pounce position, etc. Once you’ve established things seem okay, you can begin the slow introduction outside of the cage (but keep the dog on the leash).

Never hesitate to work with a local trainer to support these transitions and for expert insight into what your dog’s responses, postures, and behaviors are telling you. It’s always better to be safe than sorry when introducing a dog to your pets.

Be prepared to exercise the dogs more than usual

Tired dogs are happier and less anxious or aggressive. During these first three weeks - to three months - be prepared to exercise the dogs more than you might have to later on. Take trips to the dog park (good for socialization), hikes, walks, etc. In addition to helping everyone bond as a “pack,” these excursions burn off excess energy - including stress/anxiety.

Spend lots of time playing with your dogs (and get other family members in on the fun). In addition to facilitating strong bonds, play helps dogs burn excess energy and learn to have fun together. If you don’t have the time to exercise them daily, take advantage of local doggy daycares or professional dog walking services.

Have plenty of toys, treats, etc., available (and pay close attention)

For the first while, you’ll need to have plenty of toys and treats to share. This prevents dogs from becoming overly possessive or aggressive about the toys in their space. If one of the dogs hoards toys, takes toys away from the other dog, or becomes aggressive around toys/treats/food, you’ll need to spend lots of time teaching the dog “Give” or “Trade” commands. This entails having them give up what they have in exchange for something else (another toy or treat). 

Resist the urge to scold a dog for being aggressive or possessive of toys. It’s hard to watch (like bullies in a schoolyard) but being kind and offering them something else (returning the original toy to the one who was using it) helps them shed feelings of possession and lets them see there’s plenty for all to share. That said, overt or continuing signs of aggression should be dealt with ASAP by a professional dog trainer.

A.C.T. Is Happy To Support Transitioning A New Dog Into Your Home

Do you have concerns about bringing a new dog into your home with existing pets? Would you like support in choosing the right dog for your household? Alternative Canine Training is here to help you. 

Contact us to learn more about how our services can help you build strong, healthy bonds between you, your dogs, and the rest of the family. 

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