A Stress-Free Way To Introduce a New Dog Into Your Home

Key Points

  • When you introduce a new dog into your home, it's essential to have patience and follow certain safety precautions.

  • Rescues and adoptees may come from challenging backgrounds, making the acclimation process more difficult.

  • When introducing a new dog to a cat or children, do so sparingly until they're both comfortable enough to interact normally.

Adopting a new furry friend is like bringing home a new baby, except unlike having to introduce an infant to their siblings, bringing home a new dog to other pets doesn't usually go quite as well. When you introduce a new dog into your home, there are specific steps to take. Otherwise, you're met with chaos while both pets try to suss out each other.

When you properly introduce a new dog into your home, you allow your pets and family members to get to know each other on their own terms comfortably. Without following proper protocol, you create an uncomfortable and potentially dangerous atmosphere that is easily avoidable.

Avoid Overstimulation

Sure, it's fun to bring a new dog into your home to see everyone's positive reaction. Bringing a new dog into an overstimulating environment causes stress and potentially causes them to lash out.

The best way to introduce a new dog into your home is by bringing them into a quiet room where you introduce each family member or pet at a time. This way, the dog focuses on one new person or animal, assesses them, and slowly starts to let their guard down. Some dogs are social animals who will bust through the front door, ready to make new friends. Others are more cautious and take more time to warm up to others.

You get a feel for a dog's personality when you adopt them. If they seem afraid and fearful initially, it's best to introduce them slowly into your home. If the pup is very affectionate and confident, you may not have to be as restrictive initially.

Dog at home with owners

Assess Your Family and Pets Beforehand

You know your household better than anyone. If you have young children in the home, it's best to be extra cautious when introducing them to a new dog, especially canines that are no longer puppies. Puppies tend to be more friendly and excitable than older dogs, who could have had bad experiences with children. Older dogs may be less interested in being around children and lash out if they feel aggravated. Always take special precautions when introducing a new dog into your home, regardless of who lives there.

Introducing a New Dog to Children

If you have children, your kiddos need exceptional guidance when interacting with new pets. Teach them the importance of giving a dog time to warm up to them.

Do you have a dog already living in your home? Practice on that dog, and teach your children how to interact with them safely. Teach them always to let the dog come to them first. Pushing themselves in the dog's personal space makes the pup skittish or stressed.

If you don't have a dog already, use a stuffed animal. Stress the importance of using an inside voice around the dog, and educate them on the dog's ability to hear loud noises better than people. A stuffed animal is also a great way to show your kids how to hold and pet a dog if they aren't already familiar.

Light, soft pets are best; avoid squeezing the dog or holding them longer than comfortable. Most dogs have no problem around children, so don't feel that bringing one into your home will be that much of a challenge. Check with the humane society or rescue that you plan to adopt from and ask for a child-friendly dog.

With time, your kiddos will know how to interact with the new family pet once they understand the pup's personality and have a bit of trial and error.

What If Your Kids Don't Like the New Dog?

Don't stress if your kids initially dislike the new dog. Anytime a new person or animal comes into the home, it throws off the household's balance. Over time, you'll notice them becoming more intrigued with the new dog, eventually forming a close attachment to them.

Don't try to force the connection; instead, spend time playing and showing affection to the dog, showing your kids what they're missing. Eventually, it'll be as if they wanted the new dog even more than you did.

Introducing a New Dog to Your Cat

It's true — cats and dogs are still mortal enemies of the household. Take steps to avoid World War III in your home when introducing a new dog to your cat. The first thing to take into consideration is how your cat will react. Even if the new dog comes in excited and seems out of control, your cat will likely have the last laugh.

Is your cat avoidant? Playful? Relaxed? Consider their personality before you decide to bring in a new pet, let alone a new dog. Otherwise, your cat's territory becomes infiltrated. Once they sense a threat, they may pounce at every chance they get.

Putting the extreme circumstances aside, it's true that sometimes dogs and cats get along. The key is to introduce them slowly and only in short spurts. Never try to force your cat and dog to be in close proximity; instead, let them naturally interact with each other.

You may want to hold the smaller pet first, only letting the other see them from below. Holding the dog is best since their claws aren't as lethal as your cat's. If your dog is too large, carry your cat in the doorway of the dog's room and let them observe each other.

Dog and cat cuddling

Get them used to each other's company by letting them play, eat, or sleep on opposite sides of a door. Introduce them to each other each day until you notice their fear or worry turn into curiosity and playfulness. Your cat and new canine will become peaceful residents with enough patience, practice, and training.

How To Introduce a New Dog to Your Dog

Dogs have their own way of communicating. Sometimes, you get lucky when you introduce a new dog into your home and they become best friends with your current pup. Other times, one becomes scared, protective, or needs to show dominance over the other. Regardless of your dog's personality, it's always best to proceed with caution when introducing a new canine into the mix.

Protective or Reactive Dogs

Does your dog jump at the sound of a car passing by? Do they try to rescue you when someone approaches you for a hug or high-five? Well, your dog is most likely reactive — but you probably already know that. Protective dogs don't necessarily dislike other animals but commonly feel a sense of threat or urgency when interacting with new pets.

Safety is the primary concern when introducing a new dog to a reactive one. Even if your reactive dog isn't mean-spirited, it may bite or attack the new canine if you don't introduce them correctly.

Keep both dogs separated at first, but let them sniff each other through the bottom of a door. You want to observe your reactive dog's reaction at this point. Are they barking aggressively? Are they furiously scratching at the door? Or are they whining and trying to get a peak from underneath the door?

If you notice aggressive behavior, having your reactive dog under your control is essential before they meet face to face. Keep them on a leash and hold them tightly as you bring in the new dog. Carry the new dog, if possible, or have someone bring them in on a leash.

There will be a ton of barking; you can't avoid it. During this time, you must use commands to settle your reactive dog. Get their behavior under control and calm their nerves. Once they settle, have the other person start playing, petting, or relaxing with the new dog. This shows the reactive dog that you are accepting the new pup into your home and your pack. After a while, your reactive dog's nerves will calm, and they will have an easier time getting to know the new pup.

Depending on how reactive your dog is, the entire process might need to occur over multiple days. Feed them on separate sides of a door, put doggy beds on either side, and let them get comfortable near each other.

Puppy walking

Jealous Dogs

Does your dog snap at your feet anytime you walk by them while they're eating? Or, maybe your dog has a favorite person, and whenever anyone tries to be near them or gets too close for comfort, your dog gets jealous and interjects. Having a jealous dog means you want to introduce a new dog while considering their needs.

Just because your dog has jealous tendencies doesn't mean you immediately notice them. If the initial interaction goes fine, you still want to maintain a sense of equality in the home to keep the pups from fighting. For example, it's best to introduce both dogs in a room without food or toys. If you introduce a new dog into your home and they start playing with the jealous dog's toys or eating their food, the jealous pup will react and try to stop them. You never know how this will go until you understand how both dogs interact, so being cautious is crucial.

Dogs are like children; when one feels jealous, they go after what they want. Whether it's attention, treats, or toys, always keep things equal in a household with a jealous dog.

Shy or Intimidated Dogs

Some dogs are shy and easier to intimidate than others. If your new or current dog is on the shier side, the best thing for you to do is not let the other dog overstep their boundaries. Just because dogs are animals doesn't mean they don't have boundaries. Dogs have a unique form of communication, and sometimes, neither parties receive this communication well.

Keep the shy dog close to you. If the other dog invades their bubble, such as by sniffing or licking, keep the new pup out of reach until the shy dog initiates an interaction. Your shy dog probably won't want to play right away, so don't let the other dog jump on them or try to get them to play.

If your shy dog runs and hides when the new dog comes in, try to get them to come out using a treat or toy. Play with the new dog to show them they aren't a threat, and with time, both dogs will feel comfortable enough to start getting to know each other.

How Long Does It Take for a Dog To Adjust to a New Dog?

The time it takes for your dog to adjust to a new one depends on their personality and how you introduce them. Creating a calm and peaceful environment for them to meet sets the tone for the rest of their interactions going forward. Even if your dog is reactive or protective, having a comfortable environment diminishes the stress of the first meeting.

Dog sitting at home

Most dogs become comfortable around other dogs in a month, but this greatly depends on the individual dogs. There's no way to predict how long the transition will take. You might notice both dogs enjoying each other's company in only a few days, or it may take a few months until everything calms down in your home. Either way, be patient and don't force the interaction too soon. Allow each dog to come around at their own pace to ensure they're ready to start living peacefully around the other.

What Is the Rule of Three for Dogs?

A rule of three measures the time it takes for new dogs to feel comfortable in a new environment. This is also useful to measure how quickly your current dog will become comfortable having a new pup in the pack. These measurements fall into three segments: the initial three days, three weeks in, and three months later.

The Initial Three Days

The first three days of bringing a new dog into your home are crucial. Imagine walking into a strange home, not knowing anyone there, and needing to follow specific rules that you don't know. This is how your new dog feels, so set boundaries and teach them how your home functions during this time.

The first three days are insufficient to solidify new training in your dog's behavior. Even so, these first days set the foundation for what your dog expects to live with you. If you have other dogs, the first three days are crucial because you want to create a comfortable environment for both pets. Luckily, once the dogs are comfortable around each other, things get much easier.

During the first three days, take your dog around your home, inside and outside, and let them sniff out the environment. Give them time to roam freely while under your supervision, giving them a sense of freedom and comfort. Start forming good habits right away. It's tempting to let your dog sleep in bed with you at first, but if you don't plan to have them sleep in another room or crate eventually, it's best to start immediately. Otherwise, your new dog is unsure of their routine.

Have patience and compassion during these first three days. Don't expect miracles; understand that your new dog needs time to learn and acclimate to their new environment until they learn how to behave appropriately.

Three Weeks In

Your new dog becomes comfortable after three weeks of living in your home. At this time, they understand the boundaries you've set for them and maintain a sense of schedule or routine. Three weeks isn't enough time for their new training to be concrete, but they will be much better off than when you first brought them in.

Alli Bennett, a professional dog trainer, talks about the importance of catering your dog's training to their personality and needs.

Dog laying on couch

"I prefer to look at each dog I work with as an individual and develop the best training plan from there. There is no cookie-cutter way to train every dog. It’s always most ideal to start with positive reinforcement, but I think it’s important for dog trainers to keep a large toolbox. Just like people, dogs also learn best by various methods."

Keep enforcing boundaries and training to test your dog's understanding of their new environment. With other pets around, you also see them getting along better if you continue to allow them to interact with each other. If you don't spend time each day allowing the new dog and your current pets to interact, you extend the time it takes for them to feel comfortable around each other.

After three weeks, you also notice your dog's true personality shine. Now that their stress and worry are no longer, they have fun, play, and become the best versions of themselves.

Three Months Later

After your new dog lives in your home for three months, they truly have a sense of home. You notice them having a favorite spot on the couch, remembering when you come home, and feeling comfortable enough to cuddle up next to other pets around the house. Depending on your dog's age, they may still need more training, but it's usually smooth sailing from here if you adopt a mature dog.

Three months is enough time for everyone to settle in, become okay with having new company, and find a new routine that allows each other to live harmoniously.

What Is the Best Place To Introduce New Dogs?

If you can, introduce new dogs outside in your backyard. This creates a vast, open space that doesn't feel too restricting for either party. It's best to have both dogs or animals on a leash and let them walk around, let go of some pent-up energy, and observe each other for a while. This is the perfect opportunity to play with both dogs until they're comfortable enough to interact. Walk them towards each other fully leashed while still maintaining a few feet apart. Only allow them off the leash when both dogs don't show any aggression.

Take your pup to the dog park if you aren't sure how they react to other dogs. This gives you an idea of what to expect and what areas to work on. Train your dog at the dog park, and if you find another dog owner willing to let their pup play with theirs, this helps prepare your dog for having a permanent roommate.

Challenges With Introducing a New Dog Into Your Home

Properly introducing a new dog into your home takes patience and training. Finding balance with a new pup is sometimes more difficult, especially when other animals are present. If you're having trouble finding peace in your home after bringing in a new dog and nothing seems to work, it's time for outside assistance.

You don't know their whole backstory when adopting or rescuing a dog. Some adoptee dogs come from abusive or unhealthy backgrounds. They carry their own trauma and fear, making it difficult to blend into new environments. These dogs require special training and a deep understanding of how to overcome these issues, which is possible. Contact a professional dog trainer if you've run out of ways to make a new dog comfortable. The new pup will become part of the family with the proper training and understanding.

Puppy chewing clothes

Are You Ready for a New Fur Baby?

Consider the various outcomes of bringing a new dog into your home before adopting them. Are you willing to keep a new dog if your cat doesn't like them? Are you prepared to keep your reactive dog in line once the new dog is in your home?

Don't let the bliss of adding a furry friend to your family cloud your better judgment. Wait before making the leap. Dogs need stability and routine in their lives, and bringing them into a new home only to send them back a few weeks later causes unnecessary stress.

If you're set on working with the new dog and your household and have enough patience for them to acclimate correctly, then let the search begin!

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