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Young puppy next to older dog

Tips for Pet Owners: How to Introduce Your New Dog to a Cat or an Older Dog?

8 min read

Dogs usually make firm friends with other dogs easily. But can cats and dogs get along? Here is how to introduce your new dog to other pets.

It’s important to introduce your pup to other pets carefully. That’s easier said than done. An older dog can get territorial. And a cat will let you know when they’re not happy with the new housemate.

So, how to introduce a puppy to a cat or an older dog? Here is what to do to make a smooth transition for the new arrival and keep fellow pet residents calm during those first interactions. However, remember that some pets like rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters and reptiles are best kept away from dogs.

Introducing a puppy to an older dog

Your existing dog is used to having the house to themselves, so it can come as a shock to them to have to share! Try these tips to make introducing a new puppy to your older dog as smooth as possible.

Find a neutral place for the dogs to meet

It’s best to introduce the new dog somewhere your existing dog won’t have any territorial issues with; best to introduce them outdoors. But if space is limited, or if your pup hasn’t been vaccinated yet, keep the new dog in a safe crate.

Making the first introductions

Put your puppy on a lead then bring out your adult dog, also safely restrained on a lead. Have your existing dog wear a head-collar, to prevent any sudden lunges. They’re bound to be curious about one another, so let them move towards each other, keeping their leads loose. Reassure them calmly and ignore any whining or barking.

Keep everyone calm while introducing the new dog

Reward calm, restrained interactions with gentle strokes, calm words and some small treats. If either dog gets over-excited, it’s important that you stay calm yourself. Wait for them to calm down before trying again.

Big dog and small dog looking away from each other

Keep the first interactions short

Keep the introductions short, but frequent, and they would soon be best friends.

Wait for the indoors invitation

Allow your adult dog to ‘invite’ the puppy indoors. Keep both dogs on a lead until the pup has had a good look around and your existing dog calmly accepts him. Keep rewarding acceptance and tolerance with calm praise and gentle strokes for both dogs. Before introducing your puppy to an older dog, make sure your existing dog's vaccinations are up to date, so that everyone stays happy and healthy. If you have any concerns on how to introduce a puppy to an older dog, ask for help ahead of time. Your local dog trainer or vet will be happy to give you advice.

 

Introducing another adult dog to your existing dog

If you're introducing a fully-grown dog to your existing dog, don’t be surprised if they don’t make friends easily. Let them get to know each other gradually on quiet neutral ground away from home.

Here are a few tips on how to introduce the new dog:

Puppy and older dog playing in a garden
  • If you’re introducing another dog, keep both dogs on separate leashes and allow them to investigate each other.
  • If they start to growl or bark at each other, separate them and wait until they calm down before trying again.
  • If after many attempts and they still refuse to get along, contact a professional behaviourist

 

How to introduce a dog to a cat or kitten

If your new dog is comfortable in their new home, it’s time to introduce them to your existing cat. Be patient and give your cat time to get used to their new housemate, particularly if your cat hasn’t lived with a dog before! Here is how to help them become fast friends.

Keep both your dog and your cat relaxed

Introducing a puppy to a cat can be daunting. It’s not unusual for cats to react to the new dog by hissing or swatting or running away and hiding. Your job is to help both pets relax in each other’s company.

Keep both pets safe during their first interactions

The most important consideration when introducing a kitten to a dog is safety. Make sure your cat or kitten is in a safe area, where the dog can’t reach them, and keep your new dog restrained on a lead.

Woman holding a cat and petting a dog

Reward good behaviour

Reward your dog when they’re calm and, even if they bark excitedly, stay calm yourself.

Aim for short sessions and frequent breaks

Introducing your dog to the cat works best when you keep interactions to short sessions and in different rooms so that they get used to seeing and smelling each other throughout the house. Keep your dog on a lead. After five minutes or so, take the dog away and let your cat leave the room for a break.

Letting your cat out of their safe area

Once they’re calm and relaxed, allow your cat to walk out of his safe area keeping your dog on the lead. Allow them to investigate one another and make sure you give them affection if they tolerate each other. Remember to stay calm yourself if either of them show they’re unhappy.

Letting your dog off the lead

Only let your dog off the lead once you’re confident they won’t react or try to chase your cat. Make sure your cat can escape to areas out of the dog’s reach.

Separate them at mealtimes

Separate cats and dogs at mealtimes so both can eat in comfort without stealing each other’s food.

 

Top tips for introducing your dog to the cat:

  • Put your cat’s litter tray away from your dog’s reach. Your dog might eat the contents!
  • Make sure your cat gets plenty of opportunity to chase and stalk moving toys so your dog can relax without fear of being pounced on.

Cats are often naturally independent and may just ignore your dog. With time, they can live together and become friendly. As long as they each have their own space, everything should be fine.

If your dog continues to be excitable or aggressive around your cat, seek professional advice from your vet or canine behaviourist.