Similar to introducing your dog to a new cat, interacting with smaller pets such as hamsters, guinea pigs, birds, or rabbits needs to be heavily supervised from the beginning. Some dogs are not capable of overcoming their prey drive and may always need supervision around these types of animals because their natural instinct may be to hunt them.
If in doubt, keep your new dog as distracted as possible with treats and chew toys and always reward him/her for staying calm. Initial introductions should involve having your dog on a leash.
- Teach your new dog some tricks that will be a distraction during an excitable time and to keep him/her busy. Examples of these include “sit,” “stay,” and “leave it.” “Sit” and “stay” are extremely helpful to learn because you have given your dog a new job- to sit or stay- that he should be rewarded heavily for when successful.
If well learned, this new job will keep your dog from chasing and stop further poor behavior when should your pooch interact inappropriately with another pet. “Leave it” is a helpful new job because it will teach the dog to drop what he/she is playing with, such as your current dog’s favorite toy (or medication), and hopefully avoid an inappropriate interaction with the other pet.
If your current dog hasn’t learned these tricks yet, teaching him can also be helpful, especially if the new dog is a puppy. It will help your current dog stay calm when trying to interact with someone new.
- Monitor your pets’ body language throughout each interaction. If you get to a point where one pet acts uncomfortable or aggressive, it is time to separate them and re-start from the point where everyone was comfortable.
If one pet is uncomfortable/aggressive when in close contact, use a leash on your new dog and supervise everybody with the new dog separated but able to see the other pet. If that goes well, gradually bring everybody closer together without physically interacting, as long as everyone remains comfortable. Any signs of aggression or fear should warrant further separation until pets can be in the same area without interacting and without inappropriate behaviors. Do not physically bring pets together until they can interact separately but within view of each other. Stay positive and relaxed and always reward the pets when they act calmly and appropriately.
- Medications can help with decreasing anxiety, or in some cases, aggressive tendencies, but they do not work immediately, and they don’t solve the problems that initiate the fear/aggression. The better option is to identify what triggers your pet to feel or act a certain way and specifically work on, or when necessary avoid, those issues. Once you have done this, you may notice such positive changes in your pets that medications can be completely avoided or slowly tapered off.
If you have taken all the steps to improve your pets’ wellbeing and issues persist, talk to your veterinarian about what to do next. While medications can be helpful, managing the environment and your pets’ interactions are necessary for these types of medications to be effective.
- Pheromone diffusers are a great way to give your new dog a boost of comfort in his new environment. Dog appeasing pheromone (DAP) is released from a plug-in style diffuser that mimics the pheromones released from their mother during puppyhood. This type of diffuser has been shown to be useful in dogs that experience anxiety or fear, and for those settling in to new homes. Adaptil is sold from a number of stores and is the primary pheromone used today.
- Always reward good behavior for all animals involved. When it’s time to separate the animals, take the treats away. That way they can associate spending time together with treats. Remember to keep all pets busy with fun activities, such as chew toys, during interactions, assuming there is no previous issue of aggression over food or toys. This way they are distracted by things more interesting than each other and will associate spending time together with fun and positive experiences.