There’s a lot to be excited about when it comes to adopting a new dog or puppy. Maybe you’re already spending hours hunting around online for the perfect pooch. Perhaps you’ve already settled on a particular dog and have already begun preparing for their arrival. Indeed, many pet lovers are only too eager to begin stocking up on food, treats, equipment, and even custom dog apparel to help their new canine companions feel more at home.

Introducing your new dog to your family members is an important part of welcoming them into your household. You’ll need to be especially strategic about these introductions if you already have an established pet, small children, or a new baby in the house. While dogs are highly social creatures, it’s best not to assume that your new fur baby and your current pet will take to each other immediately. In all likelihood, they’ll need time and a bit of help before they begin to trust each other. The same goes for your family members, as they’ll need time to adjust to having a new furred friend in the home.

Given all these considerations, here are four things to keep in mind when introducing a new dog to your family members:

It’s Best to Gradually Introduce Pets to Each Other

Once you think you’ve found the ideal dog, introduce them to your current pet slowly before taking them home. Many experts recommend familiarizing your current dog with the new one’s scent, and vice versa, before they meet. Giving each dog a treat while introducing the other pup’s scent also helps them build positive associations around the new pet’s smell.

If possible, it’s best to arrange for your dogs to meet each other in neutral territory. Calm, quiet, and spacious areas like parks are ideal choices for an initial meet-and-greet. From there, you can introduce them by following the below steps:

  • Have both dogs on leashes. Bring a family member to handle the other dog if needed.
  • Walk the dogs side by side, then switch places to give each dog the chance to smell the path the other dog has walked on.
  • If both dogs seem calm and relaxed, allow them to interact. Keep them on loose leads and watch them carefully.
  • The dogs will likely sniff each other briefly, then either initiate play or ignore each other. If either dog seems uncomfortable or tense, separate the dogs and begin walking them again to take their focus off each other.
  • Reward any positive behaviors with treats to reinforce them. Give each dog a treat whenever they do something you’d like to see them repeat in the future.

Many of the steps above will work just as well for introducing a new dog to a cat. Let your cat set the pace for when and how it interacts with your new dog. Don’t force your cat and dog to interact, and make sure not to let your dog chase your cat or invade their space.

Pets Need Their Own Safe Areas at Home

Even if your pets get along well in a neutral area, bringing your new dog home may still be stressful for your current pet. To help the new dog integrate better into your household, make sure both your pets have their own safe spaces at home. Cats benefit from having spots they can escape to when they don’t feel like interacting with your dog, like a high cat tree or climbing towers. Setting up separate crates for your dogs with their own toys and beddings ensures that each one has an exclusive space in which they can feel secure and comfortable.

New Puppies Will Require Extra Supervision

If you’re bringing a new puppy into your household, many of the steps listed above for introducing a new dog to your current pet will work. However, do note that puppies are small and fragile enough to be hurt by bigger, older animals. It’s best not to leave them unsupervised with an adult dog or cat for any length of time. Allowing your pets to spend part of the day apart will also give your older pet much-needed time to rest and decompress. Whether you decide to adopt or buy (you can see these puppies available for sale to help you make your decision), you need to be aware of the home they are going into and the other animals that will be their ‘companions’.

Watch New Pets Closely around Children

If you have small children in the house, especially toddlers, it’s probably not safe to leave them alone with your pet. Supervising your children’s interactions with your new pet is key to ensuring that they get along well and don’t inadvertently hurt each other.  Teach your children how to act appropriately around pets, and discourage them from screaming, running, or pulling on the animal’s ears, tail, or fur.

Integrating a new dog into your household might come with certain challenges, but you can manage these easily with proper planning, patience, and plenty of care. Follow the steps above and your furred and unfurred family members will all soon get along swimmingly.