The following bi-weekly column is written and sponsored by Bark + Boarding, which provides a heart-centered and safe environment for your pets. Conveniently located at 5818-C Seminary Road in Bailey’s Crossroads, Bark & Boarding offers doggy daycare, boarding, grooming, walking and training services, plus in-home pet care.
by Chelsea Pennington, Bark + Boarding Writer and Animal Enthusiast
For Part I of this article, click here.
We’ve all seen the cute videos and photos of dogs and cats cuddling together on the internet. But how can you make sure your pets become the best of pals? While some animals are just made for the single-pet life, others can live well with and even become friends with other animals, but it largely depends on having a proper introduction.
Here are some tips of what you should and shouldn’t do when introducing a new animal to your pet.
Don’t be panicky, anxious or overbearing.
Animals pick up on how their humans are feeling, so the tone of the meeting between pets can be impacted by how the owners behave.
When handling a dog, keep the lead loose (though it shouldn’t be an extendable leash). If the person is anxious or the leash is tight, the dog will react accordingly and feel threatened and fearful. In many meetings, a calming voice is enough to diffuse tension. You should only physically separate the animals if they become overly aggressive.
Reacting too hastily on your part can reinforce to the dogs that this is a threatening situation. As the pets meet, you may feel the need to micromanage the situation, but it is often best to let them figure out the interaction on their own, only stepping in if it becomes clear a fight is looming or one of the animals is overly excited.
Do separate them while you’re gone.
After the animals have met while on a leash or partially separated without conflict, you can allow them to interact in an enclosed environment while you are present. For dogs, this should still be a neutral territory at first. For cats, it can be in a room where each has access to a safe space.
Even if these times go well, you should still separate them when you aren’t available to watch them. This can mean while you’re out of the house, or even if you are just going to be busy and unable to give them the supervision they need.
It only takes a second for a fight to break out and someone to get hurt. Only after several months of conflict-free interactions should you consider allowing them to roam freely together without your supervision.
Don’t force it.
In some cases, you might be able to make a pet situation work. Cats may require separate litter boxes, or dogs may need to be fed separately if they get possessive of food.
For some animals that seem aggressive, you may need to call upon a trainer or a behavioral specialist to see if the situation can be worked out. But there will be times when it simply won’t happen. Some animals are made for the single-pet life, and it would be detrimental to both pets (and you!) to try and force it.
Having multiple animals can prevent loneliness and stress for your pets while you’re gone, and thus keep them from destructive behaviors. But it’s important to be prepared going into the introductions so that everyone gets off on the right foot–er, paw.