Guest Blog by: Hazel Bennett
Bringing home a pet can be one of the most exciting moments for you, your family, and your animal. However, this transitional period can become stressful as your cat or dog adjusts to a new environment. Dealing with unfamiliar territory, excited kids, and other pets is often difficult for shelter animals.
Your pet may be coming from a harsh, or even scary former home. It's important to navigate these first few weeks with care so that you can ease their transition and start building trust with your pet. Check out these tips to help you and your family build a strong, lasting relationship with your new best friend.
Give Your Pet Some Space:
The most important thing to keep in mind when introducing a new pet into your home is that your dog or cat will need time to adjust to its surroundings. Designating a pet-friendly room before bringing your four-legged friend home can help them feel welcome and secure. Pet rooms should be calm and quiet spaces where your dog or cat can stay safe and out of trouble.
Keep a close eye on your pet during this period. Watch for signs of distress, like low energy and nervousness, and change your approach depending on how they feel. Conversely, you'll want to know if your pet is starting to feel content and comfortable, and encourage them by rewarding their progress with affection and praise.
Bear in mind that even a happy, energetic dog can still be feeling uncomfortable with their new home, so be sure not to push them too hard at this stage. Give your pet the time and space they need to adjust, and your patience will eventually be rewarded with a companion who is happy to be part of the family.
Take Things Slow:
It can be tempting to let your new pet loose in the house and allow them to adjust, but a more measured approach is typically much healthier. Depending on their unique needs, there are a few different approaches to this slow and steady method.
Giving your dog a slow, guided tour of the house can be a good way to get them acclimated to a new environment. Allow them to sniff and explore so they can get comfortable at their own pace. This is also a good opportunity to teach your dog proper household rules, such as places they can and cannot go.
Cats are more solitary than dogs and will probably gravitate toward the closest hiding place. Expect your cat to spend a lot of time alone under beds, in closets, and in other secluded areas. Cats will come to you when they're ready, so don't force interaction, and sooner or later, they will come out to say hello.
Introducing Your New Pet to Other Animals:
Homes with other pets can be a great fit for a shelter animal as long as they get along. However, building a solid relationship between two or more pets can be tricky. Your older dog might feel territorial and aggressive towards your new one, so it's crucial to take the time early on to establish a peaceful coexistence between your pets.
The first meeting between your old and new pets should be brief and relatively casual. Keep dogs on leashes, but allow them the freedom to sniff each other and get acquainted. Your older pet will look to you and your body language to gauge their reaction, so be sure to keep things calm and amiable.
Keep Them Separated:
An easy way to avoid territorial behavior is to create separate spaces for each animal to relax without the stress of each other's company. Keep your old pet's favorite toys, chews, and leashes out of reach to prevent confrontation. Buy separate food and water dishes, so there are no mealtime clashes.
Monitor Your Pets:
Be sure to watch the pets in your household for any signs of distress or aggression. Never allow your pets to fight one another, and don't force them to be together when there is obvious tension. Like everything else during this period, take things one step at a time and be ready to adjust your approach depending on how your animals react to the situation.
Homes with Kids:
The relationship between children and pets can be a wonderful and enriching thing. Still, kids who don't know better can inadvertently disturb animals and make their adjustment to a home more difficult. As a parent, you will have to teach your child how to treat their new best friend respectfully while also making sure to develop positive behavior on your pet's part as well.
Even relatively docile dogs can bite when they feel threatened, so be sure that your child approaches calmly and reassuringly. Teach them to look for common signs of canine distress, like raised hackles, a hunched back, a tail between the legs, or exposed teeth. Make sure your child knows to respect your dog's boundaries and not to agitate them.
New cats or kittens need time to acclimate to their surroundings, and they can react aggressively when faced with an overeager child. Do not let your little one pick up or put their face too close to the cat. This kind of behavior can elicit a predatory response from your pet and result in angry clawing and scratching.
Teaching your child how to treat animals with care and affection is an important step in introducing a new pet into your home. Once your newest family member feels safe and adjusted, a wonderful lifelong bond can form between kids and their pets.
Pets and People, Saving Each Other™
HSNT’s mission is to act as an advocate on behalf of all animals and to ensure their legal, moral and ethical consideration and protection; to provide for the well-being of animals who are abandoned, injured, neglected, mistreated or otherwise in need; to promote an appreciation of animals; and to instill respect for all living things.