It is important to be well-researched before committing to a new pet, even if you are an experienced pet owner or already have other pets. RSPCA Australia recommends you take the time to find a detailed book on the breed you are acquiring well before bringing it home, so that you are well prepared for its arrival.
Some dogs will integrate into a family with existing pets better than others. Older dogs are likely to be less energetic than young puppies; if you already have old pets you may wish to adopt an adult dog. Consider adopting your dog from an RSPCA shelter as it will have been temperament tested and the staff will be able to give you an idea of how the dog may respond to other animals.
Once you have decided on a dog you will have to think about how best to introduce him to your existing pets to ensure that everything goes smoothly. This may be a stressful time for both animals so it is important to try and get your dogs off to a good start. If possible, the initial meeting should occur on neutral territory, away from your home. It is a good idea to have someone take your existing dog for a walk while you let your new dog explore your house. He will be able to smell your dog but won’t have the added stress of meeting him while in an unfamiliar territory. Once he has familiarised himself with your property take him to the park to meet your existing dog. Try and keep this first meeting relaxed and playful. Bring treats to reward both animals for good behaviour.
When you take your dogs home, make sure that you have hidden any objects your dogs might compete for – toys, chews, food. Closely supervise your dogs while they explore the yard and house together. If either dog becomes aggressive to the other distract both of them without punishing the aggressor. Punishment will likely be associated with the other dog and reinforce the behaviour. Give lots of praise and tasty food treats for good behaviour towards one another so that both dogs associate each other with positive experiences. Provide your new dog with his own area for sleeping and eating. Feed your dogs separately until you are positive that food will not cause conflict between them. While your new dog is settling in take them both for short walks and play periods together, always taking treats along to reward good behaviour. Take care not to favour either animal, even if you feel your existing dog is jealous. Be careful about letting your pets interact freely until you are sure that they enjoy one another’s company and do not find interactions stressful.
If you are concerned about introducing your pets, talk to your vet or contact your state/territory RSPCA for a chat with our behavioural training staff. It’s worth tackling behavioural issues early on before they become chronic and more difficult to correct.