The Big Introduction to the Family

Bringing home a new puppy is one of the most exciting experiences for a family. The little bundle of fur and sweetness will ignite many smiles and giggles. It is important to make sure that the introduction to your children and current pets are as peaceful and positive as possible.Introducing your puppy to your children

Puppies and young children are both, boisterous, inquisitive and full of energy. It, therefore, takes a bit of skill to keep the introduction calm. It is important to have a conversation with your children before the introduction takes place; explain why it is necessary to remain calm and to not make loud noises around the new puppy. Upon introduction, the children should be shown how to pick up and hold the puppy correctly. Children need to learn that puppies have personal space and that they shouldn’t over-crowd the puppy. Parents can model the behaviour that they want their children to use around the puppy. Be present during the introduction, but be in the background. Allow them to figure each other out. Under no circumstances should children be allowed to tease the puppy. Children should be taught to be leaders with the pup immediately. They can start with calling their name and gently patting and praising the puppy when he comes when called. Include the children in feeding and training the puppy but remember to supervise them as they can be easily distracted. Showing responsibility by feeding and training the puppy will cement their role as a leader with the dog. Children that are involved in the nurturing and care of puppies will probably grow into adults with a life-long love of dogs.

Introducing your puppy to your dog

The key to the introduction is for you to remain calm. If possible, make the introduction on neutral ground, like a park. Have someone help you with the introduction; each person can be responsible for a dog. An off-leash introduction is preferable, rather have your current dog on a leash if you have any worries that he\she might be aggressive. Don’t hold the puppy and show it to your dog, rather put the puppy down and let him sit between your feet if he\she feels frightened. Watch their body language carefully for any negative behaviour. Ignore negative behaviour and reward positive behaviour; however, do not tolerate aggressive behaviour of any kind. If the off-leash intro isn’t going well, put both dogs on a leash and walk them parallel to each other to calm them down. Once calm try the intro again with a loose leash or off the leash. Do not restrain them on the leash as this can lead a dog to be aggressive. Several short introductions may be advisable.

Let them interact naturally, they will sniff each other in unmentionable places; this is how dogs figure each other out. In most cases when they sniff each other, the puppy will probably overstep its boundaries and the adult dog will put it in its place. The majority of the time they will get along splendidly after this, as each understands how the hierarchy is structured. When you return home, walk into the garden or house with both pooches and act very naturally. Try not to use treats or toys during the introduction as your current dog may feel the need to protect his things. Make sure to feed the dogs separately and monitor them closely in the beginning until you feel that they have bonded and their relationship is stable.

If, despite your best efforts your current dog does not accept the new puppy or is aggressive towards it, it is imperative to consult a professional trainer or behaviourist to assist you with the process. Ask your veterinarian for a referral.

Introducing your puppy to your cat

This introduction can be tricky, but with lots of patience these animals can come to an amicable relationship, and there are many cases when cats and dogs become close friends.

Your cat will not be as excited as you about this bouncing ball of fluff that you’ve brought home. So before you bring puppy home make sure your kitty has plenty of upward escape routes, such as high scratching posts and shelves. Your cat must always have a safe place to escape from the puppy. The use of baby barrier gates might be helpful in the house. Your cat can jump over them into a “safe- zone” and puppy will be kept out. It is also advisable to have an area in your garden where your cat cannot be disturbed by the puppy.

It’s advisable to feed your cat on a higher surface so they are not disturbed by your puppy while they are eating. Also, cat food is not good for your puppy’s tummy, so every effort must be made for them not to be able to access it.

If your cat uses a litter box, this should also be in the cat’s “safe-zone” where the puppy cannot disturb them. As disgusting as it is, dogs find cat faeces a delicacy, not only is this unhygienic but also not good for your puppy. Your kitty will also not appreciate your puppy disturbing their private time in the litter box.

Spend time with your kitty, giving them lots of affection and then allow the puppy to come into the room. Your cat will instinctively jump to a higher safe ground to check out this new intruder in their home. Reward you puppy with good behaviour and give your kitty treats as well, if they will accept it. This will reinforce that good behaviour around each other brings yummy goodies. Kitty will probably hiss and pretend swipe at the puppy to teach them whose boss. Some cats are very confident and will not shy away from the puppy at all, putting them in their place immediately.

Do not allow your puppy to chase, harass or torment your cat in any way. Remember positive re-enforcement will teach your puppy good behaviour and manners.

Be patient with this introduction, it may take weeks or even months for your kitty to accept this new addition to your family. Teach your dog to respect the cat and give your cat a place to feel safe, away from the puppy. Like everything else they do, your cat will build the relationship with your puppy, when they are good and ready.