News & Events

July 2011 – Pet Training Talk

Selecting Your New Pet

Many of us have one or more pets in our homes and some of us are on the fence deciding about adding another pet to our home.  I would like to give you a few suggestions and ideas when choosing another pet for your family and what to look for in your current pets to help the adjustment go smoothly.  These tips also work if you’re interested in fostering pets!

A famous trainer, Patricia McConnell, put it this way:  “A husband comes home to his wife and says, “Honey, I just found us another wife to bring home, and we will love her and she will share your belongings and your space, and won’t it just be wonderful!”” Now really?  Is this something we would put up with?  Yet, we do this to our pets all of the time.  We go find another dog or cat and put them in our home and our pet’s home and expect them to accept them, love them, and share all of their space and belongings with them.  If we bring a puppy or kitten into our home, we expect the older pets to “play nice” with them, and we don’t always give them the space they need to adjust to the newest member.  The following are just a few tips, no matter what species you have in your home, to help the transition.

Make sure your pet is compatible with other animals before bringing a new animal home to your pet’s territory.  If you had a previous pet with this one, chances are they will be agreeable, if it is an older pet that has always lived solo, there may be a longer adjustment time.

Give the current animal its space and limit the space of the new pet until the two become acquainted.  Baby gates, doors, and crates are great barriers where the two can either smell or see each other but not do any harm to each other.  Simply keeping them separated for a day or two can ease the transition.  Enjoy giving each pet its own attention and then merge the two slowly.  If we are dealing with dogs, one of the best ways to get them acquainted is by taking them for a walk together with two different handlers and letting both explore their environment without being on top of each other.  Mutual sniffing will occur and then the transition into the home will not be so abrupt.  Keep their eating areas separate until you know their habits and behaviors; did you just acquire a food guarder or a food hog that will eat his food and your other pet’s food?  Most animals will eventually come to an agreement and try to live in peace with one another, some do learn to adore each other, and most will tolerate each other.

What do we do if this is not the situation?  I will speak for the dog world first.  Basic training does wonders for this dilemma, not only can both of our pets behave in our presence if they have basic skills but it helps with moving them through the home and barriers if they know some basic obedience as well.  Training has come a long way as far as teaching the owners some skills to help their pets adjust to one another.  However, some dogs can turn out to not be compatible.  If this occurs, you have the option of re-homing one of your pets, (not usually our first choice, but one made often by very brave and unselfish people),  or keeping the dogs separate at all times in your home and dealing with them as individuals while continuing their training.  Unfortunately, sometimes even the best training skills cannot change the behavior of our pets and it comes down to strict management on our part to have both pets in our home.  This same scenario can occur with cats as well and your options are the same.

The next challenge is bringing other species into your home that your pet may not be used to such as a chicken or hamster.  See how your pet reacts to the other species in a controlled situation-like at a friend’s house that has that type of pet.  Some dogs and cats have strong prey drive and having a small pet in your home may cause a lot more chaos than you anticipate.  Once again, with good management, closed doors or pets on a leash while introducing them may be quite helpful.

One more tidbit of information for new puppies and kittens:  If purchasing from a breeder, check references and try to visit the puppies or kittens before bringing one home.  Advise the breeder of what you want the pet for: as a pet, show quality, low key, adventurous?  Most breeders will be watching their litter and be able to identify the personalities of their pets, thus placing them in the correct homes where they will have a forever home.

If adopting from a shelter or adoption group, ask lots of questions, go see the pet and get to know them, bring your pet along to meet them on neutral turf if possible.  Ask if there is a return policy in place in case the animals are incompatible with each other.  Both breeders and adoption facilities want to make a great match so that the pet has a forever home, so take your time, do your research and enjoy the new member of your family.
Happy Trails,
Mary Pollard

All of our Care First Animal Hospital facilities offer both puppy and Family Pet classes, inquire at a location near you.

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