How to Introduce Your Small Dog to Your Other Pets

posted: 05/15/12
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How to Introduce Your Small Dog to Other Pets
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Your small dog needs a cordial relationship with her housemates for the safety of all involved. She's no doubt detected the presence of other pets, even if she can't see them from their hiding spots or elevated living quarters; there's no use pretending your pup doesn't share her home with other creatures, be they canine, feline, rodent or fowl.

Whether your dog is a puppy or an adult, two skills can smooth the introduction process: "come when called" and "leave it alone." These commands will keep her behavior in check, so practice them as soon as you adopt a pup or brush up on them before adding a new pet to your dog's household.

According to the Association for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), you should start your dog and cat off on the right paw with a protracted introduction. Keep them in separate areas where they can't see -- but can hear or smell -- each other. Once they seem disinterested, let them view each other without physical access. You could let them interact through a dog gate or keep your dog on a leash, and feed them both treats for good, social behavior. The idea is to make this first meeting a very pleasant one while curbing your dog's inclination to chase. After several supervised visits, the two can transition to a free-roaming domicile. The process, however, may take months -- especially for older animals.

You can use a similar method to introduce your dog to a rabbit, bird, hamster or other animal. Keep your dog and other pet in separate, protected spaces and reward them for good behavior as they watch each other. Up the ante by leashing your dog and moving her close to your other pet; offer treats for acceptable interactions and quietly remove your dog if she becomes aggressive. Always supervise dogs around animals they could mistake for prey.   

If you're introducing one dog to another, an initial sniff-fest is normal. Just don't let it last too long -- one of them could get offended. After a few minutes, take the leashed dogs for a walk together. Moving them forward will help their relationship move forward, too.

You won't know for sure whether you can trust your dog around other animals until you're able to speak her language. Check out our primer on the next page.

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Do Most Small Dogs Get Along with Other Animals?
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Your little doggie looks cute in her sweater and matching beret, but even small dogs have predatory instincts. Some breeds, such as whippets, were bred to hunt by sight -- others, like beagles, by scent. Terriers were culled to eliminate vermin, and herding dogs, such as shelties, chased and controlled other creatures. These genetic mannerisms impact the way your small dog responds to other animals, even if they're both domestic pets.

Socializing your small dog also affects his demeanor. According to the Upper Valley Humane Society, positive exposure to many animals and environments will make small dogs more secure and likely to be friendly with other animals.

Every dog will socialize differently based on her breed's traits and her own experiences, but the good news is that once you understand your dog's body language, you'll never have to wonder how she's feeling during an introduction. According to the ASPCA, a happy dog has relaxed muscles and wags her whole body. She may pant or grin, and if she's excited she'll perk her ears and tail.

If she wants to play, she'll hop, twist and play bow, front legs outstretched and hindquarters in the air. Two like-minded dogs will begin jumping, chasing and tumbling in a doggie whirlwind. One may briefly pin the other to the ground, but the roles will soon reverse. They'll growl and bark, but all in good fun. During this play, dogs sort out their relationship. Soon, they'll instinctively know which of them ranks higher in their newly formed pack.

If your small dog is uncomfortable during an introduction, she'll become a shrinking violet. She'll tuck her tail between her legs, lower her head, hunch her back and avoid eye contact with the other animal.

Alternatively, she could react with either fearful or dominant aggression. She'll make herself appear larger by tensing her muscles, standing tall, raising her tail and staring at the other animal. She may bark or snarl, narrowing her mouth and pulling her lips back to expose her teeth. This is your signal to remove your dog from the situation, because if it continues to escalate, you'll have a fight on your hands.

You also may want to consult an animal behaviorist, who can offer more concrete suggestions for your dog. First impressions are lasting ones. Help your small dog navigate the world by discovering the best way to make introductions.

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