Introducing your new dog to the family is both an exciting and nerve-wracking experience. You might have spent weeks preparing all the supplies you need and organising your space, but what's the best way to introduce a new dog properly to a new home? And what about how to introduce a new dog to existing dogs?
Sometimes it’s these practical elements that can cause anxiety and stress as the big day approaches.
This is why we created this guide to introducing a new dog into your home. We want to help make this experience as positive as it can be, ensuring you have a framework to follow that will boost your chances of successful introductions - offering you a stress-free start to your new adventure!
But let’s start by briefly highlighting what to do before you bring your dog home:
- Create a safe space - Your new addition might need a space away from the hustle and bustle, and other pets, but close enough to feel they aren’t alone. Perhaps a gated area in your laundry room or kitchen.
- Dog proof - If they happen to be a younger dog, you might want to re-proof your home. Look out for any chewable or enticing wires, furnishings or poisonous plants.
- Be ready with supplies - They’ll need their own ID tags, leash, collar & harness of course, as well as some comforting toys.
- Firm up house rules - To give your new addition the stability and consistency they need, it’s time to sit down with the family and reaffirm the house rules & your training approach. If needed, write these down and stick them somewhere that everyone can see and be reminded of. For example - how will you approach jumping up or begging? What’s your furniture policy? This will help your new dog feel secure in the knowledge of what is expected of them.
- Decide on a schedule - A solid routine can help a dog settle in quickly and provide them with a framework of familiarity. So draw up a schedule for your new addition that everyone can stick to. You don’t have to keep this forever, but it’s certainly ideal for your new addition to begin with.
Pick Up Day:
- Take some time - If you can, take a few days off work and clear your calendar to help your new addition settle in. It’s probably wise not to book in lots of visitors either, which could be overwhelming for an anxious newcomer.
- Take two - If you are driving to collect your new family member, take two people if you can; one to focus on the driving and one to focus on caring for the dog. Bring towels, water and something for the dog to be securely travelling in, and watch out for any travel sickness. If your journey is a long one, try and stop every 2-3 hours for a leg stretch and potty break.
- On arrival - First thing’s first, try and take your dog straight to their designated potty area and reward them for eliminating there. This will help to cement good habits straight away. Let them sniff around and stretch their legs after the drive, maybe even initiate some play, if they are willing, to get the serotonin flowing.
- Sleeping - Initially, you might want to have your dog sleep in your room or somewhere close to you to help them settle in, before slowly moving their bed to your preferred sleeping spot.
Introducing a new dog to the family:
Here, if your new dog seems confident and inquisitive, you could start to introduce your family members outside, one at a time. Keep it calm and low-key, and let the dog be the one to approach, sniff and drive the interaction.
Ask family members to offer their hand, and let the dog approach them, only petting when the dog seems to ask for the interaction. No hugging, squealing or aggressive petting! So if you have young ones who might struggle with this concept, it’s best to keep them away until your dog is truly settled.
Offering a little treat can help the dog to associate family members with good things too, so have some high quality treats on hand.
Introducing a new dog to its home:
- On-leash - Bring your dog into the house on a leash. This means you can gently assess their level of house training and whether they are likely to chew or scavenge, without being able to successfully rehearse these behaviours.
- Take a tour - Moving at your dog’s pace, give them a tour of the space, keeping the mood calm and relaxed. With the leash on you can easily & gently redirect any chewing or grabbing of objects with an appropriate toy or treat.
- Show them their area - Show them their safe space, and where they can find food and water. If they’ve had a nice bit of exercise by now, they might be ready to naturally relax here. Reward them if they do, with praise or a treat delivered calmly, signalling that settling here is a behaviour you like. Over the first few weeks, make sure your new dog gets ample “quiet time” in this area so that your dog can acclimate to the new surroundings at their own pace.
- Have patience - It can take time to shape a new dog’s behaviour in your household, and for them to establish a strong bond with you. Implement a positive and consistent training regime to help them understand your household. Manage their environment so that you set them up to succeed. Give your new dog time and space to adjust, and allow them to initiate new levels of closeness. You’ll know they are making progress when they do!
How to introduce a new dog to existing dogs:
Introducing a new dog to the family dog is a hugely important step in their new life, and one that should be taken slowly and carefully to maximise the chances of their meeting becoming a positive experience.
- Begin with scent - If you can, start by introducing the dogs to each other's scent, perhaps by rubbing a towel along them and placing it in their resting areas. This allows them to become acquainted before actually meeting.
- Start outside - Start any face to face meetings on a leash in your yard, or a quiet park if you don’t have any outside space. You might need to get another person to help you with initial meetings so that both dogs are leashed. Walk the dogs at a distance so they can see each other, but far enough away that they aren’t fixated. Slowly, you can start to shorten this distance.
- Follow closer - As you shorten the distance, follow in the other dog’s footsteps, this allows the dogs to smell each other's scent. As you then close the distance, keep a close eye on their body language for signs of stress or aggression.
- Face to face - If both dogs seem eager to meet but not aggressive, allow them a little closer with a loose leash so they aren’t encouraged to be tense. Don’t be disheartened if they seem a bit on edge at first – take it slowly and make sure to stop the meeting if either dog looks like they are overly stressed, threatening or anxious. You can always repeat this step as many times as you need to. Treat and reward positive interactions to encourage these behaviours.
- In the household - Once the dogs are meeting successfully outside, they can have supervised interactions inside, using doors, gates, and leashes to prevent full contact initially. A baby gate works very well here.
- Walks - If you can, walk the dogs together each on a leash with separate handlers. Again, monitor their interactions and reward any positive interactions.
- Off-leash play - After you’ve been for a few walks and both dogs are generally happy in each other's company, try some off-lead playtime in your yard or quiet space - ideally somewhere neutral and without toys present. Some dogs can be a little rough during playtime, and while this is often normal, if you think either dog is being a little much, break up the play for a few minutes to let them cool off.
- Life together - As they learn to live together, slowly remove the barriers between them and monitor interactions. Make sure your dogs each have their own spaces they can go to if they need some alone time, and start by feeding them in different areas too. Keep toys out of the equation when they are together until you know they can play nicely with them (or invest in dual play toys) and harmony will follow!
We hope this guide to introducing your new dog to the family is helpful for your new addition on their first days.
Enjoy those special moments as they grow and bond with you and your pack, and enjoy every opportunity to play, train and enjoy beautiful walks with them. We wish you a lifetime of happiness together!