Introducing a pet into the family - Articles of Interest Common Conditions - Pet Care Information from GreenCross Vets Australia
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Common Conditions - Articles of Interest - Introducing a pet into the family

Introducing a pet into the family

 
Having a new pet join the family is a rewarding and exciting time. We understand the joy that a new pet will bring you and your family.  We also understand that it can be challenging and you may have many questions. When introducing a new pet to your family it is important to do so in a slow and positive way.  Although everyone is incredibly excited for the arrival of your new family member it is also important to anticipate your current pet’s reaction and you new pet’s reaction.  They may be excited, nervous or a little overwhelmed.
 
Before you introduce a new pet into your family it is best to set some ground rules and be prepared. 

New pet set up: 

If you know when your new family member is joining the family it is ideal to have a few things set up for their arrival. 

Family Rules:

Family rules are a great way to ensure that the new addition does not become overwhelmed and will help them settle into your family.  Some great rules are: 
  • Allow the new addition some time to explore the environment.
  • Each family member will have some time to get to know the new addition.
  • If the new pet looks scared allow them some alone time (or time with one person) in a safe and comfortable area. This may be at a distance from the excitement, in another room, in their kennel or bed, having a cuddle or hiding under something.  
  • Give lots of love, praise and rewards.
  • Any other rules that you decide as a family.

Sleeping area:

  • Provide a comfortable personal space where they feel safe and secure.
  • Ensure your current pet has their own space too.

Food

  • What food was your new pet previously eating?  A sudden change in diet can sometimes cause an upset stomach.  If you wish to change their diet please do so over a period of 7 - 10 days.
  • Ensure the food you provide is a complete and balanced.
  • Provide separate food and drinking bowls

You may also wish to provide:

D.A.P or Feliway are synthetic dog or cat pheromones can be used in the home to help provide a safe and comfortable environment.  Please speak to your local Greencross Vet or Pet Barn store to discuss how D.A.P or Feliway may work for your family. 
 
Once you have your new addition there are some points to consider: 

Health

Having a new pet join your family is a very exciting time.  Friends and family will want to be involved, you will want to show your new bundle of joy off and obviously give them lots of love and attention.  In the first 24 hours your new pet may be nervous, excited and a little overwhelmed.  Allow them time to settle in, explore the environment and meet their family before too many visitors come to meet them.  Try to encourage all family members to handle the new arrival quietly and gently and, particularly if it is quite young, allow adequate periods of rest by itself.  
 
If you have pets at home please ensure that they are healthy, up to date with vaccinations and free from parasites.  Your new addition should be up to date with their vaccinations and on parasite prevention.  Very young pets may not be fully vaccinated it is vital that your new addition only socialises with fully vaccinated, healthy, social and parasite free pets. 

Introductions with dogs:

If you have a social and well trained dog on lead you may introduce your dog to the new addition by: 
  • Have your dog on lead and ask your dog for a sit or down.
  • Slowly introduce the new pet visually; this may be through a door screen, in a crate or on lead at a distance.  Provide lots of love, praise and reward
  • Continue to positively reinforce both dogs and allow your existing dog to slowly approach the new pet (make sure this is controlled and on lead) continue to praise.
  • You want your dog to associate the new pet with positive reinforcement.
  • After a few minutes slowly take the new pet away and continue to positively reinforce your dog.  
  • Reintroduce the new pet several times in the day slowly increasing the time spent together and the distance between them.
  • Please ensure all interactions are positive give lots of love, praise and reward.  
  • Once you are happy that your dog is reacting is an appropriate way, you can introduce them off lead through a screen
    • e.g. existing dog outside and new pet inside with flyscreen between them.  
    • You will need two people for this exercise.  One person to praise the new pet inside and one person to praise the dog outside.  
    • It is very important at this stage that you do not positively reinforce any unwanted behaviours.  
  • If the new pet looks frightened or wishes to retreat, let them.  You do not want to force the interaction.
  • Once this is successful and you are comfortable you can allow physical controlled contact.
    • Keep these play sessions short and positive.
    • Continue to provide love, praise and rewards.  
  • With lots of love, praise and positive play your dogs will become best of friends. 
If you have never seen dogs ‘play’ or are uncomfortable with introducing your new pet yourself please contact your local Greencross Vet. 

Introductions with cats:

Cats love their space and personal time.  Cats should be allowed to familiarise themselves with each other over a few days.  Once again, always introduce a new pet in a slow, calm and positive way.  Never force the interaction. 
 
When introducing cats it is important to allow them to meet from a distance if they wish.  You may find your current cat wants to be high on the bookshelf, just to watch over the room.  If this happens allow your cat the time they need to adjust. 
  • Allow the new pet some alone time to explore the environment.
  • Provide a safe and comfortable space for your new pet, such as a small bedroom.
    • Please use a room that your current cat uses minimally.  You may wish to keep this door shut until your new pet is comfortable.  
    • When your new pet is exploring the house it may be helpful to have your current cat explore this room.
    • Please do not lock both cats in a room together.  They will want their own space to retreat. 
  • Feliway may help in providing a calm environment.
    • If you would like to use Feliway it is ideal to have Feliway plugged in 24 – 48hrs prior to your new pet’s arrival. 

Introductions with Children:

Encourage children to sit on a chair when first meeting a new pet.  The adult should always be in control of the new pet.  First interactions can be done by holding the new pet securely in your arms or on lead depending on size and age of your new pet.  Lead interaction is not recommended for a young puppy.  
 
Sit next to your child with the new pet securely in your arms.  Ask the child to put their hand out and let the new pet say hello.  Allow children to softly pat the new pet near the shoulder blades.  Give lots of love, praise and rewards to both the new addition and your child for good behaviour.  
 
If you would like more information on how to introduce a new pet into your family please contact your local team at Greencross Vets. 
 

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