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Introducing Your Dog to Your Family

First impressions do count and how you make introductions will set the scene for future interactions.

Introducing your dog to children

Even if your dog has been used to children in the past, it will not be used to yours and will need time to get to know them. Prevent the dog from feeling overwhelmed by insisting that it be allowed to approach the children rather than the other way round. This will prevent the dog from feeling threatened and it is less likely to snap in self-defence. Children can encourage the dog to come to them by sitting down and offering a treat or a game with a toy. Ask them not to stare at the dog as this can be threatening.

If the dog goes to them they can stroke and pet it underneath its chin to start with rather than patting it on the head. Remember that a dog at face level with young children may seem quite frightening, so be prepared to move the dog away if the child becomes overwhelmed or if the dog is about to jump up. Dogs do not always appreciate being hugged or cuddled unless they have been familiarized with it from an early age. It is a great temptation for children to do this, especially if they have been used to doing it to a previous dog. You will need to slowly find out what your dog will accept, supervising constantly to ensure that no unacceptable behavior occurs on either side. After the initial introduction, ask the children to give the dog a bit of space and time to get comfortable. (A new game for the children, introduced at the same time as the new dog, can distract their attention for a while and enable the first few days to go more smoothly.)

If your children have not had a dog before, they may need to be taught to respect it and not treat it as a toy. High-pitched squeals can upset a dog until it is used to them, so try to keep play as calm as possible. Some dogs (collies for example) have a strong herding instinct and may nip at children's ankles, causing them to squeal and run away. This excites the dog,which will do it more and more. This type of behavior must be stopped at once, or it can become a habit. Children have to learn not to tease or bully the dog; the dog has to learn not to jump up at the children, be too boisterous or nip them in play. It is important to supervise all their activities until they have both learned the rules . It is not advisable to leave children under the age of ten alone with any dog. Be especially careful with older dogs and children. A dog whose vision or hearing isi mpaired may be startled by sudden approaches and may bite to defend itself. Explain the difficulties the dog is having to the children so they learn to approach more gently.

Introducing your dog to other dogs

It is best to introduce dogs on neutral territory so take both dogs out for a long walk together. The interest of the walk will make the introduction less intense and they can get to know each other as they walk. If you need to use a car to take them home, keep them separate until you arrive. When you arrive home, take them into the yard, allowing the new dog to go in first and let them run around together for a few minutes. Before allowing them into the house, remove anything that they are likely to fight over, such as toys or bones. Attention from members of the family may also be a resource to fight over, so ignore both dogs until they have settled down. Try to ignore any small disagreements and scuffles.

If you see both dogs stiffening up and staring at each other, distract both dogs by pretending something more interesting is going on elsewhere. Be ready to lead the dogs away and isolate each of them until they have calmed down. Extra care should be taken when introducing a large dog to a small one since the damage inflicted during a fight can be much worse for the smaller dog. Usually introductions go smoothly and the new dog is treated, and acts, like a visitor. The hierarchy between them is sorted out during the first few weeks and disagreements are possible during this time. Try to avoid situations that may cause aggravation. Feed them apart until they are used to each other, separate them before answering the door and do not make such a fuss of the new dog that your old dog feels excluded. Care should be taken not to leave them alone together until it is obvious that they have become friends.

Introducing your dog to cats

Even if your dog has previously lived with a cat, new cats may not necessarily be tolerated. If they are to become friends it is essential that the dog is not allowed to frighten the cat. This means having the dog on a lead and under control when they are introduced. Let the cat have the freedom to get out of the way or approach if it wishes. The cat will probably need time to assess the dog before it gets brave enough to approach and make friends. For this reason you will need to supervise all their encounters for several weeks to ensure a successful outcome. Do not allow the dog to give chase at any time since this will upset the relationship and it will be much longer before they become used to each other. Care should be taken not to leave a cat and a dog alone together until it is obvious that they have become friends.


The information on this website is for informational and educational purposes, and to provide you general pet information. It is NOT meant to be a substitute for professional veterinary care.