By Megan Keough

What are your tips for introducing a new dog to a home with existing pets, like cats?

Go slow, set up gates, and prevent chasing or negative first impressions. A new puppy leaving its mom and littermates for the first time or a new dog joining your home has a lot to take in. Create safety first: Let them explore your home first without other pets around or go for a walk together in a neutral place. Make sure both dogs or cats feel comfortable and relaxed in the new environment before proceeding with any nose to nose introductions.

Scent Swap: If your current animals have had a difficult time accepting newcomers to your home, start introductions through scent. Place your current residents in a safe space where they won’t be able to hear or see the newcomer, then let your new addition explore the house. Then switch places, being sure to avoid letting the dogs/cats see one another.

Dogs: If introducing a new dog to an existing dog, after a scent swap, go for a parallel walk together (you will need a friend or family member to help you walk your new dog). Walk in the same direction at a distance, the dogs are able to remain calm and relaxed. If you see loose, relaxed body language and/or play bows, walk the dogs back to your yard and let the new dog into the backyard first, followed by the existing dog. If either of the dogs seems worried and has tight, rigid body language, return home and keep the dogs separate. Continue scent swap and parallel walks for a few days or weeks until the dogs are more ready for the next steps.

Cats: Most dogs can live peacefully with cats, you just need to do 2 things: prevent chasing, and teach your dog what you want them to do. Use baby gates, leashes, or tethers anytime your dog and cat can see each other. Every time your dog notices your kitty and remains calm, give them a treat. Feed meals on opposite sides of the gate at a distance, so both animals feel relaxed.

How can owners best socialize their dogs, especially if they don’t have other dogs at home?

Quality positive experiences over quantity is key to socializing your new puppy or dog.

Attend a positive, force-free training class (small groups, good cleaning practices, certified trainers, low-stress, fun). Pick playmates that are comparable in size, age, or play style when you can. Parallel walks with a friendly dog: Begin on a leash at a distance the dogs can see each other but remain calm; when everyone is relaxed and enjoying the walk, you can begin to move closer together. Keep leashes loose for greetings (or take them off if it is safe to do so). Set up puppy playdates! Just like many parents do with their human kids, set up opportunities for your new puppy to have a playdate at your friends’ house. The social experience, novel location, and new people are all great opportunities for your puppy to explore a new place safely.

Jen Biglan, KPA CTP, is a Certified Dog Behavior Consultant, Licensed Family Dog Mediator, and a member of the Karen Pryor Academy faculty. An Oregon native, in 2016, Jen and her business partner Tera Dschaak-James launched Training Spot, a 4,500-square-foot facility dedicated to community education, positive force-free training, and improving the lives of dogs and their families.

Training Spot, 541-357-7387, trainingspot.us