(Welcome to the weekly pet column of Pet Connection Programs Inc. of Marilla, N.Y. A new article is posted each week, so be sure to check back on a regular basis!)
You’re an animal lover, and you’ve dreamed about your dog running through a field alongside a horse or watching your pup play with a pet goat. But how will your companions respond when they meet their new unique sibling?
To make sure your pets start their relationship out right, the experts at Tractor Supply Company, a nationwide rural lifestyle retailer celebrating Pet Appreciation Week Sept. 13-17, have five tips to make the introduction as seamless as possible.
Taking the appropriate steps to properly introduce your dog to another animal — such as a horse, pig, goat or rabbit — will drastically improve the chances of the two becoming friends.
1. Consider your pet’s personality
Dogs are instinctively pack animals and tend to get along well with others, especially ones that roam in a pack or herd such as horses, goats and sheep. But teaching your dog to live with respect for members of another species will depend on several factors, including its age, breed and temperament.
While breed doesn’t always predict an animal’s personality, it can be insightful in determining likely traits. For instance, labs, retrievers and terriers are natural hunters and might be better friends with a goat or pig rather than a rabbit.
Also consider interactions your pet has had with other dogs to indicate how a future meeting with an unfamiliar animal might go.
2. Let the new pet get comfortable
Your dog isn’t the only animal dealing with a change. Remember your new flock, pet goat or rabbit may need a few days to get used to their surroundings. Giving animals some time to learn their environment can alleviate some initial skittish behavior.
3. Set up a controlled introduction
Whether introducing a small rabbit or a big horse, start with a meeting where you have the control. Prior to orchestrating the first sniff, place your new animal inside a fenced enclosure that allows both your dog and the new friend enough space to observe each other.
Once your dog has taken in all of the initial sights and smells, it still may take several weeks for comfort to set in. Take it slow, be persistent and remember that peaceful coexistence starts with familiarity.
4. Reward calm behavior
Chances are your dog will be suspicious of something new in its backyard domain. If your dog starts wiggling with excitement or whining, that’s normal!
Reinforce positive interactions by offering comfort and rewarding submissive body language, such as relaxed ears and a lowered head. Be patient. Dogs are not trained overnight.
5. Leashed meeting
Next, using a leash, bring your dog to meet the new pet. Let them check each other out and interact in a safe way. Repeat this process for as long as it takes for your dog to relax.
This portion of the interaction will require close observation of your dog’s behavior. Any type of tension or aggression needs to result in a firm “no,” while good behavior should be verbally praised.
In the event that your dog shows signs of fear or aggression, increase your distance until you’ve reestablished a calm demeanor and then try again.
Continue this ritual until your dog and your new pet start to behave like old friends.
For expert advice on raising pets and other animals, please visit TractorSupply.com/KnowHow.
(For more information on pets and animal adoption, please visit www.petconnectionprogramsinc.com. Or, visit their Facebook page at www.facebook.com/PetConnectionProgramsinc. Located in Marilla, N.Y., Pet Connection Programs Inc. is a nonprofit maternity and special care shelter founded in 1984.)