Welcome to Day 5 of Puppy Preschool
(Don’t know what we’re talking about? Click here.) Today we’ll cover socialization.
Depending on if you have chosen a new dog or a new cat to join your family, or if you’re making friends for your new puppy, you will need to use a slightly different introduction technique for each. Some of the exercises for successful introductions will be interchangeable, ie: using positive reinforcement, always supervising your pets and providing safe places for your pet to take a break from the action. You will also need to consider the ages of the animals (new and resident) when letting your pets interact.
Dog /Dog Introductions
Dogs should be introduced in a neutral location to avoid territorial behavior or aggression. Try letting them meet for the first time at a near by park or a friend’s backyard. Always keep both dogs on a leash to ensure handler control and to keep dogs from approaching each other head on (nose to nose). Never force physical contact and let them proceed at their own pace. Interrupt sniffing sessions frequently to lower the threshold of arousal and use positive reinforcement, like small tasty food treats, to encourage appropriate behavior. Only offer food treats once dogs are separated so as not to inadvertently cause any competition over a food resource.
Dog /Cat Introductions
If you are bringing home a new dog to meet your cat you need to have realistic expectations about how your cat is going to feel about things. In most cases he probably is not going to be happy. Cats do not tolerate change well and the introduction of a dog into the family is going to bring big changes. Be patient and don’t expect them to be best friends right away. Make sure your cat has a safe place away from the dog. A baby gate placed in a doorway and up off the ground several inches will allow your cat to be able to run underneath and escape an intrusion and keep the dog from pursuing. Providing lots of elevated places where your cat can perch will also be helpful. Your cat’s food and water, resting areas and litter box should all be off-limits areas to the dog and you should have them located in the safe place so your cat will have easy access to them. You should always keep your dog on a leash for the first few meetings to make sure the dog will not hurt or chase your cat.
Tips and Hints
Now that you have a plan in place here are some tips and hints that will make the transition even easier.
- Never leave your pets alone together unsupervised until you are certain it will be safe for them.
- Provide resources such as food, water, toys, resting areas or beds and litter boxes to each of your pets so they do not have to share. Undesired competitive behaviors could develop if your pet feels his resources are threatened.
- Learn to recognize your pet’s body postures and what they mean. Fights will be easier to avoid if you distract your cat or dog before arousal levels escalate.
- During the critical first few days your new pet is getting used to the household you can help them adjust by swapping scents. Use an old t-shirt you have worn (so it has your scent) and wipe down one of your pets with it (so it smells like him) and place it in a resting area or feeding area of your other pet. Do the same things again except vice-versa. This will swap scents and your pets will be able to get used to what each other smells like and associate the scent with something pleasant (food and favorite resting area).
- Remember slow and easy gets the job done! Don’t rush your dog or cat by forcing them to be in close contact and let them proceed at their own pace.
- Always use positive reinforcement (special food treats and kind words of encouragement) to reward your pets for interacting appropriately.
- Practice basic dog obedience with your pet so that you may easier control his behavior. You can register for low cost classes at the Humane Society by downloading a copy of the registration form.
- Short and frequent meetings between your pets will work better than long encounters.
- Puppies and kittens will need extra supervision when introduced to adult animals. The younger the animal is the more vulnerable it is to injury.
- Try to keep the routine of the house the same. The fewer changes your resident pet has to go through the less stressful it will be for him.
- Remember animals are spatially sensitive and each animal will feel the need for his own space. Avoid confrontations by controlling your pets in confined areas like doorways, hallways, bathrooms and cars.
About the Puppy Preschool Blog Series
Over the next few days, we’ll touch upon a variety of puppy-parenting issues that are covered, in detail, by our Behavior Training Programs Manager in her full Puppy-PreSchool Course. If you like what you get a taste of in these blog posts, sign your little guy (or gal) up for the full course,here.
Topics to Be Covered
- Sunday: About Positive Reinforcement Training
- Monday: Potty/Crate Training
- Tuesday: Play biting/Chewing
- Wednesday: Exercise and Appropriate Play
- Thursday: Socialization
- Friday: Conclusion
Stay tuned throughout the week as we deliver multi-media lessons on how to raise your puppy right. By Friday, your puppy could be a fully-fledged preschool graduate.