Tips for introducing a new dog into your household pack

Pip Harry interviews veterinary surgeon Dr Peter Higgins for Real Insurance.

Assimilating a puppy or rescue dog into a new environment requires careful planning so they feel safe and secure. Veterinary surgeon Dr Peter Higgins offers expert tips for helping your new best friend adjust to living with you and your family. “Feeling at home is very important for a new dog and for family members as well,” says Dr Higgins. “What happens in those early weeks and months will determine how your four-legged friend behaves in later life.” 

Take a house tour

Carry or walk your new dog around their new home and show them every aspect of it. After that, for the first few days, they’re best confined to one or two rooms so they can settle in slowly. Provide lots of hugs and use warm calming voices. Reassure them that this is their new home and make sure you’ve ticked off their physical requirements - food, water bowls, beds, blankets, and toys. 

Set up a den 

Puppies generally need at least 18 hours of sleep a day. Set up a quiet den, which could be a bought crate or a quiet space in a corner of a room, where they can sleep without being disturbed. Dogs have an instinct to be in a den which is still present in modern domestic dogs. Occasionally puppies and dogs can feel overwhelmed, so they need somewhere to get away from it all to feel safe and secure.

Be the boss

Dogs are pack animals, and they look for pack leaders. As the owner of a new dog, you should establish your position as the leader and provide boundaries, otherwise your dog may be unsure where it stands in the hierarchy and can sometimes overstretch what they should be doing. 

Feed regularly

Puppies may require 2-4 times more energy per pound (or kilogram) of body weight when compared to an adult dog to maintain their growth and as such their nutritional requirements could be higher during this stage of life.. This is why manufactured puppy foods are not a marketing gimmick, they can be a nutritional necessity. A puppy should be fed balanced and high-kilojoule foods that contain a high percentage of proteins, fats and carbohydrates 4-5 times a day to keep their small tummies full and energy reserves stocked.

Making introductions

Puppies are usually inquisitive and may never have seen other pets before, so introducing them needs to be done slowly. Sit down as a family and hold your cat or rabbit, and the new puppy on separate laps. Encouraging words to all animals will make the new family bond quicker. Let the animals touch noses, sniff each other, then separate them and involve them in another activity. Allow the animals to gradually get to know each other, under supervision.

Introductions to younger children are similar to that of other animals: the pack leader (that is, the owner), should sit down with the dog and the child(ren). Encourage the kids to behave calmly and quietly and talk to the dog in a soft voice. Allow them to slowly and gently pat the dog on the shoulder, and not on the top of their head or tail. Move the kids along to another activity, so they can get to know each other at a relaxed pace. Regardless of the dog, their size or their friendly temperament, young children and dogs should never, ever be left alone without adult supervision. Even the most placid dog could bite or react if they’re poked in the eye with a finger, their tail is pulled, or they’re suddenly approached, causing a fear response. 

Rescue dogs

Rescue dogs need particular care and attention. Quite often a rescue dog has already had one owner who may not have been kind to it. You can teach an old dog new tricks, there’s no doubt about that, but it just takes a little more time. Welcoming a rescue dog is similar to bringing a new puppy home – take it slow and ensure you work with the organisation your new furry friend came from as they will know their temperament and what they need to settle in happily. 

Set up a routine

Puppies must have boundaries. Without routine and boundaries, you could get an unstable and disruptive puppy that then becomes an out-of-control adult dog. So, feeding at similar times, going for walks at similar times, playing at similar times, and when people arrive home from work or school is an important part of the puppy’s life. Dogs are creatures of habit, so they like routine.

Social life

Socialisation is one of the most important things a pet parent can do for a new puppy. When socialising a puppy, the goal is to get them used to lots of people, different situations and environments. It’s important for them to meet people and other animals, and experience everyday sights and sounds, especially in the first 4-6 months of life. This will help them become less anxious when meeting other furry friends and people they may not know in the future.

Be patient with toilet training

Puppies depending on the breed have an attention span of between 10-30 seconds. Following a meal or drinking water it is recommended to take them outside 10-20 minutes following as it is likely they will urinate soon their after.  If you do catch them toileting inside. Never, ever rub their noses in it and do not shout or punish them. All that does is illicit a fear response, which will stay with them into adult life. Rather, if you do catch them at it, carry them outside, often while still urinating, and give them praise when they do it outside.

Tone of voice is important. A happy, active, praising voice should be given when they go to the toilet outside. If they go inside a stern voice saying; “No.” is all that is needed. If you don’t catch them... make sure you have a good mop handy.

Taking out Real Pet Insurance is one simple thing you can do to help protect your pet from eligible accident and illnesses. Once you have a policy for your furry little friend, you can feel confident knowing you are helping to give your dog or cat the care they deserve.