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Multi-Pet Households: What to Do if Your Pets Don’t Get Along

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Owning multiple pets comes with its perks. Not only do your furry friends get a built-in playmate, but they also have some added companionship when you’re away. Plus, there’s just more love to go around! 

Whether you currently live in your own furry zoo or you’re just starting to consider introducing a new pet to your household, it’s important that any pet-related decisions are made carefully. The good news is that even if there isn’t instant chemistry between your pets, there are a few steps you can take to encourage a harmonious home environment. 

Keep reading to learn more! 

Planning Ahead

Before making the decision to bring home a new pet, you’ll need to do plenty of research and planning. 

For starters, consider your current pet’s needs and abilities. If possible, try to find a new furry sibling of comparable size and energy levels. If you’ve got a slow-moving senior dog who’s accustomed to being an only child, for example, he may not be all too thrilled about the idea of a rambunctious young pup living in his space. 

Learn as much as you can about the new dog’s history. If he has a history of aggression toward smaller animals, for example, you shouldn’t be surprised if he has a rocky relationship with your cat.  

That said, life can be unpredictable, and sometimes there are circumstances that don’t really allow us to be picky about our pets. Maybe your spouse surprised you with a new pet, or you’ve fallen in love with a foster that you simply can’t let go of. 

If your pets already live together and don’t get along, be assured that it is possible to establish a tolerable relationship. It just takes some time, patience, and lots of intention. 

Introducing Your Pets

Ideally, you’ll be able to carefully introduce your pets for the first time, allowing them to gradually warm up to each other. If your pets are already acquainted and don’t get along, you may need to separate them for a bit and try starting again, focusing on a slow introduction with positive associations. 

Our favorite tips for introducing new pets include: 

  • Choose a neutral location without a lot of stressors (such as crowds and traffic).

  • Introduce each pet to the newcomer individually.

  • Keep both dogs leashed.

  • Monitor closely for signs of stress, anxiety, and aggression.

  • Don’t rush it—you may need to do a few brief introductions to allow them to get used to each other.

  • Don’t punish your dog for any aggressive or negative behavior, as this will only lead to a negative association with the new pet. 

Managing a Multi-Dog Household

Of course, you can’t stay in that neutral location forever. When it’s time to bring both dogs home, they’ll ideally start feeling a bit more comfortable with each other outside before you head indoors. Otherwise, you may need to keep them separated for a while. 

Some tips for encouraging a harmonious household include: 

  • Reward good behavior rather than punishing bad behavior. For example, give your dogs treats when they’re able to spend time near each other without barking or growling.

  • Give your dogs treats and meals away from each other to discourage food aggression or anxiety.

  • Make sure your dogs have their own crate, toys, and bedding, especially if either of them tends to get territorial.

  • Allow them to get used to each other’s scents by rubbing each pup with a towel and placing it in a favorite spot—such as near the food bowl or around favorite toys—to encourage positive association.

  • Give your dogs equal attention; you certainly want to help your new dog feel welcome, but you shouldn’t favor him over your first dog (or vice versa). 
  • Don’t rush the process. It can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks for dogs to warm up to each other, especially if it involves a total change of environment.

  • Don’t leave your pets unsupervised and unconfined until you’re sure they can get along. 

If you’re doing everything you can and still not seeing progress, it may be worth investing in a professional dog trainer. 

If one or both of your pups are prone to anxious behavior, try Pet Honesty’s Calming Hemp Chews. These tasty soft chews are made with a blend of natural calming ingredients such as chamomile, ginger root, passion flower, and hemp oil to ease discomfort, soothe stress, and address excessive anxiety-related behaviors such as excessive barking and chewing.