There’s no denying that dogs are naturally social creatures—just think of how excited your four-legged friend gets when you spend some uninterrupted play time together, or when he comes across another canine during a walk.
When it comes to other animals, dogs generally prefer to socialize with other dogs. However, this isn’t to say that they’re opposed to non-canine connections, or even that they’ll become best friends with every dog they meet. With the proper preparation, it’s possible that your dog can learn to get along with other household pets such as cats, guinea pigs, rabbits, hamsters, and, of course, other dogs.
There is no one-size-fits-all formula when it comes to knowing whether your dog will get along with other animals. However, some breeds in particular are known for being more compatible when it comes to companions: Golden Retrievers; Briards; Cavalier King Charles Spaniels; Labrador Retrievers; Black and Tan Coonhounds; Havanese; and Norfolk Terriers, to name a few.
Keep in mind, though, that all dogs have their own personalities. It’s more important to know the personality and energy level of your own dog, regardless of breed. For example, a territorial dog probably won’t like sharing his space with a playful, curious cat. An older, low-energy dog may have some issues getting along with an energetic kitten or even another puppy. It can go the other way, too—perhaps your energetic pup is the one who’s bothering the more mild-mannered pet in question.
This doesn’t mean that it’s impossible for your dog to learn how to live harmoniously with your other pets. They just need some extra help from you!
Training and Preparation
Training is an essential part of being a dog owner, and absolutely crucial if you’re planning to introduce your dog to other animals.
Prioritize training your dog to control his impulses. If he sees a squirrel, does he try to dash out the door? If someone drops food at the table, does he sprint across the room to grab it? If so, he will likely need to take some time learning to listen and stay put before being introduced to a smaller animal such as a cat.
When it comes to rodents, consider your dog’s natural prey drive. If the two animals simply must meet, make sure it’s done in a safe, controlled environment. That being said, it’s probably best to keep these animals separate for the most part.
When adopting a pet, be sure to gather as much information as possible about the previous living arrangements, and whether he was able to get along with other animals. This information can have a significant impact on the transition from being an “only child” to gaining a furry sibling. Regardless of the situation, be sure to have a backup plan just in case the animals turn out to be completely incompatible. For example, consider a long-term arrangement where the animals can live separately in different parts of the house.
When it’s time to introduce the pets, do it gradually. Keep them separate at first if possible, and let them sniff each others’ bed and toys before the first face-to-face introduction. That way, they can get used to the idea of having another animal around, and the initial meeting will be less of a shock.
Keep your dog on a leash during the first several meetings, for safety’s sake. This is especially important if there is a significant size difference between the two animals. You may not need to worry about this if the animals in question are too young or small to be harmful.
Stimulation and Safe Spaces
Dogs, especially those with high energy levels, need lots of stimulation. Providing controlled stimulation will make a canine less likely to try to get his energy out by chasing or bothering other pets. Certified dog trainer Zoe Sandor recommends toys, herding-type activities, lure coursing, and high-intensity trick training to appropriately unleash a dog’s herding instinct and prey drive.
Cats can be very territorial, and need a space where they feel safe (especially the litter box). If Fido is overly friendly with Snowflake to the point of irritation, she might need a space where she can escape and observe the territory from a distance—think vertical. Cat trees or shelves mounted into the wall will help her feel safe and secure when the dog just isn’t getting the hint. Knowing that she can escape on her own terms will result in less tension between the two animals.
If you’re bringing a new dog into your home, the two dogs will naturally establish a hierarchy; generally, the dog who was there first will act as the alpha. To avoid territorial aggression, consider introducing the two dogs in a neutral territory, such as a park. Once they are familiar with each other, the “alpha” dog is more likely to welcome his new sibling into his home.
To reduce rivalry between the dogs, provide separate beds and food bowls. It’s also a good idea to take away toys until you’re sure that the two dogs are getting along, to avoid any additional conflict.
Don’t forget to spend one-on-one time with the dogs, too. Even if Fido has a new friend, his bond with his human is still important. It’s especially important if he might be feeling jealous of the new dog and needs reassurance that he’s not being replaced. PetHonesty’s Premium Hemp Calming Chews can be helpful if your pup is having some anxiety about the new pet in his house.
If possible, the ideal situation is to raise two (or more) animals together from a young age, in order to avoid the growing pains that come with a change in environment. If your pet is older, though, it’s not too late to introduce a new furry friend.
According to Jackson Galaxy, host of the Animal Planet show My Cat From Hell, if animals are brought up together in a positive, loving, encouraging environment, they’re going to be friends… or at the least, they’ll tolerate each other.