Owning a pet is both stressful and rewarding. For all the stress that can come with owning a pet, it’s still something that over half of all households in America do. In fact, some studies estimate that a whopping 70% or more of families in America own a pet — that’s close to 91 million people! With so many people owning a pet, it’s important to know how to introduce pets to new family members. Visiting family, newborns and even children who are staying with you for your agreed-upon custody arrangement can all be considered new family members that a new pet might need to adjust to. Here are some ways you can introduce your pet to a new family member.
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Be aware of their tells.
Though they can’t communicate with you the same way that humans can, your pet will give you some signals that they’re uncomfortable. Ears pointed back, growling, hissing or even crouching low on their haunches are all indicators that they’re uncomfortable or feeling threatened. When a new person comes into the fold, they bring with them their own scent — and the scents of the outside world. Some animals find the scent of other animals a direct threat, whereas others are just intrigued. Regardless, learning the individual signs your pet has to indicate discomfort and stress is one of the things you’ll need to know as you introduce your pet to new family members.
Part of your role as a pet owner is to ensure your pets’ needs are met, and that includes their perceived safety. When you know your pets’ tells, you can easily feed them a treat or engage in a distraction technique to get their attention away from the new family member. Just in case your pet happens to run away in their fear, be sure to invest in a Tile for pets that you can use to track their location and return them home as quickly as possible.
Give them space.
Space is important for pets, especially dogs and cats. Dogs will like to have space to process the scents they’re breathing in or excitedly jump around at the sight of a new friend to play with. Cats, on the other hand, might take some time to warm up to the new family members, instead assessing from afar how they feel about this new presence.
Giving your pets ample space to come to their own conclusions is an important part of the introduction process. When encouraging physical contact between your pet and your new family member, you can either do it in a controlled, closed space or you can leave doors in your home open for your pet to retreat to if they get scared or nervous.
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Introduce their scent before they meet.
You can bring your pet your new family member’s shirt or other personal item your pet can use to get familiar with their scent, or you can have your family member hold something your pet uses frequently, such as a blanket or even a toy. This will help your family member smell more like your pet so they don’t feel as put off by a new, fresh scent. Instead, it’ll just be a bit more hidden and subtle.
Because scents are so important to pets — it’s almost like how they see the world — finding ways to make your pet comfortable with the scent and presence of the new family member is a great consideration to make as a pet owner.
Give your family member some treats.
If your pet can smell their treats on this new person, then they might be more willing to come say hi or be more relaxed around them. They’ll want the treats, and that means they’ll have to play nice with your new family member to get them. This is just one way you can incorporate some positive reinforcement to your introductions. The treats will be helpful for your family member, too, to learn how to say no to your pet or simply engage with them a little more.
Your pets will respond in their own time to the new family members. One moment they may seem uninterested in this new person’s presence, and the next your pets might be up in your family member’s personal space, sniffing their hair or doing something wild.
Either way, encouraging patience in both your pets and your family members will go a long way in keeping the introductions positive and smooth. You shouldn’t push or rush your pets if they aren’t ready, and the same goes for your family members. Some people have fears of dogs or cats, and that can cause some major anxiety knowing they’re walking into a home that has something they’re afraid of. Encouraging patience from everyone involved — even yourself when things aren’t going as well or as quickly as you’d hoped — will keep things mellow.
Play some classical music.
Did you know that classical music can help to keep pets calm? That’s right. The benefits of classical music aren’t just for humans. Pets enjoy classical music too! Playing classical music can help to keep both new family members and your pets calm while you make the introductions between everyone. Resist the urge to play your favorite tunes and, instead, let some classical piano or violin filter through your speakers so that everyone can stay calm.
Put a calming collar on your pet.
A calming collar releases calming pheromones into the air to help calm your pet down. Some companies also have diffusers you can plug in that release the pheromones into the air in a different way, which can be helpful if you have multiple pets in one home.
A calming collar is usually best for individual pets who need some extra reassurance that things are okay. A calming collar can be one addition. When paired with a noiseless silicone pet tag, it can really make introductions a breeze!
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