Time to add another member to your family? Here are a few ways to get your canine companion acclimated to change as your crew grows in size.

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It’s exciting to add a new dog or puppy to your home. And, if you already have a dog or cat (or a new baby or small children!), it’s important to make the introductions strategically. Even if your current pet seems pretty laid back, don’t assume they will welcome any newcomer with open paws. Dogs come with a range of personality traits and histories. Some love meeting new furry creatures and other prefer a more independent lifestyle. Follow these tips for various scenarios to help ensure that all members of your family (with or without fur) get along.

1. Introducing Two or More Dogs to Each Other

Dogs are social creatures and so often (not always) enjoy the company of others. However, if you are adopting an older dog, there are a few steps to make introductions go smoother. If possible, start canine introductions with scent, says Zazie Todd, PhD, social psychologist, founder of the popular blog Companion Animal Psychology, and author of Wag: The Science of Making Your Dog Happy. “Introduce the scent of an existing dog to a new dog before they meet,” she says. “And give the new dog a treat to help associate a positive situation with the scent.”

It also helps to introduce dogs on neutral ground. Walk the dogs together, parallel to each other, then criss cross to allow each dog to smell where the other dog has walked. If both dogs seem relaxed and happy, allow them to meet (still on loose leads). The dogs will probably sniff each other, then either ignore each other or initiate play. Watch for any reactivity and redirect them immediately. Todd recommends positive reinforcement for behaviors you’d like to see more of. Treats can be a great reinforcer (if the dog is motivated by treats).

2. Be Patient, Positive, and Realistic When You Introduce Your Dog

If your dog doesn’t initially get along with a new member of your fur family, don’t get mad or frustrated with your dog; try introducing them later on. Sometimes it takes time for dogs to develop trust and understanding with a new furry friend. An older dog may take more issue with a rambunctious pup who doesn’t understand boundaries, and a puppy may find a more mature or much larger dog to be a bit scary. Provide each pet his or her own space, separating them from each other, but still enabling them to still see each other from a comfortable distance. Utilize baby gates to create safe areas and gradually remove the gates over time. If after a few weeks the relationship hasn’t progressed, consult with a vet behaviorist for guidance.

3. Bringing Your New Dog Home

Although two dogs may get along in a neutral environment, once the new pooch comes home, the established pet may become stressed. Start by walking both dogs outside your home. Then, bring them both indoors on a loose lead so you can help prevent issues. Pick up all your current pet’s toys and food bowls beforehand to avoid any intention for resource guarding. Have a crate set up or a private area in the house for the new dog. Supervise any interactions with other furry creatures in the house and provide each dog opportunities for alone time. Remain near the dogs during feeding times, separating their bowls to prevent any concerns over food. Always pay close attention to canine body language and enable choices to build confidence and trust.

4. Introducing Your Dog to a Cat

Cats and dogs can become great friends, but your cat might find the sudden intrusion of an energetic canine hard to bear. Cats can learn to love, or at least live harmoniously, with a new dog with the many of the same techniques you use to introduce a dog to another dog. Make sure the cat always gets to decide when, and how, they interact with the dog. Never force the interactions and don’t let the new dog invade the cat’s space, chase them, or bother them during feeding times.

5. Introducing Your Dog to a New Baby

As with pet-to-pet introductions, start the introduction of the new family member using scent. “Introduce the scent of the baby to the dog before she meets the baby,” advises Todd. “Let the dog smell a baby blanket, then give the dog treats at the same time to create a positive association,” says Todd. Allow the dog to leave the room whenever they want and make sure the dog doesn’t have to endure loud crying. Keep taking your dog for walks and give them opportunities for lots of good enrichment and monitor their behavior to make sure they are not stressed or anxious.

6. Introducing Your Dog to a New Puppy or Kitten

If you are adding a new puppy or kitten to your household, follow the same procedures listed above for an older dog. Keep in mind that kittens and puppies are small enough to be hurt by a larger, older animal. So, never leave them alone with an adult dog or cat without your supervision. Both puppies and kittens have boundless energy and may annoy or pester your mature pets. Make sure they can be separated for part of the day to give your current pet a break.

White cat means retriever dog for the first time
Credit: Vedrana Sucic / EyeEm / Getty

7. Introducing Your Dog to a New Human Family Member

Most of the time a new dog or cat will blend easily with your human family. But, it’s always wise to keep a close eye on your new pet around small children. Toddlers, in particular, can alarm a new pet by screaming and running around the house or by pulling on the animal’s ears, tail, and fur. Climbing on or chasing your pets can be terrifying to your dog or cat. Large, friendly, active dogs can knock young children down with a swipe of their tail.

The best rule to follow is to never leave a child alone with any animal and to teach your child how to act appropriately around your pet. Also talk with the shelter or breeder you’re getting your new pet from in order to find a pet that matches your family’s lifestyle and don’t hesitate to seek help from a certified animal behavior consultant.