Creating a safe space
With any dog that has come into our care, we have limited information on the dog’s history and anything that they may have been exposed to in the past. That’s why it’s best to give your dog time to settle into their new home and make sure you provide them with a safe place to relax. It’s also important to give the dog some space and don’t force interaction. If your new dog is a little shy, giving it time to relax and approach you in its own is much more successful than forcing it to interact.
A safe space might be a bed or crate either in the lounge room or in a quiet room if you’ve got a busy house (such as the bedroom or laundry). A safe space is a designated area where your dog can choose to rest without being disturbed by anyone else in the household. A safe space should never be used as a place of punishment and your dog should not be confined to this area if it causes them distress.
Meeting other household pets
It’s always best to start a new relationship slow and positive with minimal room for error. Starting off on the wrong foot can make it harder to repair the relationship. Introduce your new pup to other household dogs on the lead and off the property, such as going for a short walk around the block together and then coming into the house together. Keep both dogs on lead until you are comfortable they are getting along and then allow one or both dogs off lead, all while maintaining active supervision. If you need to go out during the first couple of weeks, it might be best to separate the dogs when no one is home and cannot actively supervise interactions. Utilise solid doors, baby gates and play pens to section off the house.
If you have cats in your household, it’s best to hold off on a nose-to-nose interaction until both animals are comfortable behind a physical barrier (such as a glass door or baby gate). Cats are likely to flee and seek somewhere to hide when they’re feeling fearful, so ensure your cat has a safe space they can go to where the dog can’t access. Neither animal should be forced to interact with or look at the other – the relationship should move at its own pace. For some cats, this may take several weeks or months before they feel comfortable, even with a physical barrier still in place.
Other small animals, such as guinea pigs or birds may be seen as prey by some dogs, so it’s important to ensure you have a solid physical barrier that prevents your dog from gaining access to them.
If your dog is showing any aggression or predatory behaviour, contact a reward-based trainer or RSPCA for further advice.