At some point, there’s a good chance you’ll think about adding a dog into your furry family. While a dog can be a welcomed part of the family, some of your pets may not adjust easily to the newcomer. Their first encounter can have unpredictable outcomes, and like with people, first impressions count for a lot. So if you’re thinking of adding a dog to your home, be sure to take the following advice into consideration.

For homes that have existing resident dogs

Before anything else, assess if you should really be adding another dog into your family home. If your other dog(s) have a history of aggressiveness or fighting, you could be welcoming further tension and stress into your home. However, if you’re sure this is the right option for your family, perhaps talk to a canine behaviorist who will also give you some suggestions before you bring the new dog home.

1. Let them meet in a neutral setting

After you’ve picked up your new dog, bring your other dog(s) and your new dog together in a neutral setting so they can meet. They will then familiarize themselves and will reduce the chances of flare-ups once they reach home. If you bring the new dog straight home without letting them meet at this neutral place, your existing dog could become territorial and aggressive. Not a great start to their relationship.

2. Keep them on a loose leash

For the first few encounters, all dogs should be on a leash without a lot of tension. This is so you can quickly pull them away if things go south. You should ideally have one person who will control the leash for each dog.

3. Let them sniff each other for brief periods with reward

Let your dogs sniff each other very briefly and reward them with treats if they remain calm (and only give it to them after their interactions). They may not have a lot of interest in each other, or alternatively could be very physical. Shorter sniffing periods work better during first encounters (think 3-5 seconds a period).

4. Let them sniff each other for brief periods with reward

Both dogs should have designated sleeping and eating areas which are separate from each other. This is because your dogs may get territorial if they’re too close together. After a few weeks, you may begin testing bringing their areas closer together.

5. Monitor their behavior

You must continue to monitor and correct their behavior from now on. Of course, your dogs may start playful fighting, but if it’s clearly getting too aggressive then you’ll have to intervene. In extreme cases, you may have to enlist the help of a specialized dog behaviorist.

For homes that have resident cats

Cats and dogs can be fairly harmonious pets if they’re introduced well and don’t get each other’s way. To get to this point though requires a lot of patience and planning.

1. Make sure you have safe-zones for your cat

Cats can become easily distressed and need their own private space in every room where the dog can’t get to. This could be a fenced-off area or even the top of a shelf. Your cat needs to feel like they can escape a situation and not be irritated further.

2. Let your new dog explore the house

Put your cat(s) into their safe zone and let the dog explore your home. At this point, the two shouldn’t physically meet, although your dog will pick up the scent of a cat.

3. Leashed interactions

Especially for the first few interactions, your new dog should be on a short leash. This is because when they see your cat they are likely to chase it or bark. It is common for your cat to hiss and run away in these first few interactions. It will take some time for them to feel comfortable about a new dog in their home. If your dog starts to chase or leap at your cat, give the leash a quick tug and command them to sit. They will soon learn that chasing is inappropriate behavior. Repeat, repeat, repeat this until both animals seem more at ease in each other’s presence.

4. Let your new dog off leash but monitor closely

You should always be in the room during the first few encounters off leash. Correct any behavior like chasing or biting. Your cat may swat at your dog, but your dog should learn after this encounter to not irritate the cat in the same way.

Adding a new dog to the family is a very exciting time but does require a bit of pre-planning. Whether you have an existing cat or dog, using the above methods will allow for a fairly stress-free and seamless integration.