Helping your dog cope with the introduction of a small animal into your household is imperative. Although larger dog breeds may be more of a concern, smaller breeds may not enjoy sharing their territory either. If your canine has killed an animal before, shows aggression toward food and toys, or is obsessed with chasing cats or squirrels outside, you need to be especially cautious.
If you want to help your dog cope with a small animal you've brought into the house, follow these simple guidelines:
- Start slow - Have a friend help you out by holding onto the small animal. Then bring your dog into the room and simply have him sit patiently in the presence of the animal. Pet him to help him relax if he seems anxious, and reward him with treats when he pays attention to you.
- Entice your dog - Have the small animal move back and forth a bit and watch how the dog reacts. If the dog remains calm, things are going well.
- Move closer - Slowly allow the dog to get closer to the animal, but be sure that he's still secure, just in case. Also make sure that your dog still pays attention to you.
- Allow to move freely - Once your dog appears to be okay with the presence of the small animal in the same room, allow him to move around a bit. But don't let them get too close to each other just yet!
- Bring them together carefully - Allow the two creatures to get closer and sniff each other. Be prepared to grab the dog at any sign of trouble. For an especially big dog or small animal, you may even want to have a muzzle on the canine to be safe.
- Increase interaction - If things are going well, gradually increase their interaction so they can get to know each other better. But remain cautious.
- Don't be afraid to start over - Getting the two animals to become great pals might not happen right away. If you need to go back a step or two, or completely start over, that's fine.