House and Home

How to Introduce Your New Pet to Your Current Critter


 (Reuters/Pete Souza/The White House)

The Obamas have a new pet: a female Portuguese water dog named Sunny.

Sunny is the second Portuguese water dog to currently occupy the White House, following Bo, who was given to the Obamas by the late Senator Ted Kennedy in 2009. "Sunny is the perfect little sister for Bo — full of energy and very affectionate — and the First Family picked her name because it fit her cheerful personality," the White House said.

But with multiple four-legged friends now occupying the same space, things might get a bit hairy between the two presidential pets.

So, how can they make this transition as smooth as possible? By heeding the following tips, according Victoria Wells, the senior manager of behavior and training at the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) adoption center.

Here's what they suggest:

When introducing your dogs for the first time, make sure it’s at a place that’s considered “neutral territory,” according to the ASPCA. Bring them both on a walk, or to a dog park. And never bring your first dog along when picking up your new dog from the shelter or breeder.

Don’t take your dogs into your home before they’re ready, either. While out on that walk, or at that park, make sure the dogs acknowledge each other. It might take some time, but if you stay cheery and optimistic, they’ll come around.

When your pets are "tolerating each other without fearful or threatening behavior," the ASPCA says it's okay to bring them inside after taking a quick lap around your house or apartment building. It’s also a good idea to get rid of any toys, bowls or pet items in the living space, as these might cause a rift between the dogs and cause them to fight. Slowly reintroduce these items after a couple of weeks, when the dogs are better acquainted.

It’s also important that each dog has his own food bowls and bedding, says the ASPCA. If you want to let them play with a toy, make sure they do it separately in their own confined areas. This is how they should be fed, as well. (And to avoid an unnecessary squabble, be sure to pick up their food bowls once they’ve finished eating. "Some dogs will compete over bowls that recently contained food," says the ASPCA.)

Both animals will need individual attention, of course, but that doesn’t mean they should be kept quarantined from one another. When they play together, it’s important to reinforce this good behavior with plenty of praise.

Finally, remember the ages of each pet. Older dogs will need their rest (and their downtime from their younger, more energetic siblings). The ASPCA suggests giving an elder pet its own private space where he/she can lay low.

Enduring the first few weeks might be a challenging endeavor, they concede, but it's well worth the trouble considering all the fun and companionship your pets will bring to your home — or the White House, as the case may be.