Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Moving in Together: How to Socialize Pets from Two Homes

By Linda Cole

Adding a new pet to a home where one is already residing can be a challenge for some pets, but bringing two or more pets together under one roof when you move in with your significant other can be an even bigger challenge. The goal is to help each pet transition into their new life without breaking up your relationship. It can be a delicate balance, in the beginning, for owners and their pets.

Combining pets from two different homes means both pets' routine has been changed. They have to get used to new smells, sounds and how each person interacts with them. Pets don't usually like change, and it can be a reason why some pets develop behavioral problems. It can take time and patience to make a transition, and how to handle the pets is a discussion couples need to have before they move in together. It's important to socialize pets as soon as possible and it's equally important for each person to take the lead role with dogs from both homes. Pets are important to their owners and can be a reason for friction between a couple if it's not handled carefully.

Socializing pets when moving in together is done the same way a new pet is added to a home. However, there is one difference to keep in mind – each pet has a bond already established with their owner. Dogs are more apt to follow their owner's commands over someone new in the home. The solution is for both people to learn which commands are used and be consistent with them to keep the dog from being confused. Discipline is also a subject that needs to be discussed, as well as what sort of liberties will be permitted by both owners. Are pets allowed to sleep in the bed? Is the furniture off limits? It's important to have a serious heart-to-heart talk before moving in together to work out a compromise, if it's necessary.

Socializing new pets can take time and there's no specific time frame to follow. Most pets take a couple of weeks to adjust to a new pet in the home, but it can take longer, depending on the pet. If, as a couple, you've decided to take the plunge and move in together, that's when you should start the process of getting your pets ready for the change. Begin adding the new pet's smell into your home. Exchange small blankets or towels with the scent of the new pet on it and leave it where your pet can sniff it. You've already been bringing the other pet's smell into your home after leaving your partner's home. The blanket or towel keeps the smell front and center for your pet.

If you're combining dogs, spend some time each day before the move by taking them for a walk or to a dog park, and do it as a couple. This gives them a chance to get to know each other before they find themselves living under the same roof. Understanding the body language of dogs can help. Watch the signals they are showing so you can defuse any conflicts before they take place. The better socialized a pet is, the easier the transition will be. Dogs and cats that were socialized at an early age to other pets and continued to be around them as they age will adjust faster and easier than pets that haven't had access to other dogs or cats.

Socializing a cat with a dog needs to be done so the cat feels safe and not threatened by the dog. Chasing the cat isn't a good way for a dog to introduce himself. One of the best ways I've found to socialize cats and dogs is to have an area of the house where the cat can hang out away from the dog. Keep their FELIDAE cat food, water, bed and cat box in a safe area. Bring the dog in on a leash so you can control him and let him wander around the area and check out the scents. Stay calm, be patient, and allow them to meet each other when they're ready. Make sure the cat has a table to jump up on or a way out of the room if they feel a need to escape. Never force pets on each other or leave them alone together unless you're sure they can get along. Give them their space and allow for a natural process of getting to know each other.

Socializing is important and if it's done wrong or too quickly, you could end up with unhappy pets that will never get along. If you have trouble socializing them, the best course of action is to call in an animal behaviorist who can help you create a happy home for you and your pets. It's worth the time and patience to do it right from the beginning.

Photo by Bruce Fingerhood

Read more articles by Linda Cole


  1. I bet that is kind of a hard thing to do. Guess it all depends on the personality of the dogs or cats. I know my Border collie would welcome any dog that came in here. She loves all the cats that live here too. But it might be even harder if the animal has always lived by themselves. Just takes time I guess.

  2. You make a lot of good points!!! Good advice !!!

  3. That's a really helpful post, Linda. Helping pets transition to life together can be difficult. But it is definitely possible in our experience. There really is no rushing ... taking the time to make sure you do it right is very important.


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