November 19 is National Get a PAL For Your Pet Day, an awareness holiday established by yours truly to prompt the idea of adding an additional pal to your household, whether they be furry, feathered or scaly!
While we’re attuned to the health benefits of pets in humans, giving your pet a buddy to play with and lay with is just as good for them. Think of it like loneliness in people – simply having one other person to confide in and support you is a tremendous aid in going through life… and the same goes for pets.
Having a playmate won’t just prompt more play in your current pet, it also offers healthy activity, socialization, and a camaraderie that’s innate to the well being of pack animals. But not all pets are going to hit it off simply because they’re there. If you’re considering getting your pet a pal, know that you’ll have to take a few extra steps and remember your current pet’s opinion is the most important one!
But don’t worry! Unless your pet is downright antisocial (and we’re sure you’re well aware if that’s the case), there is most certainly a perfect pal out there waiting to be adopted by your family. Here are a couple of tips on choosing your pet’s pal and how to introduce them to your brood.
- Similarities – While you don’t have to get your pet a companion that’s the same age or even the same breed or species, certain similarities – like how they play and how often they like to relax – should be considered. If your pet’s a submissive playmate then don’t get them a companion that’s too domineering and rough; if your older dog likes to nap, consider getting them a 3- or 4-year-old buddy, rather than a hyper young pup. A meet and greet between the two is a great way to pinpoint these behaviors and will help gauge if they are a fit.
- Talk with the shelter –The shelter should be eager to tell you everything they know about the pet you’re interested in, but be sure to ask outright if they’re good with other animals. Some dogs may do just fine with similar-sized dogs but not so well with small guys (or vice versa), which is important to know. Be sure to ask if they’re territorial over things such as toys or food bowls, too.
- Introduction – After the meet-and-greet and once you’ve committed to adopting, it’s time to introduce your pet to the household. There are a few different ideas on how best to do this, but you know your [current] pet best and we want you to opt for whatever is best for them. You may not have to do any of these things if you’re confident in your pet and there were no causes for concern when they first met at the shelter.
A slow introduction is necessary so nobody feels overwhelmed or threatened. A great way to slowly introduce pets is to put your current pet either outside, in a crate, or in a room, and allow the new pet to roam around and get used to the sights and smells – then switch – put the new pet ‘away’ and allow the other animal to roam around and get to know the new pet’s scent. You could also rub both animals down with a t-shirt or other cloth and give that to the other to familiarize them. Next, depending on if you think it’s necessary, you can allow pets to see each other either through a baby gate, screen door, or crate and gauge their reaction – as long as there’s no growling or aggressive behavior, you should be okay to allow a supervised meeting. With dogs, you can do this on or off leash – some people feel more comfortable with the dogs on leash but, for some dogs, being on leash can make them feel anxious and vulnerable, but you should be aware if your pet exhibits this behavior.
- Monitor and Enjoy – It’s up to you to play referee in the beginning. Make sure you’re closely monitoring both pets’ behavior and correcting it accordingly. Other than that, enjoy! Watching your pet goof around with a new friend is as heart-warming as it is entertaining and you should know you just did something great for your pet.