Introducing a New Dog to Pocket Pets and/or Birds

September 2018

Audience: Foster Caregivers, Public, Shelter/Rescue Staff & Volunteers

Introducing a new dog to pocket pets and/or birds can be risky, and needs to be carefully planned and done slowly. Some dogs are gentle with other species and can, after careful introduction, be allowed to interact with birds and other animals that might live with you. Other dogs may view the pocket pet or bird as prey and should live completely separately from pocket pets/birds within your household.

Do's

  • Keep your new dog completely separate from other animals for the first week while they're adjusting to your household.
  • Keep doors closed, with reminder signs on them, so that pets don't get near each other when you aren't directly supervising them.
  • Teach your dog to "Leave it". You will use this cue to call them away from your pocket pet/bird. 

Introduction in a Cage

  • Exercise your new dog before introducing them to your pocket pet(s) or birds.
  • For the first introduction, the pocket pet or bird should be in their cage with the lid on or the door closed, and your dog should be on a secure leash.
  • Begin with asking your dog to respond to a cue in the room with the cage. If your dog won't respond, you need to start off with more distance away from the cage, maybe in another room.
  • Make sure the pocket pet or bird isn't stressed by your dog. If the pocket pet or bird is hiding, scurrying away and/or vocalizing, remove your dog to let the pocket pet or bird relax, and then try again in a few days. When you try again, start at a further distance apart to allow the pocket pet or bird to become habituated to your dog. Here is a link to learn about recognizing stress: Signs of Stress in Companion Animals.
  • Feed your pocket pet or bird a special treat so that they associate your dog with yummy food. If your pocket pet or bird won't eat treats, stop the session and try again the next day.
  • Some dogs may see pocket pets or birds as prey and try to lunge, chase and get into the cage. If your dog stares intensely at or stalks the pocket per or bird, don't introduce them to each other. Try some training with yummy treats and with your dog further away from the cage. If your dog doesn't learn to relax, the pets may need to live separately.
  • Once both your dog and your pocket pet/bird are calm, keep your dog on leash and let your dog get closer to the cage and sniff. After 2-5 seconds, refocus your dog back to you by luring them with extra yummy treats.
  • If both pets seem comfortable with each other, you can drop the leash, but keep it attached to your dog. Let your dog approach the pocket pet or bird's cage on their own.
  • For a few days, continue to supervise and let your dog drag the leash anytime they're around the pocket pet or bird's cage so you can interrupt excess interest and prevent your dog from lunging at the cage. 

Introduction out of a Cage (if applicable)

  • If 'in cage' interactions go well and your dog is not showing intense focus or interest, you may wish to introduce the dog to the pocket pet/bird out of the cage. Remember this is putting your pocket pet or bird at risk - think about it carefully before allowing direct access.
  • Ask a second calm person help you. One can hold the dog's leash; the other can hold the pocket pet/bird in their hands. Let your dog sniff the pocket pet or bird ONLY if both pets are calm. Keep introductions short (3-5 seconds), then separate and repeat if both pets are calm.
  • Observe interactions closely. Redirect your dog or pocket pet/bird if interactions are too intense or stressed; separate them if necessary.
  • The next step is to keep your dog on a leash while allowing the pocket pet or bird freedom to roam freely in the same room as your dog. Continue to observe closely.

Don'ts:

  • Never ever leave your pocket pet or bird and your dog in the same room unsupervised. Some dogs may seem OK with a pocket pet/bird when you are around but will attempt to harm the pet when you aren't present. Always supervise!

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