Keeping the Peace in a Multi-Species Household

When you consider it, it’s a little bit of a miracle that animals who could be predator and prey in lots of environments are sometimes in a position to stay peacefully collectively in our houses. How does this occur? 

Sometimes it simply occurs, due to good luck, however extra usually it’s a results of cautious planning and introduction. Throw in some good habits modification, and we are able to enhance the percentages of a peaceable coexistence effectively past mere probability.


We know that our canines are predators – and a few actually appear to be extra predatory than others. This is a nature/nurture factor – partly as a consequence of genetics and partly as a consequence of setting. 

Some canine breeds have been genetically programmed to search out predatory habits extremely reinforcing. Think of all the varied terriers, bred to kill rats and different vermin on a farm. Think of the hounds, bred to chase and kill quite a lot of totally different species for the hunter who follows. Then there are the spaniels, setters, and retrievers, bred to find, point out, and flush recreation for the hunter, and retrieve that recreation gently, with a really mushy mouth after it has been killed by the hunter. The herding breeds are presupposed to make the most of the stalking piece of the predatory sequence however are by no means presupposed to kill the inventory they’re herding.

Still, there are Jack Russell Terriers who stay in concord with cats and parakeets. Just as a result of a canine has a genetic propensity to discover a habits reinforcing doesn’t imply he’ll really have interaction within the habits. The terrier who has by no means been given the chance to chase and kill small animals has in all probability by no means had the habits strengthened. If he was well-managed since puppyhood and grew up studying the best way to behave appropriately round cats and birds in his dwelling, he would by no means be taught that it was enjoyable to chase and kill small animals, so he doesn’t. (It additionally helps if the cats and birds in his home have grown up with and are calm round canines, so that they don’t supply behaviors that may set off a chase response in typical Jack Russells.)

Meanwhile, there are Australian Shepherds – canines who’ve been genetically programmed to assemble and preserve observe of cattle and sheep with out hurting one – who will eagerly chase and kill bunnies. 

As you go ahead with a plan to combine your family with quite a lot of animal species, take into account that, regardless that they share your couch and Starbucks behavior, deep down, canines are nonetheless predators. If given the chance to be taught that killing bunnies or cats is enjoyable, a lot of them will take pleasure in doing it, even when they don’t have a powerful genetic propensity to search out the habits reinforcing. 

All else being equal, it’ll probably be simpler to persuade your Aussie to stay peacefully with small animals than your JRT, however each breeds (and representatives of each different breed) can be taught to do it, too.


The best strategy to create interspecies family concord is to start out with a pet and punctiliously handle her interactions with different animals as she matures. If she is persistently strengthened for calm habits of their presence and never allowed to play roughly with them (tough play can flip lethal), she’s going to come to see them as relations and be taught to be calm with them. 

In idea, it’s easy, but it may take numerous administration and coaching for some pups to achieve maturity with a “small animals are my friends” world view. Until she learns impulse management, your pup must be on-leash within the presence of different small animals in your family, so she doesn’t have the chance to understand them as animated stuffed toys. 

If, regardless of your precautions, it seems your pup has an unhealthy curiosity within the creatures round her, you’ll have to pursue a number of the habits modification protocols that comply with, and if needed, search the help of a professional force-free skilled.

From the opposite facet, it’s simply as helpful to start out younger along with your “other” species, introducing them to canines early of their lives, and ensuring they’ve good experiences with canines of assorted styles and sizes. A constructive affiliation with canines from early on will scale back stress and make adjustment simpler for them if you convey a brand new predator into the house.

New canine, who ‘dis? This large, calm cat can probably hold his own against a new puppy smaller than himself – but this isn’t the purpose! If the pup out of the blue determined to chase the cat, he dangers studying that such a chase is tremendous enjoyable! Simple leashing the pup prevents that habits from being strengthened. So leash up!


Whether you’re bringing a brand new pet, an adolescent, or an grownup canine into your multi-species dwelling, it behooves you to orchestrate cautious introductions to set the stage for a future peaceable co-existence. 

  •  Ask for data, however take it with a grain of salt. It helps if in case you have any historical past about your adopted adolescent or grownup canine’s prior relationships with different species – however don’t rely on the data. Several years in the past, a few of my shoppers had been assured by a rescue group that the grownup German Shepherd Dog they had been adopting had lived compatibly with cats. The canine’s capability to take action of their dwelling, nonetheless, required a number of months of devoted administration and habits modification work (see “Transformation: Predator to Pal,” WDJ July 2013). Even shelters that embrace dog-dog and/or dog-cat introductions throughout their evaluation processes can’t assure that your newly adopted canine will behave the identical with different animals in your house as she did on the shelter.
  • Set up for fulfillment. Before you first convey your new member of the family into the home, shut away all of your different animal companions. Your new canine will probably be pressured from the journey – and keep in mind, even joyful pleasure causes physiological stress. Give her time to quiet down earlier than upsetting her applecart once more. 

If she appears excessively pressured by the change in her life fortunes, don’t even try any introductions on the primary day. You don’t want so as to add that degree of stress to the early relationship-building course of. If, alternatively, she appears cool, calm, and picked up, then you possibly can proceed after an affordable cool-down interval of possibly an hour or two. 

  •  Don’t mistake pressured, shut-down habits for calm. If you aren’t expert at assessing canine physique language, have somebody who has extra canine expertise with you (see “Listen By Looking,” August 2011). Either manner, you’ll need to have a second individual with you for the introductions, to handle the opposite animals, and in case issues go mistaken and also you need assistance separating animals.
  • Keep contained. With considered one of you safely holding the brand new canine on leash, herald one different animal, additionally safely contained in some method – in a cage or provider, or on leash – and watch your new canine’s physique language very intently. Your canine’s ideally suited response is and calm.
  •  Go sluggish! For this primary encounter, your objective is for the 2 animals to be in one another’s presence with out both one getting overly pressured or excited. Keep them as far aside as needed to perform this, and feed treats if needed, to assist every relax or be much less pressured. Even if issues go effectively, do not attempt to convey them nose-to-nose on the primary assembly. Err on the facet of warning. You’ve obtained loads of time to assist them be greatest buddies – or not less than to stay in peace.

Gradually, over a interval of days, weeks, and even months, convey them nearer collectively and permit extra intimate contact, whereas nonetheless utilizing uber-management to verify solely good issues occur. If you’ve gotten a number of different animals, use your logic about how usually and what number of introductions you do at any given time or in any given interval.

Depending in your outcomes, you could possibly calm down administration pretty rapidly, or you might have to preserve some administration in place without end. Dog and cats continuously develop into appropriate housemates with no administration wanted. Other small companion animals might have extra safety out of your canine predator, particularly if you aren’t current. Provide a number of escape routes in your small pets, no matter your final degree of administration.


Perhaps your canine is a long-term member of the family, and the brand new member of the family in your house is one other kind of animal. You in all probability have a greater thought of what your canine’s response is prone to be (calm and non-predatory, we hope!), however you continue to need to give your new pet loads of time and house to regulate to the concept of dwelling with a predator. Your introduction can be just like that described above, however on this case, you’ll be paying much more consideration to the newcomer, gauging his response to his new life scenario. 

If you aren’t already acquainted with the body-language communication of the brand new species, make sure to analysis it effectively prematurely. The much less domesticated/extra unique the species, the extra probably they’re to do a freeze/shut-down response within the presence of a predator, and the simpler it’s to make a tragic mistake and misread this as calm and relaxed.


We have a tendency to consider small animals after we speak about introducing our canines to new relations, however there are many canines who share their dwelling areas (indoors and out) with giant animals resembling pigs, goats, sheep, llamas, emus, horses, and extra.

Introductions to those animals, whether or not the canine is new or the opposite species is new, is each bit as essential because the small pets. Keep in thoughts that your canine may be the extra weak species in a few of these relationships (since a horse’s kick or stomp can simply kill a canine, and even a cranky pet pig or llama can harm an unwary pup).

Your introduction course of is way the identical as described above – transferring extra rapidly via the process if issues go easily, extra slowly if not, and doing habits modification if needed. 

Consider extra components inherent with giant animals; administration alone may be real looking for a canine who doesn’t do effectively with horses – possibly you simply by no means take her to the barn. However, if in case you have a miniature house-pig, or a miniature horse working as your service animal, you’ll have to do the work to get all of them snug and well-behaved collectively.


If the problem seems to be surmountable and also you’re keen to do the work, get began instantly. 

  •  Have the entire household take part within the dialogue and agree on the principles for administration. Consider padlocks for doorways if there are young children within the dwelling who may have problem complying regardless of their good intentions. Develop communications techniques so it’s clear which companion animals are the place and when. No “oops” allowed; somebody’s life could rely on it.
  •  Discuss and agree on which habits modification protocols can be used. My first selection is often  counter-conditioning and desensitization (CC&D; see subsequent web page for step-by-step directions). Constructional Aggression Treatment (CAT) and/or Behavior Adjustment Training (BAT) are different protocols that may be helpful. (For extra details about each protocols, see “Fear Aggression in Dogs,” WDJ August 2016.) Seriously think about bringing in a professional force-free skilled that can assist you with these, particularly if you’re not acquainted and skilled with the protocols. 
  •  Basic coaching. Every canine needs to be the graduate of not less than one primary good manners class (and naturally, puppies ought to go to pet kindergarten!). The communication and relationship achieved between canine and human via coaching can be invaluable in finding out your inter-species relationships.


Whether it takes days, weeks or months to perform an affordable diploma of inter-species tranquility, it may be effectively definitely worth the effort. I understand how drastically my very own life has been enriched by sharing my dwelling and my coronary heart with effectively over a dozen totally different species of animals through the years, for a few years greater than 20 animal companions at a time. It wasn’t all the time simple, nevertheless it was all the time value it. 

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