Q: My child wants a pet chinchilla. How do I introduce it to the family golden retriever?

A: You can't take new pets to couples counseling to ensure happy cohabitation, but you can take steps to keep tensions to a minimum. They may or may not become best friends, but they can live together safely.

Start slow. Ritual, structure and scent are important to animals. With your chinchilla securely caged, let your dog get used to the smell of his new roomie. Interact with the chinchilla (still caged), so your dog knows you are aware of the new animal's presence. After a day or two, let your dog check out the cage up close so your dog can combine sight and smell of your home's new occupant. Most small pets will feel secure in their cage, more calm than your dog in many cases. They may even sniff back at your dog. Odor is important to them, too.

Praise and reward your dog for behaving calmly in the chinchilla's presence. Friendly sniffs are a good sign; staring or snapping indicate that it's best to keep them safely apart. Many goldens are laid back, and yours may not show much interest in the new chinchilla once he's had a few sniffs.

When you're not home to supervise interactions, keep your chinchilla in its cage in a separate room with a closed door. Never leave the cage on the floor or some other area where your dog could investigate unsupervised. Make sure the cage is securely latched to prevent chinchilla escape attempts.

Can your dog and chinchilla snuggle and play? It happens, but I think there's too much risk of a dog accidentally injuring the smaller animal, so I don't recommend it.

Do you have a pet question? Send it to askpetconnection@gmail.com or visit Facebook.com/DrMartyBecker.