Are you thinking about adding a puppy to your family, with a senior dog already at home? A new puppy can help liven up your house and, hopefully, provide companionship for your older dog, making him more active and joyful. But there are a few things to ponder before assuming every member of your household is ready to take on a furry energy ball.
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Does your senior dog like other dogs?
Take your dog’s temperament into account. If he is of a friendly breed and has a history of getting along with other dogs, he might find it easier learning to live with another dog.
On the other hand, if he has a jealous streak or has had trouble with other dogs before, a new puppy might not be such a good idea. The less tolerant your dog was in the past, the less patient you should expect him to be.
Is your senior dog healthy enough?
Check if your senior dog is healthy enough to handle an energetic puppy with a visit to his usual vet. The vet may feel your dog will benefit from the change to his routine, and that the new puppy will encourage him to exercise and enjoy more activities.
If your dog suffers from illnesses like arthritis, late-stage kidney or heart disease, cancer, canine cognitive dysfunction, or other conditions that already impact his quality of life, now is probably not the right time to add a new puppy to his life. In this case, consider waiting until he passes away. Your life companion deserves a peaceful home and all the attention and care you can give him.
Do you have time for both?
Your old dog will not educate your new puppy alone. Yes, in time, the puppy will start emulating the older dog’s behaviour, but you will be the one doing the heavy lifting.
Puppies and senior dogs have different needs, and you need to make time for both.
Think about whether you will be able to:
- closely monitor their interactions when they meet, and during the following days (or even months!)
- train your puppy and gain his trust
- be able to spend time one-on-one with your older dog, so he doesn’t feel left out
- provide health care for your older dog if he needs it
Choosing the right puppy
If you decide that getting a puppy is the right thing for the entire family, be aware that not every puppy is the right fit, even if your dog is generally accepting of others.
The adaptation process might be smoother if you consider things like the temperament and size of the puppy you are bringing home. It is preferable to get a more laid-back puppy and avoid high-energy breeds like herding dogs or huskies.
If possible, you should also try to match the adult size of both dogs. The most well-intentioned Great Dane puppy might accidentally hurt your senior Chihuahua, who might live in fear for the rest of his life.
Don’t forget to check if vaccination, deworming and flea and tick preventative treatments of both dogs are up-to-date. Consult your vet before bringing the new puppy home!
Preparing your house and setting up the meeting
Before bringing the new puppy home, be sure to:
- plan a puppy-proof area in your house, such as an exercise pen or a crate, where you can safely leave the puppy when you cannot supervise their interactions
- hide your dog’s favourite toys, to avoid territorial behaviour
- have separate food and water bowls available
The first meeting should take place in neutral territory. Keep both dogs on the lead but let them sniff and get to know one another. Stay calm during the meeting lest your dog starts picking up on your nervousness. Avoid holding the younger dog and presenting him to the older dog while in your arms.
For the first weeks, their interactions should be monitored closely. Try to keep your older dog’s routine as much as you can. Gestures like feeding your older dog first or greeting him first might make a big difference.
Never let them fight or force them to be together when one is showing signs of discomfort.
By providing a safe space and time for your dogs to get to know each other at their own pace, they’re both likely to feel more comfortable and become friendly faster. And a peaceful, happy home is good for everyone!