It’s no secret. We have a soft spot for senior dogs. And, puppies. Well, and any dog in between.
Anyone who’s blessed to share their life with a senior dog knows there’s a language, a secret code, that you develop with each other over the years—a vernacular that no one else in the world understands.
And, the fantastic four-legged soul who’s rested their beautiful head on your lap during so many of life’s ups and downs has taught you important life lessons like compassion, patient, and responsibility.
Senior dogs are special. They’ve seen your worst bad hair days and still love you.
Some distinguished dogs would love sharing their homes zippy puppies. However, for some aging animals, it can be the worst decision for you and your dog. Read on for necessary do’s and don’ts to assure you give your salt ‘n’ pepper pooch precisely what he deserves during his precious twilight years.
Do’s of Doing Right By Your Senior Dog
Sometimes folks consider a puppy because their senior dog is mourning the loss of his canine companion.
Please accept our sincerest empathy tears. The infinite gorge left in our hearts when our revered dog leaves this world is a wound many of us know too well. And, we’d not wish that anguish on our dear, sweet dogs who often display grief by becoming despondent and disengaged.
Only consider introducing a new furry friend if your dog has had other doggie friends besides the darling dog he’s grieving. Some dogs have one or two canine pals in their entire life, and that’s it. So, be kind to yourself and your sad sweetie, really think about whether a dog with a completely different personality and energy level would be a welcome addition to your home.
Consider adopting an older dog.
Not only are many rescue dogs VERY dog friendly, but adult dogs have very different ideas of how rough and how long a play session should last than a five-month-old-pup does. And, while we absolutely respect responsible breeders, many are too far away to allow your resident canine a chance to meet his new roommate until the day the puppy comes home.
All the rescue organizations we work with require a meet ‘n’ greet to assure it’s a canine match made in heaven for BOTH dogs. And, who knows, you might even meet a mutt who makes you fall in love with a different breed or mix of breeds, even if you’ve always been drawn to one type of dog.
Give the puppy lots of crate time so your older dog can rest.
Even if both dogs are grinning, play bowing, and continually pressing the start button on spirited play sessions, your older dog will be very happy with some down time. To prevent the puppy from fussing because he’d prefer to play 24 hours a day, give him a Kong with a super scrumptious filling, in his crate. Just be sure your senior dog gets a brimming Kong too, in another space, to prevent scuffles over resources.
Set up training sessions to teach the puppy to respect the older dog’s space and to give both dogs the opportunity to learn that it’s FUN to share attention.
Relying on everyday situations and habits to create the relationship you want between your two best friends can easily backfire. Teaching ‘wait’ and ‘gentle’ with LOW-VALUE TREATS, practicing attention, and rewarding for not bombarding each others’ space, is vital and will pay off for years to come.
Spend one on one time with your senior dog.
Puppies are so stinkin’ cute. But, don’t let the shiny new whirling dervish steal every second of your attention. We don’t mean to sound drippy. But, every day with your senior dog should be considered a blessing. Make time for an activity that he LOVES. And, enjoy it sans puppy. Your grey-faced love bug will smile from ear to ear to have you all to himself and not be pummeled by a puppy while you massage tender muscles.
Keep up with your senior dog’s feeding and pottying routines.
Yes, it’s hard to adhere to an exhausting puppy potty training schedule. But, your dear senior’s behavior and good habits can go completely awry if you also try to change his schedule to meet the puppy’s needs. Older dogs can develop new anxieties due to loss of senses and other bodily changes. And, change can exacerbate stress. Adding a puppy is a HUGE transition for your distinguished dog and tossing other alterations at him can wreak havoc on his comfort and sense of security.
Hire a trainer.
There are complex hierarchies that develop between two dogs and can rapidly change as the puppy matures. A qualified, positive training and behavior consultant can observe the relationship and coach you through the nuances of the dogs’ interactions to help prevent nasty fights that can have serious detrimental effects on both dogs’ behavior and well being.
Don’t Let Down Your Senior Dog, Here’s How:
You can’t expect an older dog to correct your new puppy for naughty behaviors.
Your adorable puppy will learn loads of information, good and bad, from your cherished senior dog. But, many elderly animals don’t have the personality nor the desire to show a puppy the ropes, let alone be interested in defending themselves against raging puppy teeth for hours on end. We’ve met many sweet senior dogs who gently avoid the puppy’s NEVER ENDING need to PLAY PLAY PLAY. But, the instant the human intervenes and gives the puppy some downtime, the senior dog flops onto the floor into doggie dreamland. Just because your dog isn’t growling at your puppy doesn’t mean he’s having fun.
If the sole reason to bring home another dog is to make your senior dog’s impending passing more comfortable for you, please reconsider.
The thought of making the tough choice to give our senior dog a peaceful passing can suck the life out of us mere humans. And, the dread and anguish are often almost unbearable. But, if you’re preparing yourself for this day, it’s likely your senior dog is coping with major medical issues or struggling to get around. Please, don’t take your attention away from your senior dog is his last days. Your elderly dog deserves to sleep without feeling puppy teeth gnawing on his ear and to mosey along as slow as he needs to on walks, without enduring a four-legged throttle machine every two steps.
Never let your puppy torture your senior dog.
We’ve mentioned this before but, puppies have an endless desire to play, and when your ankles are not beet red due to relentless, razor-sharp-puppy teeth, it’s way too easy to miss that your resident canine is miserable. Remember, your treasured, grey-faced buttercup has had many moments, if not years, without a puppy stealing their food or grabbing their neck 23 hours a day. Please give the new puppy LOTS of downtime.
If your senior dog is dog-aggressive, please rethink bringing home a puppy. Or engage a positive trainer ASAP.
Sometimes, very well-meaning folks decide that a young puppy would be best for dogs who’ve never really liked other dogs. Super young puppies can be VERY appealing to introduce to a less-than-social-older dog. They ooze and melt where ever they go—so sweet and hard to resist. But, one quick growl (or worse) can behaviorally wound a puppy for the remainder of his life. And, as the puppy grows older and becomes more independent and curious, he may decide that stealing a toy is more important than heeding to a snarl. Things can get very scary, very quickly. It’s well worth the investment to hire a trainer BEFORE even considering bringing home a puppy to ensure you make a peaceful pairing.
Ixnay on the “sit” for your senior dog.
Most folks like to start obedience or tricks with new puppies, and we highly encourage positive training. But, sitting over and over again can make a senior dog’s nagging knees and creaky joints super painful. Encourage both dogs to join in training. But, have your elderly dog do something kinder to his joints like “touch” or simple attention. Then, be very clear when saying “sit” that you’re asking the puppy, not both dogs. This will help your sweet senior know he’s still doing right by you and not adding pressure to comply with behavior his aging body just can’t handle any longer.
We hope these tips were helpful to keep your senior dog sane and help your puppy learn boundaries, so everyone in the house enjoys each other as much as possible. We’ve met many amazing senior and puppy pairs over the years who adore each other. Please consider the above advice to assure a new puppy or dog is the right fit for you, your home, and your spectacular senior dog.