Bringing a new puppy home is a big decision with many things to consider. However if you have a senior dog, you may be wondering how this will impact them. Every dog will be different on how they will react to a new family member. This is why it is very important to consider getting an advice from a local behaviourist if you have any serious doubts.
We are going to look at the benefits, possible challenges, and advice for introducing your senior dog to your new puppy.
What are the benefits?
Puppies can benefit your senior pup in many ways. They can provide mental and physical stimulation, companionship, and act as a role model. I have seen older dogs rekindle their puppy side through more play and physical activity with a new puppy around. Most dogs will welcome the company and friendship of a new puppy, but you will need to set the boundaries. Some will say it is not fair or right to get a puppy with a senior. In my personal experience, I see no issues as long as you are responsible, do your research, and make a structured introduction and schedule.
What do I need to consider?
Lifestyle- Do you work long hours? Are you gone for long periods of time? Puppies are a big commitment. They also need lots of time and supervision when carrying out a safe, successful introduction. Leaving a senior dog alone with a puppy can also be an unsafe recipe for disaster. If you are really busy, a puppy may not be the best choice at this time. It would be better to wait until things slow down for you.
Your Senior's Health- If your senior dog has arthritis, hearing or vision loss, mobility problems, or canine cognitive dysfunction (the dog version of Alzheimer’s) , you may want to consider not getting a puppy. Age related health conditions such as these can have a significant impact on your senior dog’s overall health and well-being. This makes it difficult for them to adjust to a new, energetic puppy coming into the home.
If your dog is fit, active, and healthy, there should be no issues introducing a new puppy to the family!
Your Senior's Temperament- Behaviour and temperament is an extremely important aspect to consider when thinking about getting a new puppy with a senior dog. Most dogs can makes friends with a new puppy in days if done correctly. If your dog is docile and has been socialised correctly, it should go pretty smoothly.
However if your dog is more of the nervous type, you will need to take things slow and be patient. This is not a time to rush things!
What seniors are not suitable for a puppy?
There are some behaviour types that should not be introduced to a puppy. Does your senior dog exhibit any of these? If they do, you should NOT get a puppy:
Fearful or aggressive towards other dogs.
Suffering from ill health or age-related mental health problems.
Your older dog has not been socialized well with other dogs.
Your older dog suffers from post-traumatic stress due to a bad experience or fight with other dogs.
How to introduce your senior dog to a new puppy
Now that you have carefully considered if getting a new puppy is right for your senior dog, it's time to look at the introduction. This can be very nerve wracking for any dog owner--new or experienced. All dog owners want this part to go smoothly and safely.
Here are 3 tips to make sure everyone stays safe and comfortable.
Use a neutral environment
By having the introduction in a neutral place, it reduces the risk of your senior dog acting out with territorial aggression. This place could be a local park, field, or green space. A garden can work, but this is very dependant on your dog's temperament and behaviour. Your senior may see your new puppy as an unwelcome intruder and may show them they are not welcome. We highly recommend a first time meet to happen outside the home completely. Once you have found a place, it's time for the magic! Let your senior sniff your puppy first. Make sure to be calm. Your senior needs your calm behaviour to let them know everything is ok. Once they have had a good sniff and all goes well, you can now let the puppy sniff and say hello back. Make sure things are slow, calm, and controlled. If this goes well, the same steps can be taken inside your home.
Take things slow
Introductions can be exciting. And you may be tempted to rush the bonding process. DON'T BE TEMPTED! Your puppy and senior will need lots of supervision when they are in the first stages of getting to know one another. Your senior dog may 'correct' your puppy if they are getting a bit too rambunctious. This looks like a small snap and bark. It is not aggression, but a little warning to teach the puppy that their behaviour is not acceptable in the dog world. Please note that a if your senior shows continued tense behaviours, it is time for them to take a break. If you see any signs of aggression, tension, or tense body language, you will need to intervene swiftly to keep everyone safe. Introductions can take days or even weeks for them to get used to each other.
Don't try to force the friendship
Your senior dog and puppy will take time to get to get to know each other's quirks, body language, and personality. There is no need to force them to interact with each other. If they are both napping, leave them be! It is perfectly healthy to allow them to act normally to ensure their bond is full of positive interactions. Positive body languages to look out for are relaxed body postures and tail wagging. If they are showing stiff body postures, give them both a 'time out' and allow them to both go somewhere they can relax away from each other such as a separate room or a crate.
It is extremely important to remember that this is a process and not a race. All dogs are different so there is no need to compare to others. If you are finding things are not going as well as you thought and there is continued slight tension, do not lose hope or be discouraged. Remember to be patient, give your dogs time, and keep things calm until they are comfortable with being around each other. If you see any aggressive behaviours or territorial behaviors, you will need to speak to a professionally qualified animal behaviorist ASAP to get on top of the issue before it escalates. You can find a qualified behaviourist at https://professionaldogbusinessesuk.co.uk
I believe getting a puppy for your senior can be a wonderful experience as long as you have the time, patience and love to dedicate to your furry companions. Taking on a puppy in any situation is a huge responsibility!
However you must take into careful consideration your senior dog's overall physical and mental health before deciding to bring home a new puppy.
If you have any doubts at all on what to do or just need some more detailed advice, it's a good idea to contact a local behaviourist or your vet. They will be able to provide you professional advice specific to your dog and their needs.
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