You’ve decided you’re ready for a new furry friend, and want to know what’s involved in introducing a new dog to an old dog.
I’m beyond delighted you’re doing research and didn’t run out and adopt on a whim.
Attitude about “old”
I’m deeply troubled by the attitude society has towards seniors of any species, and the assumptions made as soon as the word is mentioned.
When we talk about senior or old dogs, too many people have an image of feeble creatures that can barely get up, that spend their days sleeping. Some guardians neglects their needs, wrongly assuming they’d rather be left alone to sleep then go out for fresh air and a bit of exercise. Forget about mental stimulation, whatever that is!! They neglect grooming them and don’t do much in the way of care or even veterinary attention.
Sadly I know this to be true of some pet parents based on conversations I’ve had with them, and trying to help them see otherwise is like banging my head against the wall…although I keep trying. Of course most are wonderful pet parents who do an incredible job of caring for their dogs every day of their lives.
Okay I’m off my soapbox.
Long before the introductions…
Before we get into the actual process of introductions, there are some things we need to figure out first.
Why are you considering adopting now?
- Do you think your dog needs a friend, even though he’s been without one all these years?
- Did your dog recently lose a friend and he seems to be missing him?
- Would you already like to have another dog in your home when yours is no longer around?
- Did you find the most amazing rescue you simply must adopt?
- Do you miss hiking or running with your dog since he is no longer able?
What age range are you considering?
Puppy? Adult? Another senior perhaps?
What can you realistically handle?
Are you ready for the time, effort, training and energy a dog requires? There are 2 year old dogs who are mellow, and 9 year olds who can’t get out enough.
I never had 2 dogs that could walk together – they are always totally out of sync energy and ability wise. Are you ready for the time those extra walks will require?
More importantly, what can your dog realistically handle?
Does your dog love to play with other dogs, does he prefer bipeds to quadrupeds, or lots of alone time?
Does he have arthritis, joint issues or any other health problems that may make it difficult, or annoying to play?
Can you find a perfect fit?
There are no rules about age differences, males with females or vice versa. It’s more about common sense and knowing your old dog well enough to be realistic about what he can, and cannot, handle.
I talk about my experiences later on but, for example, I know Red doesn’t play, would not appreciate being bothered by a dog, but is okay if they’re old and want to snuggle up to her.
What type of dog does your senior prefer?
How is he on walks?
Who does he tend to interact with more – Young dogs? Older ones? Males? Females?
Is he interested in playing and having a good old wrestling match or “you can walk next to me but that’s all I want from you!”
Does he prefer your company to that of other canines?
Meet and greet
When you have found a dog you’re interested in, it’s important for your old dog to meet him or her before you go any further. If possible, take the two of them for a walk around the shelter grounds or foster parents’ yard or neighbourhood. The prospective pup may jump on your dog but it doesn’t mean you have to rule him out immediately, he could just be excited to be out and about.
You may want a couple of “meet and greets” before deciding.
If he won’t leave him alone and your dog is bothered, it’s probably not the best fit. There are plenty of dogs out there, you’ll find a good match.
How to prepare your senior dog for the new arrival
If your dog has been a bit isolated lately – maybe he’s been feeling under the weather, or it’s been too cold for him to socialise, get him back in the game with more walks and trips to the dog park if that’s his thing. You want him to remember how much he loved doggie company.
If he hasn’t been too active recently, start off with short walks to warm up and strengthen his muscles.
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Okay so you know what your senior dog likes and doesn’t like, you’ve thought about your motivations and been honest about your desire for another dog. You’re sure your pooch would like a friend and you’ve found the perfect one. Excellent!!
First impressions are important to ensure your dog is as enthusiastic as you are about this new relationship, so to start them off on the right foot, or should I say paw, here are some tips for a successful intro.
Neutral territory is best
I know plenty of dogs who love anything they see, so having a strange dog come bounding into the house is always welcome. However that is not often the case, so better safe than sorry to quote a cliché.
The best way to introduce the dogs is on neutral territory, on a leash, and you’re going to need two people for this. Whether that’s a neighbour’s yard, and new part of town, a never visited park is up to you. Walk the dogs together, but a few feet apart. Be cool, be casual and just walk. You want them close enough to get used to being in each other’s presence, yet far enough way so they can’t greet or stare at each other. Avoid tension!!
Assuming that went well, try with leashes dragging. Obviously it needs to be a fenced in area, but not too tiny a space so they can move away from each other if need be. Let them sniff around each other for a couple of minutes, then call them away.
If they start to play, fantastic. Leave them a few minutes than end the session.
Before you bring the new dog into the house
Before the new dog comes home, put away your dog’s toys, bones and food bowls. He may not take kindly to an interloper snooping around them, or even claiming them for himself.
Also plan in advance where you’re going to feed them, but separated is best until they’re more relaxed around each other and don’t mind eating together. Keep in mind they may never get to that point, so leaving some distance between them at meal time is perfectly acceptable.
By this time your dog may like his new bestie, but may only see him as an outdoor mate, not one he’d like to welcome into his home. To keep with the “introducing them slowly” theme, keep them separated in the house, no visual contact at the beginning. Let them rely on scent first. Give each of them a couple of toys or a blanket, then swap so they get to smell each other.
Let the new dog have a roam around the house, while your old dog is out of sight. Do this for a few minutes, several times a day.
Then let your old dog roam and put the new dog out of sight. Your dog will be smelling some unfamiliar smells now and will be wondering where the heck they came from and why!! Make sure you spend lots of quality time with your old dog.
The more often you do this, the more quickly they can meet.
You’ll know your old dog is ready for an actual meet and greet when he’s no longer furiously following the new dog’s scent.
When you’re out you must keep them apart until things settle.
How long will this go on??
You’re probably wondering how long you have to do the “tiptoe through the tulips” dance with these two! I’ll be honest, I have no idea.
As I mentioned earlier, some dogs love everybody and everything they see, all you have to do is open the front door and they’re friends for life. I do know many dogs that fit that description. I also know many that do not, including my dog Jack.
I’m sure you’re anxious to get to the point where they are peacefully co-existing at least, but don’t rush anything. Dogs are territorial and if you want them to be okay welcoming a stranger, you need to do it gradually. Rush any step and it can cause a real problem. Slow may be a pain, but it offers the best chance of success.
It can take no time or a long time, but it will take time.
All my experiences have been with bringing very old dogs into my home of old dogs. Each one was pretty much on the same level as Red, so there was never any worry they would bother her. None of them ran around or played much, they were happy sitting next to me, then cuddling up to Red in her bed and seeking comfort from her.
We adopted our first younger dog 3 years ago, and thankfully he has no interest in Red. I say thankfully because Red is happy spending her days with me, and has never been interested in playing with other dogs. Resting yes, playing no. He doesn’t bother her or even go near her, and that’s fine with me. I couldn’t have a dog in this house that would be constantly pestering her.
Last month we fostered a puppy and neither of my dogs could cope. I was long over-ready to foster, feeling desperate to help and this puppy, almost literally, landed in my lap. Jack is particular who he plays with and a rambunctious puppy was not on his list. Obviously the puppy didn’t understand to leave Red alone, so hubby and I spent too many days entertaining the puppy while keeping him away from our dogs. Not a fun way to live, even temporarily. Luckily he found a home quickly and left.
We now have another, bigger foster, about 1 ½ years but she’s a Spanish hunting dog so you can imagine how active she is!! Jack tolerates her, and I keep her away from Red. Again not a way to live for long, but she’s crazy about my husband so spends most of her time with him and is off to her new home in a few days.
At one point because of where I was living and volunteering I had my pick of old dogs to foster, then I moved and things changed. I was so desperate to help I took 2 dogs that weren’t a good fit for Red, but because I have enough experience to handle it Red is fine, but it was (and is) stressful for us.
I’m glad I was finally able to make even a small difference, and I will foster again once my current one leaves but I will do things differently. The 2 were more of a desperate situation I got myself into, but the next one I will choose more carefully.
Introducing a new dog to an old dog – conclusion
You have your reasons for wanting to welcome a new dog into your home, but your priority must be the safety and happiness of the old dog currently a member of your family. If a new pup is going to bother and stress him out don’t do it, no matter how much you want another because it just is not fair.
Take your time, be honest about who you’re doing this for and make sure they’re compatible.
You’re going to be excited about your new addition, helping him settle and getting to know him, or her. That’s wonderful! He’s going to need to integrate into your routine and likely require some training, just make sure you give your old dog as much, or more, love, attention and care as you always have.
Of course you know this but I’m notorious for stating the obvious!!
I hope these tips on introducing a new dog to an old dog have been helpful, and it will be a smooth transition…for everyone!