Should I get my old dog a puppy?

I am frequently asked about introducing a new puppy to a senior dog (we will discuss cats another day). There are concerns whether the two will get along. Hopes that the puppy or will bring new energy to an aging pet. Questions about what breed or sex the newcomer should be. We will discuss introduction techniques a bit later.

While we are coming to the conclusion that pets in multipet households tend to live longer and healthier lives, there is a fundamental question that must first be addressed: do you want the responsibility of a second dog? Caring for two is not the same as caring for one, especially considering dogs.

There certainly are social benefits for your dog having a canine companion – they will groom each other and provide friendship when you are not present. They will play with each other and tire themselves out more easily. Puppies will imprint upon the older dog and will learn the rules of the house, reducing training time. And in many cases, the older dog will become more active. An active older dog tends to have less effects from arthritis and other ageing problems, increasing quality of life and possibly, longevity. The puppy will also be housebroken more quickly in many cases. But beware – I’ve also seen the older dog teach the puppy a few dirty tricks as well. Remember that roast that was on the counter? Or that trash can in the kitchen?

Two can be company, but take a few things into consideration. Remember, puppies have lots of energy. It may not be wise to bring home a large breed puppy or a Labrador if you have an aged Jack Russell Terrier or Chihuahua. You certainly do not want to drive the smaller, older pet into hiding, or make them fearful of the new puppy. Then again, I’ve seen the Jack Russell rule the house and bat up the Labrador puppy. Consider introducing a puppy that will be a similar size as your older dog, when fully grown. Also consider similar breed-types: adding a herding dog to a sedentary dog may not go over too well. The size difference is of critical importance when considering Chihuahuas and other delicate breeds. There are some dogs that simply may prefer to be alone. I know a number of such people.

It has been suggested that opposite sexes get along better. Personally, I have seen no difference in outcomes with my clients. The good news is that in almost all introductions – even grossly mismatched pairs, the dogs find a happy medium with time.

Introducing a new puppy should be done with care. Do not immediately assume that the older dog will embrace the newcomer. Have separate bowls for each and enforce the rules about which dog eats out of which bowl. When having a new puppy, we generally recommend crate-training. This will help give the older dog a it of peace as well. In some cases it may be of benefit for the older dog to have a quiet area free from the new puppy.

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