Guest Post: Adding a Young Dog to an Older Dog Household

Pet care & safety

One of the more common questions I get from owners of older dogs is…. “Should I get a new dog now, or should I wait until my current dog is gone”? 

My response?  Get a new dog! Who wants to be alone?  Just don’t wait too long; we don’t want to wait until the pet becomes too old to enjoy their new companion.  Most people often worry the old dog will feel left out or think he/she is being replaced. It’s not like we are the Indianapolis Colts, bringing in Andrew Luck to replace Peyton Manning.  We are looking at a union. The vast majority of the time the new dog will rejuvenate the resident dog (after an initial “breaking in” period, of course). Dogs are perceptive. They quickly learn the boundaries with the elder dog.

That is an important point. The older dog has become set in his/her ways over the many years.  They are more fragile and slower then they once were…..aren’t we all. So, some care and forethought is in order when having them play and interact.  A new puppy can be overwhelming at times, especially in the early honeymoon period.  Believe me though, the seasoned dog will show the new dog the ropes. The veteran dog will often find the thrill of the chase again.  There is often a lot of life left in “them old bones”.  It is great seeing new life in our mature dog. There are benefits of the new union; it is much easier housebreaking a puppy and the mature dog will show the boundaries of the property.

One minor obstacle is food. Puppy food is 3 times the calories of adult food and loaded with fat and protein.  Excess protein can tax the kidneys of an older dog and fat is what dogs live for.  On the other hand the puppy needs the extra calories protein and fat for proper growth.  So feed your dogs twice daily in their own dishes and don’t leave the unfinished portion down.  Pick it up right after their dinner is done.  On an aside I always recommend to feed ¾ of what is recommended on the food bag, to any dog, young or old.  A lean dog will live 30% longer and have much less health problems.

I was lucky recently to introduce a new dog to my household. Her name is Ossa and she is a release dog from Canine Companions for Independence, an organization dear to my heart.  My senior dog is Maggie, the 16 year old wonder dog, who lost her life long companion, Boo 6 months earlier. She was lost. Ossa has become Maggie’s new friend, hearing dog and guardian angel. Maggie acts like a 6 year old dog, although deaf as a doornail.  Her life is so much better with Ossa.  So give your mature dog a companion in her/his golden years.  You will be happy you did.