Senior dogs hold special places in our hearts, and they may require a careful touch when you decide to add a new furry member to your family. Older dogs tend to feel comfortable and confident in familiar surroundings. They are less tolerant of the noise and hubbub that tend to accompany puppies and younger pets, which means that introductions can be fraught with tension. A few simple precautions during the introductions and transition period can set the stage for a happier household and lifelong friendships.
Socializing Older Dogs with New Pets
1. Keeping things neutral
From your senior dog’s point of view, your home is your dog’s territory, and any newcomers might be potential threats. Because of this, it is best to introduce your senior dog to any new pets on neutral territory whenever possible. Local parks or a friend’s house can both be good choices. You want your senior dog to associate the new pet with good things, so use treats and lots of praise to keep everything positive and pleasant during the senior dog socialization process.
If the new pet is a dog, keep both of them on leashes as you monitor interactions. If you have a cat, allow both animals to get comfortable with each other’s smells and sounds first. Once you are ready to introduce them face-to-face, keep your senior dog on a leash but allow your cat freedom. This ensures the cat has the ability to get to a more comfortable area while preventing your dog from becoming overly agitated, chasing, harassing, or antagonizing your cat.
Older dogs often have less patience with the antics of younger animals, and they may need more time to recuperate from playtime. Puppies, kittens, and adolescent animals often test their limits with new playmates. For these and other reasons, you will want to avoid leaving your dog unsupervised with your new pets until you have monitored their interactions closely and are confident they have established a peaceful relationship. Keep in mind that this could take several weeks or longer. You might need to create separate spaces in your home for a period as you work to socialize your senior dog.
3. Quality Time
If your senior dog has been an only pet up until this point, the new addition could feel pretty threatening at first. While you will naturally want to spend lots of time loving on your new pet and training it to fit into your family, remember to give your senior plenty of quality time, too. This includes not just extra love and attention but the stability that comes from a strong routine. In fact, keeping your home as structured and stable as possible will help your dog feel comfortable in their normal routine.
4. Fun Stuff
Older dogs might slow down, but they still benefit from brain-stimulating activities, especially now with a new arrival. While you are busy training or looking after the young pet, your senior can enjoy a high-value treat or toy on their own. You can also try incorporating “busy” toys into your senior dog’s routine. Snuffle mats, Kongs, treat puzzles, and hide-and-seek games can all keep your senior busy and happily engaged for hours.
This can also be a good time to work with your senior pet on good manners. Commands such as “sit,” “down,” and “leave it” are all valuable tools in any pet parent’s toolbox but can get rusty over time. When training your new arrival, you can work with your senior, too, encouraging both pups to strive to use their best manners at all times. If your new pet is a cat, the “leave it” command can be especially useful when reminding your older dog not to harass the kitty.
About Dog Thrive
Socializing older dogs does not have to be an overwhelming task. At Dog Thrive, we can help you develop a plan with quality time, fun activities, and supervision. We will provide your senior friend with the positive reinforcement and healthy environment necessary for a smooth transition to a furry best friend. Contact us today to find out more or to schedule a visit at our facilities! Dog Thrive will provide a happy balance of human affection, healthy lower energy dog socialization and plenty of comfortable places for your senior dog to relax.