As dogs age, they tend to slow down both physically and mentally. One solution many pet parents think of for keeping their beloved senior pet healthy and active is to adopt a new puppy. The thought behind this is that the puppy with keep the senior pet on their toes and encourage them to play.
While puppies can sometimes be great additions to households with older dogs, in other cases, the addition can cause more problems for your resident senior. It’s very important to consider your pet’s unique situation before adding a puppy to the mix.
Here’s what you should know about puppies, senior dogs and the health of your entire family.
Benefits of adding a puppy to your household
Bringing a new puppy in to live with your aging dog has the potential to improve the lives of both your pets. The puppy-senior dog combo could offer the following benefits:
- Increased activity: Puppies are full of energy and always ready to play. Having an energetic companion might encourage your senior dog to get up and play with them, rather than sleeping the day away. This can be beneficial for pets with minor joint pain to keep them mobile and to prevent muscular atrophy, which is common in older dogs.
- Mental stimulation: Older dogs also need regular mental stimulation to activate their aging brains and reduce the effects of cognitive decline. Having a puppy around is certainly good mental exercise for your senior pet! Plus, by adding extra socialization, you can help your pet live a happier life.
- Reduced stress: Whether due to cognitive decline or because they’re used to certain routines, senior dogs sometimes experience anxiety, especially when they’re home alone. Having a companion animal like a puppy might help soothe some of your pet’s anxiety and make them more comfortable in the home.
On the flip side, having a puppy and older dog together can also offer benefits from the young one. Older dogs can impress the rules and routines of the house and help your puppy learn new things faster.
Considerations for puppies with senior dogs
Although adding a puppy to your family can have benefits for your senior dog, it’s not guaranteed that it always will. For some older pets, the addition of a new family member is an extremely stressful one that can be taxing on their physical and mental health.
If you’re thinking about adopting a puppy while your resident dog reaches their senior years, make sure you consider these important things first:
- Health problems: Health problems are quite common in older dogs. Unfortunately, one or more serious ailments can put a lot of stress on your dog’s body, and you certainly don’t want to add to it! Senior dogs with mobility problems like arthritis probably can’t keep up with an energized puppy and might be in more pain if they try. If your dog experiences lethargy or pain because of a severe ailment, it’s usually best to let them rest. Your resident pet should be evaluated by a vet before you decide to adopt a puppy.
- Stress: Senior dogs who develop significant stress or anxiety disorders might become distressed over the addition of a new puppy. Dogs with severe cognitive decline, anxiety or difficulty with changing routines probably won’t adapt well to this major change late in their lives. Although puppies can sometimes soothe stress, they’re also capable of adding to it.
- Temperament with other pets: Some dogs just don’t get along well with other pets, and it’s important not to force it. Consider how your dog interacts with other dogs. Are they friendly, or do they tend to snap, growl and bite? If it’s the latter, adding a playful puppy to your home could end in a nasty fight that injures one or both animals.
- Size and activity level: Dog breeds of different sizes or activity levels don’t always mesh well in the home. If your resident senior is a smaller breed or a more sedentary one, you might want to avoid adopting a large-breed puppy or one with much higher activity needs.
Introducing your puppy and senior dog
If you ultimately decide that adding a puppy to your family is the right choice for your senior dog’s health, make sure to plan ahead for the introduction process. This might take some time and patience while you allow both pets to scope each other out. Be sure to give your senior pet lots of love and attention so they recognize that you’re not replacing them, and provide both pets with their own bowls, beds, toys and personal items to establish boundaries right away. Relatively quickly, you should have one big, happy family!