New Dog & Old Dog-Keeping the Peace
Whether it’s by design or sheer luck a lot of doggie households end up with dogs at different life stages. There are plenty of benefits to bringing a new pup into the house with an older dog. Having an old dog around helps your new addition learn the rules. And having a new puppy eager to play might revive your old guys energy level. But there’s bound to be some challenges too.
Welcome to our world; Swota is 8 years old and Floki is 18 months.
Before we adopted Floki, Swota had gotten pretty lazy. She didn’t really want to play any more, and when she did play she was done after a few minutes. But then came Floki.
It was a cool Saturday morning when we loaded up in the truck and headed to the shelter. On the advice of staff we brought Swota with us to meet her potential new friend. After filling out some paperwork and a brief meeting the staff lead us around to the exercise area. I was super nervous, Swota doesn’t always get along with strange dogs so we wondered if she would like Floki as much as we did. From inside the dog run we watched nervously as the shelter volunteers brought a rambunctious 10 month old husky our way. When they met nose to nose Floki immediately threw his front end down in a play bow, then bounced up. When they brought him inside the run it was LOVE at first pounce! They ran and jumped and tumbled over each other with an energy I hadn’t seen from Swota in a very long time! They played and played, and I actually cried to see her so happy. There was no doubt Floki had found his forever home!
He followed Swota’s lead and learned the house rules quickly. And she played more and more. But after 4 days of his unending play drive Swota’s age caught up to her.
-Swota will play for a half hour or so and the be done for the rest of the day.
-Floki will play for a half hour, sleep for an hour, and be fired up to go again.
So we had to start getting creative in finding ways to drain Floki’s energy.
- We taught him games that didn’t need to include Swota. Fetch & tug are two of his favorites. We also found out that Swota would play fetch, but wouldn’t compete with her younger brother. So we have to throw one ball for Floki, then toss a particular squeeky tennis ball in a different direction for Swota to go get while Floki is distracted chasing his ball.
- A weighted backpack. Having your younger dog carry a pack will help tire them out without overexerting your older dog. Once Floki had reached a safe age to start carrying weight (check with your vet) he started carrying a backpack when we go walking, jogging, or hiking. How much your dog can safely pack will depend on age, breed, health, conditioning and environment. Floki generally carries two 3lb weights- roughly 10% of his body weight. I like sand filled ankle weights because they are still heavy but not rigid like a hand weight. This training come in hugely handy when we’re hiking and I trade the weights out for him carrying his own water. Bonus: he can also pack out his own waste.
3. One-on-One activities. Floki & Swota have different personalities to go with their different life stages. So some activities are just better suited for one than the other. Swota LOVES water- Floki not s’much. So when I started stand-up paddle-boarding – Swota was my first pick. I knew the board wasn’t big enough for both dogs, but also Floki’s water phobia would make it not so much fun for him. Swota took to it like, well, a duck to water. She actually enjoys just chillin’ on the board and watching the world go by. When I committed to run the Spartan Beast (13 mile OCR) I decided the best way to train was step up my hiking game. But Swota will crash for a full day after a 5 mile hike- tackling the 13 mile training trips was just out of the question. So Floki gets to solo hike with Mom. I know dogs are pack animals but it also seems like they really enjoy the solo attention. When we’re at the lake Swota comes out of her shell with new people. And on the trail Floki seems to settle by my side instead of competing with his sister.
Keeping a puppy and a senior happy, healthy, and active is easy to do if you just get a little creative.