Reux wasn’t my first dog.
In fact, the love of my life is actually an almost 13-year-old black lab, German shepherd mix named Holli. I got her in elementary school when our first family dog, Cooki, passed away. Aside from spending her life protecting me from neighborhood dogs and the occasional black bear, Holli and I were constant companions – best friends.
I knew that when I left my parents’ house and went to college, Holli would never come with me.
She was a country dog, born to run on our 11 acres of land next to the national forest. She would never be content trapped within the confines of a small urban backyard.
An animal lover, I knew that I would someday need a four-legged friend under my own roof. And so, a month and a half after moving in to my first house, I brought Reux home.
After a few weeks, I decided it was time to introduce the puppy of my adulthood to my now-senior puppy from my childhood, and I brought Reux down to my parents' house to visit Holli.
Having a puppy around a senior pet is tough, and can be stressful for both pets and pet parents. Holli’s health has deteriorated greatly in the last year, and she has lost a great deal of her strength in her hips, making her wobbly and unsteady - a very easy target for a boisterous pup to knock over. Add to that the fact that we never really socialized her well when she was younger, creating in her a strong dislike of other dogs, and it’s easy to see how stressful it is for her to have a puppy around.
So, whenever I bring Reux down to visit my parents, I remember to keep some things in mind in order to ease the stress on my senior pet:
· I make sure to give Holli appropriate love and attention first, before letting Reux loose around her. This gives us an opportunity to continue strengthening our bond, and lets Holli see that my presence does not always automatically signal the presence of an annoying puppy as well.
· I give Holli treats and food before feeding Reux. This gives her enough time to eat her treat without me having to worry about Reux gobbling hers down. It also reestablishes Holli as my top dog, and forces Reux to at least pretend to have some manners while he waits for his treat.
· I separate Holli and Reux periodically to give Holli a chance to rest and have some peace and quiet. I’ll bring Holli in to the laundry room and let her relax on her favorite bed while Reux and I play elsewhere.
· I monitor Reux’s behavior around Holli, and provide toys that he can play with so that he plays with those instead of harassing my senior pet.
· I don’t yell at Reux when he knocks Holli over or jumps excitedly on her back. While I’m frustrated with his behavior, I shouldn’t really blame him for being excited – also, my yelling will cause stress to Holli as well, so I simply separate the two of them until Reux can calm down.
Having a pup around a senior pet can be a stress – how do you manage it?