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Sunday, August 30, 2009

Family Planning for Doggie Additions

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© photo copyright Carrie Boyko 2006

Tanner (4 months) and Xena (10) Share
Christmas Morning
with a Rare Bedtime Snuggle

Years ago, I read an article on the topic of "when is the best time to bring in your next dog, when your dog is growing older." The advice was very common sense and stuck with me for years to come. As Xena, my nearly 13 year old Retriever mix, neared her 10th birthday, I began to plan for the blessed event--acquiring our next puppy.

What's the hurry, you might ask? Here's the logic, as explained in the article I read so long ago:
  • At 10, most dogs are mature, but not "old". They still enjoy life and have some spunk and vinegar left.

  • Again, at this age, most dogs are not terribly annoyed by the rambunctious playfulness of a puppy. As they continue to grow older, a lack of patience sometimes takes the place of interest in a newcomer, making this a more challenging time to add a puppy to the mix.

  • A 10-year-old dog can still enjoy playing with a growing puppy, and will be able to learn gentle ways to play, if taught.

  • The puppy will learn much from the older dog about obedience, the rules of the house, and house training, as well as getting a good example of calmer behavior.

  • The older dog will likely retain some of his youthful vigor longer, as a result of having a younger playmate.
These are the highlights of the article, and the primary reasons I chose to get Tanner, our Golden Retriever, when Xena was 10 years old. This turned out to be great advice, at least in our case. Xena's mothering instinct was still intact, and she accepted the little pest easily, taking to cleaning his ears and backside, as any good mama would. Since she had done this exact same thing with Patches, the kitten she adopted at age 1, I had no doubts about her ability to adapt to Tanner's presense.

As Tanner grew, Xena began to play more vigorously with him, in response to his ability to play more like a "big boy". She continues to enjoy, and often invites, a good wrestling match. At nearly 90, I'm proud to see her enjoying playtime with Tanner. While she often still is the instigator, she is now beginning to allow him to take the more dominant role in their play. This is an interesting dynamic, given Tanner's submissiveness. While their behaviors continue to change slowly, their relationship as happy pack members is as solid as ever.

Have you added a puppy or new dog to other dogs in your household? I'd love to hear your story and learn how you fared. Please write to me at or leave a comment at the link below the post--next to the envelope icon.

Don't forget to take lots of pictures!

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