Readers called the other day to say they had bought a pup as a playmate for their old dog and they had hoped the old dog could teach the pup the house rules. Instead they have noticed that their time is taken up with the pup and the old dog is retiring further away from them and she seems so sad. The big question I was asked was: “Is the old dog dying? Have I ever heard of a problem like this?”
My answer was reassuring. I have not only heard of a similar situation, I have experienced it myself. Unless the old dog is showing physical signs of impending death, like changes in eating or drinking habits, changes in elimination, signs of pain or discomfort, elevated temperature, changes in coat quality, slowing down on walks or some other change, I suspect that your dog is depressed because of the attention the pup is getting and she is not getting. You might take her to the veterinarian as a precaution.
If, in the meantime, you want to try to perk up your dog yourself, trying calling the dog to you first thing in the morning and spend several minutes (at least two or three) petting and talking to her. Then during the day, repeat this, maybe even reaching down to give a real body massage (be careful not to hurt the animal if she has arthritis.)
When you take the pup out to play, plan some time before or afterwards to play ball with the old dog by herself or just walk around your yard talking to her as you stroll. I prefer exercising the old one first, because she is then satisfied to watch the young one play.
When spending the evening in the same room with the old dog, remember to speak to her on occasion using her name. Something simple like: “Dolly, are you a good girl?” or, “Did you have a good day today, Dolly?” Stressing the word “good” and the dog’s name will let the animal know you are there and thinking of her. My dog would thump her tail in response when I talked to her.
Really old dogs are not difficult to live with because their lifestyle has slowed down so much that very small blocks of time satisfy their need to be included in the family activities. The rest of the time they are content to sleep or just rest and watch the other family members work and play.
However, there are individuals that don’t show their age until they are well into their teens. These dogs can race and wrestle with much younger dogs until they both have to pause to catch their breath.
I don’t know how old your puppy is, but if you give your old dog a little encouragement, she will probably resume barking at the door, and, if you praise her when she does, the puppy will begin to catch one.
Be sure to praise the puppy, too, when it attempts to do what you want it to do.