Integration of the new dog needs some forward planning.
This is just Chapter One of a story that I’m sure will have a very happy ending, even if there are one or two challenges along the way.
The gentleman is doing his best to foresee every possible eventuality.
A family member is no longer able to care for three-year-old Chocolate Labrador, Max, and in a week or so the young dog is moving in with his own two very elderly dogs, Oscar and Ellie.
The oldest, Oscar, is now fifteen years old, a Labrador Collie mix. He’s a gorgeous old boy but is now losing his sight and hearing and is on a high dose of pain meds for arthritis and other things. He walks slowly.
Ellie, thirteen, is more lively and still has a mind of her own – having overtaken Oscar in this respect.
Both dogs are understandably fixed in their ways. They have their favourite lying-down places and their established eating places. They have a routine for when they are left and a routine for night time – Oscar can no longer make it up the stairs.
There is something enchanting about an old dog.
Ellie historically has had a couple of fallings-out with other dogs so it’s not a foregone conclusion that she will take immediately to an energetic young interloper.
The integration will initially require Max to be safely separate when the dogs are left at home alone, at night time and when eating. This means the old dogs’ routines will necessarily be changing a bit.
It’s a lot better to do this in advance so that it reduces the upheavel when the time comes. It’s only fair to disrupt the old dogs’ to the minimum at this stage in their lives.
So, they will now have a week or so acclimatising to a few changes. They will now remain sitting room behind a gate when left alone and at night – they had freedom before. One dog will need to get used to eating in a different place so that Max can be fed by himself. Neither dog wears a collar indoors but Ellie may later need something to get hold of, so she can wear hers for a few days to get her used to that.
We discussed ‘Integration Day’ in detail.
In addition to preparing the ground beforehand, we have planned that first meeting and then what happens after with the three dogs actually living together in the same house.
I am very fortunate to have friends in the ISCP who have spent years involved in fostering older dogs and I have drawn on their experience to get the initial introductions right.
Because Oscar can’t walk far, it presented problems regarding my usual method of dogs meeting in an open and neutral space. However, it can be done near home, outside the house. The meeting will be carefully choreographed, the dogs not only introduced in a certain order and in a rehearsed way, but also returning back into the house in a particular order also.
What happens then? It depends.
If all is well the dogs will go straight out into the garden together, calmly supervised, to continue getting to know one another.
It’s probable Max may be little too boisterous and need gentle restraining – we mustn’t forget it’s a big unpheavel for him as well. I suspect Oscar will be exhausted. We will see.
If all doesn’t go so well for some reason, then they have two gated rooms and the dogs can pass behind gates and get used to one another more gradually.
I will be back with Chapter Two to tell you how the introduction did go and how the three dogs are fitting in together.