Does Adding a Younger Dog to the Family Revitalize a Senior Dog?

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Our Rottweiler mix, Lucy, was 15 when she passed away. In the weeks that followed we watched Jason, our 8-year-old border collie mix, get more and more depressed. He spent a lot of time laying on Lucy’s bed with his face turned towards the wall. We felt sure that what he needed was a new companion. The problem was making a good match. Jason had only been 6-months-old when we adopted him as a companion for Lucy, and his puppy antics gave her renewed energy.

With that in mind, we adopted American foxhound Bella, a skinny 1-year-old, who had been rescued from a kill shelter in Virginia. She was used to living with a pack of hounds and always wanted to lay beside or on top of Jason. He wasn’t impressed but soon got used to her neediness. The problems started when Bella gained strength and we got to see her crazy playing style. She was too rough for our senior and didn’t respond well to his signals to back off. We had to constantly supervise playtime to make sure things didn’t get out of control.


We’ve all heard that an older dog becomes revitalized if you bring a younger dog into the family. Is that true? It very much depends on the dog and the family say experts at the Senior Dogs Project, a nonprofit that promotes the adoption of older dogs and provides information on the special care of seniors. In some cases, a puppy will “energize” an older dog, who will become more playful and begin to behave like a puppy herself again. However, some older dog simply won’t tolerate the changes made by another dog in her home.

In retrospect, while a younger dog might have been fun for us, I think an older dog would have made a better companion for Jason. In her article on “What to Consider Before Getting a Second Dog,” on, trainer Mikkel Becker cautions owners of senior dogs to be prepared for these seniors to “… be irritable and possibly aggressive toward a new puppy in an attempt to establish boundaries.” Puppies, Becker wrote, will ignore an older dog’s cue to back off and continue to pester, which can result in an unhappy home life. The trainer advises:

“If you’re seriously considering the idea of pairing an elderly dog with a puppy, choose a pup with a calm temperament and offer him plenty of opportunities to interact and play with other dogs outside the home. To help your older dog better acclimate to the new addition to the family, designate special areas where he can safely retreat when he needs a break from the puppy. And don’t forget that he still needs all the love and attention you can provide.”


While there is no way of predicting one hundred percent how your senior dog will react if you bring home a younger dog, here are some tips from the Senior Dogs Project on choosing a companion for an older dog:

  • Do a trial run. Borrow a puppy or younger dog to bring home for an afternoon and see how your older dog reacts.
  • If the puppy or younger dog seems too energetic for your senior’s taste, consider adopting a slightly older dog – a 4 or 5-year-old may have a calmer disposition and prove a better match for your senior.
  • Introducing a new dog into your home requires time and careful attention. Consider waiting until after any upcoming big events or holidays to get another dog. The introductory period is important because it will establish rapport and the ground rules for the dogs. It’s better if this can be done in a calm atmosphere. It can make all the difference in how the two dogs interact with each other and the rest of the family in the future.
  • If a surviving older dog in the family seems to miss the senior who died, this is a clear sign that it is right to get another dog. In this case, an older dog is the better adoption choice because he or she is likely to be a more compatible with your grieving senior dog.