The Golden Years: Having a Senior in a Multiple Dog Household

The Golden Years: Having a Senior in a Multiple Dog Household


This blog post is very late in coming. I have had a lot of upheaval in my life in the last eight weeks or so. With apologies to those who subscribe, it was not the fault of the holidays. My mother passed away very unexpectedly only two weeks prior to Christmas. My mother was a senior citizen and while human rather than canine, obviously, there are similarities in care of both species. So I am taking this opportunity to add some very personal experiences to this post. Having a senior canine in your life can add such joy but it can also be fraught with worry.

Siri just turned thirteen years of age just four short days after my mother passed away. Like my mother, her age really started to show about six months ago. She has grown increasingly confused about day to day situations, but thankfully has shown some improvement on that front with some natural mental clarity remedies. She is happy to comfortably rest for hours around the house now instead of showing Kenzo who the boss is. But make no mistake, if the big lug bumps into her too harshly, she will take some of that fuzz off of him in a heartbeat! Preventing the bumping into is my job, however.

Like my mother, who was in assisted living until about six days before her passing, Siri increasingly requires hands on care and attention. I help her up and down stairs. I also help her get up from a lying position, particular when she is lying on hard surfaces like the kitchen tile floor. Sometimes I have to repeat her name in order to help her remain focused on her task such as moving forward towards the door to potty. The comparisons are so similar with my mother’s increasing needs as days passed. The supervision required was more hands on, as it is now with Siri.

A multi-generational multiple dog outing

A multi-generational multiple dog outing

In particular, what I have realized is of vital importance is the need to keep the mind engaged. That goal alone can result in more animation in your senior regardless of the species. Siri cannot move around well enough any longer to engage in physical play. But she relishes her puzzle toys and her rolling treat ball. With her rolling treat ball, she actually motivates herself to stand longer than during any other activity aside from walking. It’s a joy to watch. She grins with happiness after during this. I noticed the same difference in my mother when she was engaged with something she enjoyed versus just sitting and watching TV. Engaging the mind does so much towards keeping the body functioning better. I am convinced of this.

It’s hard to watch the dogs we love get older. They never live long enough and we almost always outlive them. I would much rather bear the pain of watching them get older than having to leave them alone by checking out first. So enriching their golden years is such an important responsibility to me I hope that it is to you as well.

With a multiple dog household, there are special considerations for the safety of the senior members. Of course, individual requirements depend on the dynamics of each household. In my case, I walk all of my dogs at once. We go outside of my basic neighborhood to walk so leaving anyone behind is not an option and would stress Siri considerably. In the summer, we just took shorter and slower walks. The beginning of summer was when Siri really began to slow down. So we adjusted our walk protocol accordingly. None of my dogs enjoy the heat much anyway so it all worked out.

When the weather starting cooling off, we changed the protocol again. We routed a shorter walk for Siri, and then returned her to the car to rest, while I took the boys for a longer and faster walk. That worked out really well for all of us. Siri gets just enough of a walk to get some necessary physical exercise and mental stimulation. And Trent, Kenzo and I get needed aerobic exercise.

As mentioned, Siri no longer travels up stairs by herself anymore so that has been another adjustment. I support her behind while she heads up any set of steps, though here and there, she feels spunky and does the steps up to my bed on her own. She maneuvers down steps on her own, though her confidence level varies with the day so I typically walk with my hand on her or stand below her to boost her feeling of security. The protocol depends on whether we are descending inside steps or yard steps.

Most of the time inside of the house, both Kenzo and Trent are fairly respectful of Siri’s space, taking some care to not knock her over. But exiting the house into the yard and exiting the car can often make them forget their manners. We practice the Wait cue most of the time for these scenarios so politeness can be at a maximum. I use body splitting to prevent most accidental bumps.

They do look out for her well being because we are a family and families do that. I noticed that especially when a friend visited who had not been here before. Kenzo was a bit wary of this friend until he watched her help Siri move around. He clearly approved of what she was doing. But this kind of family atmosphere does not come automatically to all multiple dog households. As with human blended households, it is up to the decision makers in the home to set the standards and guidelines so that the crew knows what is expected of them. Consistency and guidance are your keys to success with smooth interactions. Keeping your senior engaged in the crew is a vital part of quality of life and enrichment. I hope to keep Siri around a lot longer before she goes to keep my mother company.

Feel free to share how you help your senior to feel safer, happier and more comfortable.

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  1. Dawn January 8, 2015

    Great blog. We lost our almost 17 year old heart dog in September and his nailedit mobility issues had us rearranging the house…would have done anything for him though…now we have 10 dogs over the age of 10… the oldest 2 are 15 and doing great…one of the 12 year olds is blind in one eye and he is the only one now that requires some extra attention. There is a certain dignity of the other dogs I really enjoy.. but for now None of them act their age and I am fine with that. My six year old son nailed it the other day when I was talking about a situation being a roller coaster of emotions. .he just leaned know me and said “just like when Nevada was alive, right mom”. Yes…a roller coaster ride I would do over and over…..

  2. Becky January 8, 2015

    It is especially important in a multidog household to keep the older ones safe. If my senior minpin stumbles, some of the pack will attack her. Our house is divided almost my age now, keeping the middle aged ones separate from the seniors/blind/special needs and the toddlers. Egg crate beds, extra blankets, washable potty pads, quality food and supplements (including goats milk), and quiet quality time works for my household. ♥ Thanks for this topic, Debby.

  3. Jackie Walker January 12, 2015

    My gal, Lovey is almost 18. She is a terrier mix pound puppy. Mostly deaf, with hind legs that no longer do her bidding, she is still a wonderful part of the family. Several years ago she had a bout with senior vestibular disease, which leaves her only wanting to turn left. I support her with a towel and cook for her most days. What she eats one day, she might not eat the next day. The other dogs pretty much ignore her. She no longer goes downstairs since she would need to be carried both up and down. She sleeps a lot, but at her age, it’s to be expected.

  4. Brian January 13, 2015

    We used berber carpet tiles to make paths across our tile floors for a couple of late-in-life dogs who couldn’t handle the slipperinesss. Once they weren’t needed any more, they came right up. Our vet also helped out by laying down some rubber tiles when we had an appointment.

  5. Connie Eich March 23, 2015

    Debbie: Our girl, Greta (the malamute/GSD mix) is virtually identical in every way to Siri. We recently changed our vet for a few really good reasons, but lost access to cold laser treatments and Adequan shots. We wanted to get her familiar with a vet clinic closer to home, since she is so much older now and we see her health diminishing. In making that change we lost access to someone more knowledgeable with eastern medicine and homeopathic options. Our experience with years of vitamins and the use of Glucosmine with MSD, Dasaquin, Cosaquin (same thing) and green lipped muscle powder did little. We are now considering chiropratic treatments and pool therapy. Access to both is about 1.5 hrs or more away.

    Like you, we take her out for rides, shortened hikes on flat trails, park parking lots, pet stores, and frankly, anywhere where she can socialize and be mentally stimulated. Sometimes she gets stuck and forgets what she got up for or where she was headed. She has also recently become short tempered with her 10 yr old GSD brother … who simply adores the ground she walks on. Like Siri, Greta still rules the roost and everyone (visiting and foster dogs) know to back off or stay away.

    She often isolates now, preferring to be outside in the cold or in the kitchen with me …away from the television and activity (what little there is). Rarely does she have the strength is her legs to climb more than a step or two. More recently, we have talked about looking for a portable bed of some sort to put in the family room where she sleeps. Currently, we take 5 large dog beds, put them together and put a comforter on top so she has a king bed on the floor. But, she is not crazy about having us lie there with her all night. If only she understood that we don’t want her to be alone and need us. Right now, all she has to do is whine and I can hear her upstairs. Our boy is good at getting off the bed and waking us too those times when fans or the heating system make it hard to hear.

    Anyway, I just wanted to know that is it comforting to read about what you have been trying to do for Siri. We have not tried the harness, as Greta weighs about 118 right now. We both just lift her together to get her into and out of the car. Don’t know what I would be doing if it were just me.

    I have not proof read this note, as it is quite late. So apologies in advance for run on sentences and any spelling errors.

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