Those of us that love and care for senior dogs know that once you have one senior pooch, it can be hard to say no to another… and another! Helen St. Pierre is a certified behavior consultant and trainer. In this webinar, Helen talks about the joys and challenges of multi-dog households that include senior dogs, and how to navigate the different personalities, temperaments, and challenges that go along with this labor of love.
Social Aspects – “Orchids” vs. “Dandelions”
Although we often hear about dogs being “pack” animals, Helen explains that in multi-dog households, the dynamic really isn’t that of a pack, but of a family. That said, understanding the social temperaments of the different dogs is critical in providing an environment that is safe, comfortable, and as low-stress as possible for all. She describes her “orchids vs. dandelions” concept of classifying her dogs, and how that distinction helps in planning for new additions and structuring the surroundings.
This “environmental management” is key, especially when welcoming new members to the household. It can take time for them to feel safe and move beyond behaviors they relied on in their previous circumstances. Planning and patience are your best friends when managing a multi-senior-dog household.
Resources, AKA What’s Important to Whom
Dogs have different tolerances and limitations when it comes to resources such as food, space, toys, and even people. Understanding each dog and what resources are important to them is crucial in planning the space and managing and redirecting them when needed. The use of gates and crates is a great tactic when someone needs alone time or doesn’t want to share a bone, or even when they’re new to the home and maybe a little overwhelmed, needing to take everything in by quietly observing. These early efforts will ultimately help to maintain peace and routines for your household.
Blind and Deaf Dogs
Dogs with hearing and visual impairments obviously need extra support and accommodation, especially with other dogs around. For instance, a dog that is blind may become upset when another dog bumps into her while eating because she didn’t see the other dog coming.
On the other hand, a deaf dog won’t come when called, but he also won’t pick up on “copycat” behavior, for instance when one dog starts barking, which sets off a symphony of everyone else barking. Always be looking for ways to avoid the “grumble and growl zones” – and don’t forget to embrace the blessings in disguise!
Cognitive Challenges in Senior Dogs
“Sundowning” is a term associated with dementia and Alzheimer’s in humans, but it can also affect our animal buddies. The symptoms include confusion, agitation, and restlessness, usually occurring late in the day and evening. Recognizing these symptoms and understanding that they often just go with the territory of an elderly or injured brain can help shift your focus to acceptance, management, and comfort—after consulting with your vet, of course.
What Viewers Are Saying
“Helen did a great job showing different sides of a senior life and home to help seniors. At one time, I had a 17-year-old, two 13-year-olds, an 11-year-old, and a 9-year-old with me. They all have different personalities and different needs, so I was grateful for this webinar. Thank you so much!”
“It was helpful to have the reinforcement that my instincts on senior pup care are aligned with the information the presenter shared. And, it was nice to engage with others who are like-minded on senior pups. Thank you for this opportunity.”
“Having five senior pups at our house, this was such a helpful webinar! I will be sharing this great information.”
“In the future, I would watch any webinar you have regarding senior dogs. Thank you for having them!”
About the Presenter
Helen St. Pierre is a certified behavior consultant and trainer. She has been training dogs for over 20 years and has her own training facility in Concord, New Hampshire. She also runs her own senior and hospice dog non-profit called Old Dogs Go To Helen.
Helen and her husband Jake are passionate about senior dog rescue and advocating for senior dog care and life considerations. Helen has been featured in national magazines, on TV, and on the radio for her work.