Starting Over: Transitioning from a Senior Dog to a Puppy

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As a dog trainer, it seems like every day I meet a frustrated owner with a new puppy that isn’t living up to their expectations. They tell me all about how their “last dog wasn’t like this one” or how their “last puppy was never this bad or this hyper.” As I ask them more questions, I discover that many of my clients have recently lost their elderly dog and just brought home a new puppy. The problem is not the new puppy. It’s that they have simply forgotten what owning a young or very young dog is like. They have become acclimated to living with senior dogs that have very different needs and lifestyles from puppies. Here are five things to keep in mind during your transition.

1) Puppies know nothing. Puppies don’t come housebroken and well-mannered. They don’t know what toys are for them and which ones are for your kids. They don’t know to chew on their bone, but not on your couch. They don’t know how to walk on a leash. Remember, your sweet senior pooch had spent years with you learning all the rules. Training takes time and every dog will have different strengths and weaknesses. But that’s okay. Your puppy just doesn’t know these things – yet.

2) Puppies have high energy levels and require extensive exercise. If the last dog you cared for was a senior, it was probably very calm and slept most of the day. Your new puppy will need lots of sleep as well, but only between lots and lots of playtime. Many puppies become destructive only because they are bored and frustrated by a lack of exercise. Plan on at least a good hour or two of walking, swimming, or fetching with your new pup.

3) Puppies require a pretty demanding schedule. If you’ve been living with an adult dog, they probably only needed to go to the bathroom around three or four times a day, but a new puppy will need to relieve themselves much more frequently. Be prepared to take puppy out every two hours at first. But don’t worry, this stage won’t last forever. As they grow and get in to the routine of your household, they will able to hold it longer and longer. 

4) Puppies need to be supervised or safely contained at all times. Many people have trouble with house breaking and destructive behaviors simply because the dog is left unattended. But this problem is easy to remedy. Consider crate training, using baby gates around your home, or pet containment pens to keep the puppy in a safe place when you are busy. Remember, this is a matter of safety. Puppies will eat anything they can get their mouth around. It often can often take up to a year or eighteen months before your puppy is ready to be left unattended.

5) Puppies need to be properly socialized, and this takes intentional effort on your part. While they are young, introduce them to many new people and all types of dogs, so as they get older they are never shy or fearful. Encourage them to be outgoing. Consider going to dog parks, visiting friends with dogs, and visiting pet friendly retail stores.

When you bring home your cute little bundle of puppy joy, keep these things in mind. Puppies are at a much different stage of life than adult or senior dogs. But remember to enjoy puppyhood. It will fly by! So take lots of pictures and enjoy all of the adventures. It’s worth it.

Ashley Hay is a certified pet-training instructor and dog groomer with over seven years of professional animal caretaking experience. She lives in Nashville, TN with her husband Dan and two dogs, Hamilton (American Staffordshire Terrier) and Hudson (Pembroke Welsh Corgi).

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