Dogcharmer: Welcome to the family

A new dog can add a lot of love to your life.

Beans Kageleiry is a well-loved rescue. — Gabrielle Mannino

Hi Tom!

What’s the best way for me to adopt a dog to have as a companion? I am a widow living alone. I’m in my 70s, and despite some health issues, am reasonably active and fit. I’ve been a cat owner for many years, but currently have no pets. I have a good-sized house with a fenced-in backyard. I visit my daughter and her family, who live out of state, on a regular basis and stay with them for one to three months at a time. They have two medium-sized dogs, one male and one female, and two male cats, and they all get along well. They also have a big house with a good-sized fenced yard. I would be bringing my dog during these visits. My questions are the following:

  1. What would be the best type and size dog for me? My daughter and son-in-law are strongly suggesting a therapy dog, but I don’t feel I necessarily need one. A furry friend would fit the bill.
  2. What’s the best way to introduce my dog to their pets during my visits there? It’s important for family harmony that all the pets get along.

Thanks in advance for any advice you can offer!

Best Regards,
Marilyn Reilly

Dear Marilyn,

Congratulations on your decision to get a dog! Statistically, people in your situation tend to live 15 percent longer when they get a dog. And it’s not just because of the love and companionship. It’s also the additional responsibility of caring for the new four-legged significant other, and you’ll get more involved in the neighborhood, meeting people when walking the dog.

From your letter I don’t think you need a therapy dog, and in many of these situations the adopted dog becomes therapeutic in its own way, adapting to your personal needs. My mother-in-law was very hard of hearing and her store-bought mini poodle became a virtual “hearing ear” dog for her by necessity, indicating when the phone rang, someone was at the door, when she dropped something, etc.

Since it’s going to be extremely important that whatever dog you get (let’s call the new dog “Comfort”), that Comfort gets along with your daughter’s family and her dogs. So the first thing I’d suggest is that you get the dog when you’re out of state visiting your daughter. This way they can meet easily and Comfort becomes a keeper only if there’s harmony. Opposite sexes generally get along better, but if your daughter has one of each and one of them is more relaxed than the other, getting the same gender as the more relaxed dog might be suggested.

As for size, I’d strongly recommend about 15 pounds or less, especially if you’ll be in airports needing to carry Comfort a lot, not to mention the ability to put him under the seat as opposed to buying a second seat. Also, as we continue to get not younger, a small dog is much less likely to pull you down on a snowy day.

The Meet! To reduce possible “territorial” responses, introductions should be on neutral territory, not at your daughter’s house. The moment the three dogs have visual contact everyone responds very happy and positive, with lots of treats being dispensed. If possible, off leash in a fenced area. If they’re all getting along, then back to the house, with Comfort crossing the threshold first. At this point I’d have toys off the floor, with everyone casually hanging out. From the two-leggeds, lots of positivity, happiness, and treats for all.

Good luck, and congratulations on your new family member to come.

Dog Charmer Tom

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