Adding another pet to the household is a big decision, especially if you have a disabled dog. Disabled dogs need a lot of care and attention, and you don’t want a new pet to take away from that. Fortunately, introducing other pets to a disabled dogs is easier than you may think. Here’s why:
New Pets, but Same Home Environment
With disabled dogs, consistency is critical. Bringing in a new pet will significantly change your current dog, but the rest of the environment will generally be the same as it was before. For blind dogs, a bigger change would be adjusting the house layout they’ve become attuned to. Even though a new pet may have new toys, bowls, or beds, this won’t drastically change your dog’s set-up. As long as you keep your home and routine generally the same, a new pet won’t impede your disabled dog’s day-to-day activities.
If you have barriers or ramps for your disabled dog, you should keep these in place. Whether or not your new pet has the same accommodations and restrictions is up to you. If your pets are stressing each other out and need some time apart, you may want to allow the new pet to access the barriered areas; if not, keeping the same setup will work just fine.
The Adoption Process is the Same
When you are looking to adopt a compatible companion for your disabled dog, you will be asking yourself a lot of the same questions that you would for any new pet:
- Will my new pet’s energy level be too high for my current pet to handle?
- Is the breed/species of my new pet docile and friendly towards dogs?
- How will my new pet interfere with my current pet’s routine?
Regardless of whether your dog is disabled or not, these are critical questions to ask before adding a new pet to the household. Unless you have extra time and energy to commit, you will likely be looking for a pet that doesn’t have an excessive energy level, is friendly toward dogs, and won’t drastically change your routine. Depending on your dog’s disability, one or more of these factors will be more important to prioritize to keep your dog happy and safe.
Introductions with Disabled Dogs are Not Unique
For the most part, introducing a new pet to a disabled dog isn’t that different from introducing two pets. Your pets will have to get used to each other’s behaviors, personalities… and disabilities. The general steps that you take to introduce a dog to other pets will remain the same:
- Introduce the pets on neutral ground, outside is best. For two dogs, a park works great!
- Keep them on a leash, but leave it loose enough so that neither pet feels restrained or vulnerable.
- Provide positive reinforcement by petting your dog, or giving them treats.
Slight accommodations may be necessary based on the disability that your dog has. For instance:
- If your dog is blind or deaf, remember that his other senses work great! Attaching bells to your other pet’s collar will allow a blind dog to find them, or using a dog halo will help them respect the other pet’s space. Or, for a deaf dog, make sure that your other pet stays in their line of vision the whole time.
- If your dog has a physical disability, you should be prepared if both pets are on loose leashes. However, you will want to keep a tighter grip on the leash and a closer eye on the pets in case of any rough play or aggression, so your disabled dog doesn’t get hurt.
- Remember that dogs are sensitive to your emotional state. Keeping positive energy and a cheery voice will help keep the interaction positive.
- If your new dog is paralyzed and uses a wheelchair, keep in mind that the wheelchair may initially make other pets nervous. Give your pets time to get used to it being there, let them sniff it, and praise them when they go close to it, so they get comfortable.
Another Pet Means More Entertainment for Your Dog
Like humans, dogs become depressed if they feel ignored or uncared for. If you have a busy life, another pet may help your disabled dog live its best, happiest life. They may not be as active or mobile as your new pet, but they are still capable of–and love–playing! Many owners even report that their disabled dogs form tighter bonds with others than “normal” pets. Of course, you will have to monitor their play for a while so that your new pet isn’t hurting, intimidating, or sneaking up on your disabled dog, but it is normal for any two pets to need supervision for a while when they are still getting to know each other. Once they are comfortable, they can enjoy each other’s company for life!
Your Concerns ≠ Your Dog’s Concerns
Your dog is not as worried about its disability as you are. For dogs with hearing or vision loss, it’s usually pretty easy to adapt since these are not the only senses they rely on or the most critical for them. Dogs with physical limitations may struggle to move more, but that doesn’t mean they are worried about how it will affect their interaction with another animal. The nerves you feel about your dog’s disability are not shared by your dog, or at least not to the same degree. Be confident in your dog’s abilities and attitude!
Introducing your disabled dog to a new pet will have some struggles, but this is normal when you bring a new animal into your family. Give them some time to adjust to each other’s needs, and keep yourself prepared. Handicapped dogs share a deep connection with their pet parent. Because of their physical needs they require a lot of attention, keep this in mind to avoid jealousies for a new pet.
If you still aren’t sure but, would like to adopt a pet, then perhaps one which won’t occupy the same floor area as your dog such as an animal that calls an aquarium or terrarium home. A leopard gecko is a good idea. There are many beginner friendly reptiles who are very happy in captivity and thrive within small 20-gallon tanks.