Same Old Dogs, Brand New Challenges


The dynamic between animals and humans in homes with multiple pets can be complex. Seeking advice when integrating pets is common for this reason. What we often forget to consider, however, is how a physical or behavioral change in one pet can impact other household animals.

In my house, two of our dogs have lived together for six years now. Our little beagle, Ruthie, and our cattle-dog-ish mutt, Meera, are both adopted dogs. They have always enjoyed daily play together, both in and out of the house. Recently, this portion of their daily routine has greatly decreased. Ruthie is about 10 years old, and in the last couple of weeks her heart has begun to fail. She is stable now, on medication and comfortable and almost like her previous self. However, she no longer wants to romp and play with Meera the way she once did. She will play a bit of bark and chase, but only for a minute or two each day. Such behavior change is not an unexpected outcome as our dogs age and came as no surprise to me. What I did fail to recognize was that Meera would also be affected and undergo a change in behavior.

As a younger dog, Meera did enjoy some recreational gnawing on normal things (shoes) and not-so-normal things (cotton balls) and was an accomplished counter-surfer. To curb her appetites, we gave her more appropriate outlets for her energy and crated her when we weren’t around. The behavior decreased and with minor management has no longer been a daily occurance. At least, it WAS no longer a daily occurance. Without her buddy Ruthie, Meera has once again been finding ways to entertain herself.

The other day, for example, I found Meera playing with an almost full box of tissue which she had snatched off of a table, tossed around and was very happily chewing on. She’s also been pacing more, and taking other items from tables to engage with as chew toys. This behavior has been absent for so long in her that I almost forgot it used to be a favorite pastime. Almost.

I’ve made some adjustments to my behavior and daily routine to ensure that Meera gets the care and enrichment that she needs. She’s been provided more dog appropriate things to chew on and increased one-on-one time (and I keep a closer eye on her around tissue boxes). Behavior change in ourselves and our pets is ongoing, and for me this experience has been a good reminder to be aware of not just my dogs’ physical and behavioral health, but also the effect one dog’s illness can have on another’s behavior.

Reach out to us at should you need some new ideas for dealing with resurfacing behavior challenges.

Amy LaFerreraComment