My new puppy Drac joined our family about 8 months ago and I’ve been reflecting on how each new dog changes us and how we adjust to the new addition. First, it is EXTREMELY exciting to get a new puppy or dog. For dog trainers we always have new training ideas or skills that we can’t wait to start with a clean slate :). And then you realize you completely forget how you ever trained anything before! But rest assured, it comes back and you are usually better prepared than the last time.
Then there is the guilt! The guilt of not spending as much time with your older/other dogs and cooing over the new arrival. I’ve felt this way with my past 2 dogs and know it’s silly to feel this way, but I do!
My first 2 dogs as an adult were Dreyfus and Rival. I loved this duo and thought I’d never have that same wonderful combo again. My husband affectionately called them Big D and LG (little girl). I first felt that guilt when I got Savvy when Dreyfus was 15 and Rival was 12.5. Although retired, I felt incredibly loyal to Rival and felt guilty with all the time I spent with Savvy.
Pictured below is Rival and Dreyfus on the left and Rival and Savvy on the right.
Dreyfus passed away a year later and the dynamics changed again. By then our routine was pretty standard and guilt had gone away. I fondly remember how Rival was accepting of the new little one and caused no problems with adjusting. Rival was easy – like any well trained dog over time you have that bond, that understanding. This was also complicated by one dog following one’s heart dog. Rival was that dog, my heart dog. Sometimes there is that dog that changes your life, takes you to new heights and shows you what is possible. As they age they need less of your time but it’s when I need more of their time – knowing their time is limited. Rival passed away 3 years later and I was down to one dog. I enjoyed a single dog household and spending more time with family. Savvy and I excelled and went on to achieve many goals and top titles.
Now here I am with Savvy and new baby Drac. Guilt all over again. I did move past that quickly but still felt bad for Savvy for all the attention the new cute puppy was getting. She’s been amazing. Have to say, a lot reminds me of when Savvy was the new little addition and how I managed my time between her and Rival. Savvy took to her new little brother well. Enjoys being with him and is appropriate with him as any adult dog would be with a pushy, obnoxious puppy. I notice when I come home and Drac mauls me for attention, Savvy stands back and waits her turn, with her soft sweet expression and wagging tail. Gosh, I love her! We are so connected – we are a well oiled machine and very different from 7-8 years ago when I felt guilty and was still learning about her and training the basics.
One thing that was different this time is Savvy’s age compared to Rival’s when the new addition arrived. I’m still actively training and trialing with Savvy so we have that time and experiences to share together. And just in general to have a dog that is under very strong stimulus control is wonderful! I feel we are literally talk the same language. She knows all the useful cues … wait, let’s go, leave it, come, get back, move, etc and knows our routine and the many unintentional cues like what it means when I get up from the computer or put my shoes on and get a coat or turn off the TV (often a dog involved activity or time to rest and cuddle!). When you are still learning and teaching your new pup the common cues and routine, you come to appreciate your well trained dog and how in tune you are with each other.
I also have to laugh at the new nicknames the dogs have. Over the years Savvy has been Sav, Savilicious, Savoid, and Savvydoll. My husband and son named Drac – after Dracula for being born on Halloween. Drac is many things … Drac-y, Drac-a-doo, Drac-man and of course Dracula … and Savvy has now become Savula !!! Love the nicknames!
Today as a I walked both dogs I thought – here I am with my new duo – Drac and Savvy and how similar it felt when it was Dreyfus and Rival or Rival and Savvy. The thing of it is … there is no reason to feel guilty. Each dog goes through the chapters of their lives – being the spoiled, attention getting new arrival and then later on, the mature trained dog making room for the new puppy. There is always another journey and experience to have and I cherish the time with each dog and duo (or trio) I have in my life.