One of the biggest learning curves in adapting to varying pet mobility is having multiple dogs with different needs. In this guest blog, Aimee discusses the adjustments she made to meet the needs of her labs, Fergus and Bonnie.
“We have two dogs with two very different needs. It definitely wasn't easy!”
Fergus is used to long walks, lots of swimming and playtime. where Bonnie is very restricted in her mobility. We wanted to make sure nobody missed out and that we managed to stay on track with both Bonnie and Fergus' routines. We have two dogs with very different needs. It definitely wasn't easy! As a compromise we have taken great care to give both dogs alternating small portions of what they need on a daily basis.
Both dogs have been fed puzzle food, sniff mats etc, particularly during lockdown and Bonnie's rehab. With Bonnie moving less, I had to make sure she was getting the right amount of food, enough to help her with that
continue to develop and not too much to make them gain weight. I found that getting organized for the week ahead made life easier by weighing out her food for the week and then dividing it into different puzzle feeders. I mix up kibble and freeze it in whatever container I have. Then enter the treats and puzzles throughout the day.
For a while, unfortunately, they were out of playtime together, so I had to get creative to control their playtime. I've found a Find It game both in the house and in the garden to be a great game that I'm sure they can play with me. It just wasn't able to handle their all-time favorite companion games bitey face and chase. To stop the chasing game, I found that in the summer when they were placed in a playpen in the yard, they limited the space they had and allowed them to play a gentler version of "bite face" and snuggle. Anyone who has multiple dogs knows that it's important to consider their bonding time. Even without the intoxication of running, they appreciate the time they spend together. I'm slowly giving them more time to hunt in the yard and on walks. But always monitored and limited. If it gets too rough or they run too long, I command them to stop and they stop and sit down. I can then call you back. This allows them play time but keeps it safely under control.
Bonnie is allowed to go for 2 x 30-40 minute walks a day and Fergus is used to long full day walks on weekends and bank holidays. I have a list of nearby places that I consider 'Bonnie safe', so we changed our schedule. This often consists of allowing Fergus a big walk of a couple of hours and
Then let Bonnie go for her little walk, which often includes a coffee shop for a drink and some cake (for us) so she can sit and people watch. Then Fergus can go for a long walk. During lockdown we pack picnics and blankets to ensure adequate stopping time.
I really wanted Bonnie to do agility, like Fergus, but I won't let her because it puts stress on her joints. Instead I discovered Hoopers, this is a low impact activity that has a series of hoops and tunnels to lead the dog around. I built some gadgets at home to do some basics with Bonnie
and we will be attending a course soon. It will be good to learn a new sport with Bonnie and I just know she will love it.
Fergus, on the other hand, loves fetch games of any kind since he is a hunting dog. So we play fetch when Bonnie isn't around. I don't want Bonnie to become obsessed with fetch as it has a huge impact on her joints. As an alternative so she can play in a similar style we hide balls and dummies for her to find, this gives her the fun and satisfaction of playing without damaging her joints.
But it's not all out there and mom runs after them like crazy. One low-energy activity that has never changed and that they both love is putting on a movie. The fire roaring with an abundance of cuddles on the sofa!
Caring for the needs of a mobility-impaired pet can be stressful, so always make time to allow you both to recover!