Being the new kid on the block is just as difficult for dogs as it is for people.
Schooner lived with us for only ten months before he left to go off to service dog finishing school. He was gone longer than he was here (he was at the service dog organization for 15 months). When he returned last week, we had to do a little bit of juggling and shuffling to help all the dogs adapt to the change.
There are the obvious changes: Schooner is a large dog. All three of our dogs (Tango, Lily, and Nemo) could fit on the couch at the same time — and if I situated myself just so, I could fit, too. With the addition of Schoons, two dogs can now fit on the couch (and I’m iffy). So immediately I saw a need for more beds. More cushy beds. Great Danes are big and heavy and smush cheap beds quickly. They appreciate a thick, deep dog bed, so I bought two. In a house with four dogs (and a cat, who often finds dog beds awfully comfortable), it’s hard to have too many beds.
Food and Water
Great Danes eat a lot of food. Our dogs eat a total of three cups a day between them. Schooner eats three cups three times a day. I had to run out and buy another bag of food after about a week of having Schoons home. And of course, what goes in must come out. The backyard becomes a minefield in one day now that we’ve added a fourth dog. If we’re not picking up after the dogs everyday, it becomes disgusting quickly.
The water bowl is slimed every single time Schooner gets a drink. He’s not a big drooler except when he drinks. Our dogs are water snobs — they won’t drink if there’s even a little bit of spooge in the bowl, so I’ve found myself washing the water bowl every time Schooner drinks. I don’t blame the Labradors for being grossed out, the slime factor is off the charts.
All our dogs have bed privileges. And they have preferred sleeping spots. Nemo and Lily like to sleep on the bed, Tango prefers one of the dog beds on the floor. Schooner was a bed sleeper when he lived here and when he was at the service dog organization. Lily’s our senior (13) and has recently begun to relish sleeping on my pillow right next to me on the bed. Schooner also likes to have his head on the pillow. Lily’s our matriarch, I’ve been protecting her spot on the bed, but discussions occur in the middle of the night apparently because when I wake up in the morning, I’m staring into Schooner’s big face, not Lily’s.
Kongs + Departures
My dogs have no problem at all with my departure from the house. They actually look forward to my leaving because they always get a frozen stuffed Kong. Our dogs all use the large KONG, but Schooner’s way too big for those and I’m afraid he’d choke on a large Kong. I’ve found some larger KONGs that are appropriate for a giant dog and I’ve started stuffing those for Schoon Maroon.
Fun + Games
Schooner is so big that he intimidates some dogs when he plays with them. He’s quite appropriate given his size, but Nemo (our next largest dog at 85 pounds) wanted nothing to do with Schoons. Nemo would get defensive quickly and shut down play almost as soon as it started. When Schooner was at the service dog organization, he played with lots of other dogs of all ages and everyone had a great time. So I was thrilled when I saw Lily reciprocate Schooner’s play bow invitation to play. Normally, it takes my dogs about three weeks to accept a new pup in training and to respond to play solicitations. Since then, both Tango and Nemo have played with Schooner, although all the dogs seem to enjoy outdoor play more than indoor play.
Walks + Exercise
I really enjoyed having three senior dogs — I could walk all three at the same time with ease. One walk and each dog got their exercise. With the addition of a two year old, massive-sized dog, I’m now doing double walks each day. I think we’ve gotten into a good groove: Lily and Schooner walk together (the largest and the smallest, it’s quite a sight) because they seem to really crave the three mile walks the most. Occasionally, I’ll get Nemo and Schooner out together, as they’re both very good walkers together and all three of them need as much exercise as I can offer. Tango, the sole gimpy dog with his elbow troubles, is the only one who likes abbreviated walks and prefers spending his time lying outside in the sunshine (now that spring is finally here in the mid-Atlantic).
The adjustment has been relatively easy so far. I’ve worked hard to ensure that each dog (especially Tango, my favorite boy) gets the same individual attention they’ve always received and it seems as though each dog has settled into our new normal fairly easily.