Old Dogs are the Best Dogs

Old dogs are great dogs. What makes old dogs so great? They acquire interesting quirks for which they offer no apologies, and none is expected.
They maintain their endearing mischievousness and most of all their rock-solid love. They are truly the best, of our best old friends.

Sure, people love puppies but it’s not the same. Puppies are cute and cuddly, but they have no real personalities yet, other than “cute and cuddly.” Old dogs, however, have their own distinctive personalities, quirks and traits, developed and refined over a lifetime.

I remember life with one of my special old dogs, Boo. He’s the dog that appears with me on the website and I put a picture of him here as he looked in later life. Although he’s gone now he still represents all the challenges dog owners deal with today :

  • sled dog pulling walks, and the 
  • “Indiana Jones” archaeological backyard digs of his youth.

Old dogs are a blessing to walk

Boo loved his walks even though as he got older the walks got shorter. He loved to go to different places for his walk so we would go to the park. There he enjoyed watching, as opposed to participating, as dogs caught flying Frisbees in mid-flight. Sometimes he would have a smirk on his face as if remembering when he would go airborne to catch the Frisbee years ago.

Time flew by as fast as that Frisbee.


Old Dogs Are Great


Like most other old dogs, he became content with a slow walk now, contrasting his more youthful high stepping ways.

Old dogs finally begin to walk at your speed. That’s kind of nice.

They will still want to do their fair share of sniffing as they slowly shuffle along. If you look, you can see contentment in every sniff as they seem to count each step making sure they have enough energy to get back home for another nap.

Some old dogs lose their hearing or their eyesight – or both. Parts just start to wear out, break or not work as well in old dogs.

I helped an old dog like this recently. At the age of 13, she had lost her eyesight and hearing. Her owner had stopped walking her and was just distraught with worry about her dog.

You could tell there was a strong connection between the dog and the owner who desperately wanted to help her dog maintain a certain quality of life.

To me the solution was very clear and natural. “There’s nothing wrong with her nose!” In fact ironically, when dogs first come into this world they have their sense of smell but don’t get their eyesight or hearing until 2-3 weeks later.”

So it just made sense to me that picking back up on walking would give her old senior an opportunity to enjoy the finer sniffs of life for as long as she could. She walked just fine and keeping her close with a short leash would keep her dog confident.

Something is in the air

In addition to continuing walks, we made a few changes to her backyard which was safe for her – and, she knew her yard like the back of her paw. I suggested purchasing some dove and quail scent through Cabella’s catalogue to enrich her backyard environment.

If you think about it, her dog goes out every day and the smells are exactly the same – nothing changes – until you lay a trail with some bird scent. It will spice up her life.

The interesting thing is that this senior dog’s owner had more concern about her dog’s disabilities than her dog did. With dogs, it seems to be part of that old age “rite of passage” we all must take.

The sooner we accept what is not working and move forward with what IS working, the calmer and more refined our journey becomes. Dogs know this instinctively….they don’t bother to mourn that which has become outdated.

Life slips by before you know it.

If you’re not careful, time slips away quickly. One day you will look down at your middle-aged “knucklehead” dog and notice that the traits that were so magically appealing have ripened. His muzzle is now gray, his eyes a little cloudy, he’s developed some odd quirks, he’s hard of hearing, a picky eater, lazy and lumpy.

The off-set is this: Old dogs show extraordinary gratitude and limitless trust. They are way past dog obedience training and dog behavior problems.

Old dogs that spent a lifetime sleeping upstairs with their people and can no longer climb the stairs, They now accept, without the slightest fuss, sleeping downstairs by themselves. They age without pretense. They are funny in new and unexpected ways. But above all, they seem at peace.

Dogs don’t have a sense of time – that life is finite. Dogs don’t worry. They just live. They seem to leave the worry about the grim truth of mortality to us humans. Maybe there’s a lesson for us all.

I’m always curious about your input – it’s important to me.  

We’re always learning and there’s a bunch of you out there we are grateful to be able to serve and learn from.  So tell me, how do you feel about your old dog?  

 I’m really interested in your thoughts and opinion on this. – I’m listening.

“Together, We Can Raise a Happy and Obedient Dog”

Jim Burwell, professional dog trainer for 25+ years, serving 8700+ clients, has a profound understanding of dog behavior and the many things, we as humans, do that influence that behavior – good or bad.  Jim has the ability to not only steer dogs and puppies down the right path but to also train the owners to understand their part in having a great dog. 

His Ground Rules for Great Dogs is the culmination of these years of training into an easy, step-by-step process so that your dog understands what you expect of him, you empower him to be able to give you the behavior you want and you empower him to be successful at living in a human home.

13 replies
  1. Jim Burwell
    Jim Burwell says:

    Camie: Thanks a lot for telling us about Barkley. It’s hard as they get older and things start wearing out. But it has always amazed Leila and I how the dogs just seem to
    go with the flow and make it work however they can. Lesson learned for our own lives. Cherish every single moment. Take lots of pictures and videos if you can. We laugh
    a lot when we go back and look at the pictures and especially the videos.

  2. Jim Burwell
    Jim Burwell says:

    Jill, thanks so much for your comments. I understand how hard it can be to start thinking about losing them as they get older. Between Leila and myself just in the last 10 years
    we’ve lost 7. We really focused on enjoying the time with them and appreciating all the funny things they did as seniors. Neither one of us would trade a single day – good day
    or bad day. Thanks! Jim

  3. Jill
    Jill says:

    Your article was wonderful and totally made me cry! I have a Yorkie named Emma who will be 11 years old next week. I love her so much! She is in great health and still so active that people can’t believe she is the age she is. My sister’s Yorkie passed at 10 years old and ever since Emma turned 10 I constantly have in the back of my mind the fear that I could lose her. I need to get that thought out of my head and appreciate that she is still healthy and make the absolute most out of the time I am blessed to have with her. Thanks again for the article!

  4. Camie
    Camie says:

    I just love reading your blog. It puts so much into perspective, and this topic hits especially close to home for me. I have two Shiba Inus, age 12. My oldest, Barkley (born 11/22/99) was diagnosed with kidney disease in March. She was doing fine on her part prescription and part homemade food, and the disease didn’t really seem to affect her. However, a week ago, she tore her ACL so we are trying to help her recover without surgery (because of her age and kidney disease, the vet is hoping to avoid it). My youngest, Cleo (born 4/29/00), was diagnosed with cancer 3 months ago, and was given 3 – 6 months to live. While I enjoy the personalities that develop and really show in their golden years, it is also very difficult at the same time. It’s so hard to know the end is near, but I try to cherish every moment I have left with them.

  5. Gaelyn
    Gaelyn says:

    I loved reading about Boo and the other posts. I was teary, very moved. It makes me appreciate my 3 1/2 year old lab even more. He arrived, age 2, rescued off the streets by friends, and is a great dog. Your post made me love his youthful energy even more. And thanks as always for all your training tips which have made me a good enough partner for my great dog!

  6. Jim Burwell
    Jim Burwell says:

    I’m sorry for the loss of your dog. But what an amazing dog she was and she’ll be waiting at the bridge for you. Thanks so much for sharing Jim

  7. Jim Burwell
    Jim Burwell says:

    Wow Teri – you made my day with your last statement. I’m so happy that you see your dog differently. He will sense that and your bond will be stronger than it
    it now. Thanks so much for commenting—-Jim

  8. charmaine
    charmaine says:

    My dog was 17 and a half. I just had to put her down.

    She was the one I made all my mistakes on and yet she was still a fabulous dog. Her name is Holly [because she still exists in my mind] and she is a black lab mix of some sort found in December wandering. She chose the right house, the sister of our local humane society pres.

    We offered to foster her over the holidays then we decided to keep her. We called her Holly because she arrived on Dec 17 and we both liked the name.

    She had to go to school because she was so bad. But a lot of fun. She did great tricks and at classes was given to either a non-dog person or a child to work since she knew the rules.

    I still miss her and probably always will.

    Darling Holly, run and sniff in the fields until I see you again.

    The Best Black Dog Ever.

  9. DJ's Bandana
    DJ's Bandana says:

    You nailed this one! Seniors are the world’s best kept secret. Yet, so many people do not consider adopting a senior based solely on its age. They don’t know what they are missing! Yes, maybe, the pet won’t be with you for a long time, but there are no guarantees that a younger pet will live to a ripe old age either. In the case of seniors, quality is the key, not quantity. Seniors do appreciate the little things in life more – they are willing just to be with their humans – no great demands . . . just love, good food, and a soft place to sleep!

  10. Teri
    Teri says:

    Loved reading about your older dog. We have a 9 year old Dane and a black lab, who will be 15 next month. He has lost major muscle mass and it is hard to even brush him since it is like brushing a skeleton. He has neuromuscular issues with back end, so can’t control his bowels sometimes. He hasn’t been able to jump on couch or bed for a couple of years, but still gets excited and runs (for a short bit) when he goes out in the back. He has always had the best temperment and as long as he is enjoying himself, we are happy to take care of him in the best ways we can. Argo is an awesome guy! Your article made me see him in a different light and not feel sorry for him, since he doesn’t feel sorry for himself!

  11. Nicki
    Nicki says:

    Oh man, what a great great blog. I had tears in my eyes. I have 2 dogs who are 12 and 14 yrs old and I would not trade them for the world.

    Thanks for sharing this – you’re a nice guy!

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