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.
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.
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.