Do you have an older dog? Do you ever look into those beautiful eyes and think, "How much more time do we have together?" Seeing our pups get older can be hard!
Looking back at photos from years ago, I see how fun loving, bouncy, and full of life my boy was in his youth. He found joy in so much and helped me to take a step back and appreciate my experiences. Always ready to play, train, and engage with me in fun ways. Sure, naps happened, but as infrequently as possible and then he was raring to go!
Fast forward to now and it is a very different picture. There definitely is more grey in his beautiful face, he has slowed down, and his health is not what it once was. Occasionally, that little voice in the back of my head asks, "I wonder how much more time we have together?" He sleeps much more and those fun and games moments are shorter and further between. We now go to the Vet for biannual checkups and the past few have involved blood tests-which he hates. Despite this, he loves his Vet and is always happy when we visit.
As our pups slow down, there is a balance that we need to maintain to keep them happy and healthy in their later years. Here are some tips!
1) Watch their weight!
They are not moving around as much, so it is easy for those pounds to sneak up on them and it is harder to shed them for the same reason. Modification of their daily caloric intake may be in order.
2) Adjust your activities.
In many cases, you can still do the same activities with your dog as they age, just not the same intensity or for as long. So, instead of a 5 mile hike in rough terrain, maybe you go a shorter distance in an interesting but fairly level location; shorten those training and play times; and make sure they are getting enough rest and recuperation between activities.
3) Pay attention to changes
Changes in behavior, movement, activity, etc. can be an indication of some kind of health issue. They may be subtle and slow or they could be obvious and dramatic. Consulting your Veterinarian when you feel something is not "right" may catch something in the early, more easily treated stages. You know your dog best, don't second guess that intuition!
4) Embrace your feelings
It is okay to have moments of sadness or worry. Let yourself feel these as fully as you feel the joy and happiness that your dog brings. Don't wallow in them, but don't deny them. This, too, is part of the contract we entered into when we decided to bring our beloved dog into our lives. It is part of the process. Neither denial nor obsession are your friend.
5) Enjoy the time you have to the fullest
I live each day with my senior to the fullest. We still have lots of fun and cuddle time. My goal is to be able to look back on this time with a smile, knowing that I made the most of each day with him. Some days, that is just me sitting at my computer while he slumbers (usually snoring or dreaming) on the couch nearby. We are still together and I am grateful for all the time I can get!
Of course, the list could go on! Share some of the things you have done to enhance life with your senior dogs?
Stephanie Barger is theOwner/Operator of Dogpanions LLC.
Certified Separation Anxiety Trainer
Certified Behavior Consultant-Canine, Knowledge Assessed
Fear Free Certified Professional
Stephanie Barger is a dog trainer, specializing in separation anxiety and behavior modification. She spent the early years of her career teaching humans, transitioning to dog training over a decade ago. Her passion is helping you and your dog live more harmoniously together. If your life with your dog is not what you anticipated and “nothing has worked” to change things, Stephanie helps you understand and work with your dog to achieve your goals and a better life together. She is an amazing teacher, works compassionately with both the humans and dogs she teaches, and provides practical solutions for your dog training needs.