Saturday, February 18, 2012

Senior Dogs

Last year for Blaze's birthday I wrote about living with abnormal dogs.

Now he's 11!  During the past year we finished his APDT Rally Level 1 title.  We intended to finish his AKC Rally Novice but never got our entries in on time. This year we met a person who was crucial in getting us the help we need when she was up here for a seminar.

APDT L1... finally!

A few years ago at a vet conference, Dr. Lore Haug gave a great talk about senior dogs. I really enjoyed that talk and here are a few things from the notes I took.

Training is important.  Cognitive decline can be a normal part of aging, but activities like training can help slow the rate of this decline.

Training is important.  For the human-animal bond and for enrichment.

Training is important.  To create new behaviors and to maintain trained behaviors.  I read a related story on an obedience list this year... someone was obsessive about training Fronts with his dog and when that dog was very much a senior and started having trouble getting around and responding to cues... it was the one thing she could do until the very end.  Putting in some extra time to maintain super-important behaviors like house training and response to name can be very appreciated later on!

Training is important.  To help your senior dog adapt to changes in his lifestyle. Learning more hand cues can help when his hearing cues.  Learning how to use a ramp to get into the car or other ways to get on the couch than the flying leap that used to be possible.


Blaze still gets training. Not always every day, but I try to work on new behaviors and maintaining what he has. I give him different types of exercise and different enrichment activities. He gets novel foods and the occasional time in training classes.

But changes happen.  Two weeks ago we put a ban on fetch games.  For several years we've restricted fetch games when it's wet, slippery, muddy, or really dry out.   I don't want him slipping or falling or tearing up the grass (making it more likely to be muddy later on!).  But now, even in good traction, he still puts in 100% to the fetch games and it's just not safe. We play at the training facility and he's crashing into walls, furniture, and other things. Even when he doesn't, the sliding stop (4' 8" skid!)  can't be good on his aging body.

A list of 10 things.  At a seminar last winter, Debbie Gross Saunders recommended creating a list of the 10 things your dog loves most. As he ages or his health deteriorates, this list can help you know "when it's time.". Fetch is at the top of Blaze's's been hard to tell him we can't.

A classmate made a comment regarding Griffin, she was talking about golden retrievers, "they never outgrow [running around like crazy]!" and it was both a statement that was happy and not so happy. It can be annoying (Blaze used to just get up on the counters to help himself. He's arthritic enough he can't do that, but he can climb up, one paw at a time, onto a chair and then reach the counter!).  It can be great for sports and activities and quality of life.  And it can be really hard.  I hate that I have to restrict Blaze's activity so much.

And for 2012:  We really hope to do AKC rally and tracking, we'll see what happens!

No comments: