Enjoying Older Dogs In Their Golden YearsYou are getting ready to leave for the dog show, hunt test, or field trial. As you reach for your car keys all action stops with the dogs and all eyes are on you. Who is going and who is being left behind? The first dog to the door is your Veteran who throws a body block against the door. As you reach down pet him on the head you say ďsweetheart you have to stay home and watch the house, I will be back in a little while." Those big eyes staring at you now working on the quilt trip. Being a Chesapeake he gives it the old college try one more time and pushes between you and the door. You wiggle out the door and get into the van. Pulling out of the driveway you notice him staring out of the living room window giving you one last guilt trip. Your heart goes out to him but all his children and grandchildren have taken up the room in the van.
It has been documented that working and keeping your Veteran active and learning will help to keep him youthful and playful. What is also important is mental stimulation. Now that I have put the icing on the cake for the guilt trip, here are a few suggestions to help you enjoy your older dog. First, get a bigger van! No no just kidding.
By just taking a few moments each day to dedicate to your older dog you can make the difference. A simple walk around the block. While walking throw in some obedience commands to put variety into your walk and get him thinking. Teach him some new tricks with positive reinforcements Sign him up for a Novice Obedience Class for some basic obedience. That hour of time is totally dedicated to him and him alone, what could be better. You may even want to go for that Companion Dog Title that you have been putting off. Becoming a team and working with your older dog will bring back that wonderful bond you had with him.
Another great idea for your Veteran is Tracking. Yes tracking. Our Chesapeakes have wonderful noses and really enjoy this activity. If you are not familiar with tracking, sign up for a local seminar and get started. You will both enjoy this sport.
Since your older dog is usually calmer, another wonderful and rewarding experience is Pet Therapy. They are very sure of themselves, level headed, donít jump up, love a good back rub and scratch behind the ears. My Veteran Coco is now visiting the New Jersey Veterans Home. She loves going and they love having her to visit. Coco will stand there for ever while she is petted, feed home made cookies, gets brushed, and will play ball gently with them. We do have to watch the cookies since her waist line isnít what it use to be. On a nice day during the warmer weather she sits outside on the patio and keeps them company. It is easy to register your older dog with the Therapy Organizations. A simple Canine Good Citizen Test and Therapy Dog INTíL Test will get you started today.
Since Chesapeakes are natural hunters, if your Chesapeake is in good condition you can get your dog ready to run in the ACCís WD and AKCís Junior Hunt Tests. Take him to the next training day and get him started. If he already has his titles, bring him anyway to run and have some fun. In 1998 I put JHís on both of my Veteran girls. They had so much fun and got that long awaited hunt title.
Today the AKC has several classes that you can participate in with your Veteran. Besides the breed conformation classes they also have Veteran Obedience Classes. These are fun and it is wonderful seeing these Veterans particiapte.
If attending your National Specialty or Supported Show sign up for the Veteran classes in both Breed and Obedience, Parade of Veterans and Title Holders. These Veterans are a living pedigree, a blue print for the breed and future generations. So if you are attending your National or Supported and donít have a Veteran entered, you should be their ring side applauding these great dogs and enjoy looking at the foundation stock of the breed. Generations of ancestors all gathered together is a memorable experience. If you also get a chance, take a photo of your generations together. It is a priceless memory.
Remember before starting any activity with your Veteran, get a full health check up with your veterinarian. Watch for any signs of stress or fatigue. Educate yourself on the foods and new supplements for senior dogs. Keeping muscle tone in your senior dog will take some work so get them out and about. Each dog will have their own limits, recognize the signs of these limits.
So look at that Veteran, get him off the couch and back into your lives. Enjoy him and keep adding to all those fond memories.
I would like to do a follow up article on enjoying your Veteran Dog. If you have any stories, suggestions, and thoughts on this issue please send them to me.
Some books available on aging dogs: