There is a lot to be said for an older dog. A dog is considered senior at the age of six and above, however, there are plenty of older dogs that act like young dogs, so don’t hold the age of the dog against them. If you want a dog that has already proven it isn’t going to get into the trash or pull you on the leash, and you want to know what you are getting, an older dog is a great option. There is often a big difference between a senior dog and a puppy in how they live in a household. Below are the some of the suggestions how to train and care senior dogs well.
It may be hard to bring a puppy home to a household that already has an older dog. They may not want to be buddies as there can be a huge difference due to age. Some older dogs may display what looks like aggression, but it really isn’t. For example, if an older dog is lying on its bed and a younger dog comes up to engage in play, as most young dogs want to do, what you are likely to hear is a low rumbling growl, and then to shoosh away the puppy, a show of the teeth. After that, an older dog may combine both, not to bite, but just to warn. If the puppy continues the older dog is likely going to get up and snap at the puppy. What you will witness is an older dog correcting a younger dog, not an older dog attacking a younger dog. Essentially, the pup didn’t respect the personal space. If you mix the ages, you need to know what to expect. Dogs in the act of correcting one another fairly, and justifiably, isn’t something you need to interfere with, as long as it’s not more than just the warning. Some people may feel uncomfortable seeing this, but it’s really a just canine language.
Another great benefit of an older dog is they are not going to require as much physical exercise. You can get the love and interaction of a pet without having as much work. If you work many hours a day, you will be better off with an older dog who wants/needs to lie around and sleep. When looking into a senior dog, myself Ryan Matthews would encourage that you look at what you want in a dog, and what a dog will need of you, and see if it’s a good fit.
If you are in your 20’s and want a dog to exercise with, you may want a younger dog. The other thing you should consider is getting a health evaluation of the dog before you commit to taking the dog. Some shelters may not let you do this, but some might let you put down a deposit and take it to the vet for an assessment, like the pre-buy inspection of a car. With some older dogs, you are already walking into vet bills immediately.
The most important thing to know for a senior dog is that although their physical activity may be less than other canines, you must keep the weight at a healthy level. If the dog is standing up, it is ideal to see the very last rib. If not, that’s Ok, but the more overweight the dog is, the more strain you are putting on that dog’s hips and legs, and the more pain it will be in, in the future. Ways to keep them active is to have them get their food in challenging ways or have them problem solve to access it. You could split a tennis ball and put high-value dog treats in it and have the dog figure out how to open the ball to get the treats out. Or scatter food in your yard to have him search for it.
I frequently hear that “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” This old adage would be detrimental to senior dogs…. Luckily this is not true at all. Although I often joke it is true in the case of spouses, “you cant teach them new tricks.” Dog Training for a senior dog can be fun and reward just as it is for a younger dog. The approach in training a senior dog is not different for an older dog versus a younger pup. You will still want to apply principles such as my Four Pillars of Training Success. The pillars are Repetition, Consistency, Timing, and Reward and they will work on any issue and any dog!