Senior Citizens and Young Dogs
I just got a phone call from a man who I will call Rob. Rob’s father (Ben) is 82 years old and has a one-year-old Golden Retriever who I will call Parker. Rob called me because his father needed help training Parker. Ben is currently in the hospital with a broken hip, which happened when Parker saw another dog across the street and pulled Ben off the curb to get to the other dog. Ben was in good shape when the accident happened — he walks several miles every day — but Parker was just too exuberant and too big for Ben to control.
I wish this was an isolated incident by a caring child who wants to help his senior parent. Unfortunately, it’s not that uncommon. Senior citizens and young dogs — especially if they are large dogs — may not be a good mix.
Does this mean that seniors should not have dogs? Absolutely not. But THIS situation was not a good one because Parker was too much dog for Ben to handle.
Being a baby boomer myself (the word “senior” just doesn’t seem to fit my lifestyle!), for most of my adult life, I had dogs that I rescued as adults and that weighed about 50+ pounds. At the end of their lives, at times they had to be carried. There was nobody to do it except for me – and it was especially difficult going up stairs. When I was 62, both of my dogs died, and I looked for new dogs — smaller dogs, no more than 25 pounds – because I knew my limitations.
Puppies and adolescent dogs are a lot of work for people of *any* age. It may seem logical that senior citizens who may have lots of time on their hands are perfect candidates so they can spend the time training their dogs, and in many cases that can be true. But puppies have their own timetable and needs, and adolescent dogs are full of energy — and full of themselves — and many seniors don’t have the physical AND mental energy to devote to them.
A large adolescent dog is a handful for someone of any age, even if the dog was trained as a puppy. They’re adolescents, which means they basically have one paw in puppyhood and one paw in adulthood and are testing which works better for them. Adolescence is also a time when animals of any age – humans included – pull away from their parents and become more independent and begin to voice their opinions on anything and everything. It definitely helps for the dogs to have a solid foundation in obedience and to have been well socialized as puppies.
There are some training tools you can use. I like the Gentle Leader which is like a halter for a horse. It gives you more control and cuts down on your dog’s pulling.
If you’re a baby boomer (not a
senior!), mentally you can challenge the world. But physically, our bodies are changing. This getting old crap sucks, but we need to adjust.
Read more about solving Dog Behavior Problems.
I’d love to hear what your comments are. Do you have some comments on seniors and dogs? Please share your experiences or ask a question so we can begin a dialogue to help each other.
Disclaimer: This article is for information only. It does not replace a consultation with a dog trainer, dog behavior consultant, or veterinarian and may not be used to diagnose or treat any conditions in your dog.
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