This is my first time to participate in the Dog Agility Bloggers Event. The topic today is “aging”. My blog is young, but I thought this was the perfect chance to get involved as I have been thinking a lot about what is best for my aging dog lately. Check out the other awesome posts at: http://dogagilityblogevents.wordpress.com/aging/
I am currently enjoying the companionship of my second “senior citizen” agility dog. My sweet Sam is now 13 ½ and still loving life! She was my first puppy and unlike my first dog, Libby, she was fast in the agility ring. We had a wonderful time together in our competition days as I learned how manage her drive and speed, without slowing her down. This is the dog I learned to do technical agility with – wraps and threadles and serpentines. And she lives for it.
She still does. Of course “agility” looks quite a bit different now. At about 9 or 10, I realized that she needed to work on lower jumps and really could only practice for 15 minutes or so in a day. Now, we don’t even use a bar. In fact she really never does more than one “jump” exercises and we don’t do any turning. Just sending through the jump standard or calling her to me from a stay on the other side. And after 5 minutes, she is exhausted! But she loves to be included in the training and to practice “agility” and I love to work with her. There is just something special about working with a dog you have been with for 13 years, a connection you can never have with a younger dog.
In fact, Libby followed the same pattern. As she got older, I made obstacles easier and took away the complex handling, but I could never deny her a chance to practice agility. Even when she was deaf, could hardly see, and had trouble standing for long periods of time; we practiced targeting. Her expression lit up when we would do this. Here is a video, just a few months before she passed at the age of 17.
As Sam has gotten older, she is slowing down. She cannot jump well, she has trouble on the stairs, and she is terrified of hard wood floors. So, we carry her up the stairs when needed, put rugs on the floor, and cuddle on the floor instead of the couch. But she seems to have no idea that she is changing and I have made it a point to continue doing the activities she has always done; agility, other training, Frisbee, tug of war, walks, chasing her plastic bottles all across the room, and chewing or pouncing on her favorite bones. All of these activities have changed to accommodate her physical needs.
I believe that this is one of the most important things you can do for an aging dog. The mental exercise that our dogs get from their jobs is something that they can always enjoy and benefit from, even if we have to change the physical requirements or criteria to keep them safe and healthy.