Check Everything You Need to Know About Loving a Senior Dog

“His head on my knee can heal my human wounds. His presence by my side is a protection against my fears of dark and not-known things. He promised to wait for me… every time… wherever it is – in matter I need him. And I expect to do it – as I always have. It’s just my dog.”- Gene Colline

Since Boxing Day, Violet has been passion with her next birthday in April. In her eyes, being four years old is monumental because she thinks that she will then become a big child.

She let me list the dates of all the family’s birthdays just to see who would come before hers. As I was going through the List, it struck me: Cooper will be 11 this summer. Eleven.

Suddenly I realized: this is not even a really older dog anymore. He’s just an old dog. A gentle old man whose gradual aging has passed me by, I think, because we are never separated from each other and everyday things blend and blur.

I am so lucky to have this old dog in my life. There is nothing better than an old dog. But how on earth did my puppy become an old dog?!?! Did any of you feel that way about your old dog too?

Older dogs are usually slower. You don’t need to rush through life at a frantic puppy pace. They know what they like and what they don’t like, and they look for their preferences: certain people to cuddle, places to sleep, chew toys. They are often calmer, wiser. An older dog may not want to run a Marathon with you, but he wants nothing more than to be with you. Usually they don’t devour the furniture, dig holes in the yard or jump on your Aunt Gladys. The slower, gentler pace of life is settling into your old bones. It’s a beautiful thing to spend time with an old dog.

Unfortunately, older animals often end up in shelters when their owners can no longer or no longer want to take care of them. The Chicago Tribune reported that older pets make up about 5 percent of the shelter’s population. But, the Dodo quoted, “the elderly make up the majority of the 1.2 million dogs housed in shelters each year in the United States.”

Let’s break down all the things you need to know about an older dog so that we can dispel some myths about grooming an old dog, share the joys of life with an old dog and – maybe–encourage someone to add an older dog to your family!

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According to most reports, dogs are considered elderly people after the age of six or seven. Large breeds age faster than small breeds, so there is some leeway in this chronology.

The reality is that the aging of a dog is like that of a human. Some are strongly entering old age, while others are already reaching their golden age with weariness.

There are many things you can do before your dog enters these older years to help him thrive. If your dog is not quite six or seven years old, or maybe he has just celebrated these birthdays, take a good honest look at his body form. We will talk more about this, but it is easier for an elderly dog to be healthy if he ages with a good health base. If your puppy needs to lose weight or develop strength, it is easier for his body when he is younger.


As we get older, our needs change. The same goes for our dogs. The food that served her body well as a young mature may need to change. The training routine that has kept him in shape may need to be adjusted. The trip to the vet once a year may have to become a semi-annual affair. While older dogs can live long, happy, healthy and fulfilling lives, it is up to us to optimize their care to ensure that this happens.

Let’s explore some general categories – Fitness, Health and Wellness and Pleasure-with specific ideas.

Fitness center

Three years ago, John was training for a Marathon. He was already a runner and completed several half marathons, but he decided to tackle the full. His training regiment was gradually built up over time and distance. During his training, Cooper ran next to him – up to the 8 or 9 mile mark. Then John decided that Coop was done and took him home.

Cooper would have walked the 26 miles if John had let him. He would have run until he fell. He always would – if we let him. But we don’t. Because we can see the greatly extended recovery time that he has after each race. We can see the pain in his joints. We can also see the pure joy he experiences while running, so now we are modifying his runs to fit his almost 11-year-old body.

Fitness includes food and exercise, and the food your dog eats and the exercise he does contribute to his overall well-being.

The first starting point to assess your dog’s fitness level? Veterinarian.

We will discuss veterinary care in more detail in the next section, but check with your veterinarian about your dog’s weight. Are there any concerns? Does he need to gain or lose a few pounds to be in better shape? Ask your veterinarian for ideas. Some could be as simple as feeding less food. Others may include a specific exercise routine.