I have two 14 year old Australian Shepherds. They were actually born less than a month apart and grew up together. Both are now hard of hearing and have slowed down quite a bit. The slowing down part likely has something to do with their age but also with me.
You often hear that as humans get older they get slow down, get weaker and stiff and can’t do as much. There are many studies (none of which I can produce here for you to read!) on this which show that people get weaker as they get older because they stop being active both mentally and physically. I believe in the old saying “Use it or lose it” and I feel that this applies to some dogs too.
Naturally, all dogs are different, and some really do have injuries that cause their slow down. But in the case of my own dogs, I KNOW that any injuries were caused by too much exercise, improper warming up, and foolish activities. I’ll admit it. In the past I have been guilty of not preparing my dogs adequately for playing disc for example.
Dogs are also affected mentally by NOT working their brains, just as humans are. My two oldest, McCoy and Finn LOVE to train, even now at their ages, but I seldom work with them because they can’t do the same physical things as my younger dogs. But when I get out that training tool or reward bag, they are just as enthusiastic as the others.
It has been found that training helps prevent or slow down canine senility, just as it does in humans. Training should never really stop.
So now with McCoy and Finn, I have decided that this summer, we are going to train daily for five minutes. I am going to work with them on target training where they will need to touch their noses or paws to an object so that they don’t have to move around too much at first. And because they are both hard of hearing, I will be using mostly hand signals. This is where we will start, and then see how it progresses and what we can apply the new targeting behaviours to.
I will naturally be posting on the results regularly.
Three cheers for the elderly dog!