21 March, 2016
Before I had senior dogs I am sure that I bought into many of the myths you hear about them. Now that I have had several seniors in my life (past and present) and focus on senior dogs with my business, I have a new perspective on dogs during this amazing time of their lives. I am also on a mission to correct many of the misconceptions people have about older dogs so more people can enjoy all that they have to offer.
Here are 5 of the most common myths that exist when it comes to senior dogs:
Older dogs don't play or have fun. Are you sure it's not you that has stopped playing and having fun? Our dogs pick up and respond to our emotions and if we have stopped playing and having fun then regardless of their age they will do the same. Just because your dog is getting older doesn't mean they can't enjoy life. In fact more than ever your senior dog needs activity to stimulate them physically and mentally. Treating them like they are old and unable to be silly or have fun is a sure way to accelerate their aging process. Do the opposite - find new adventures and activities that you can do together and I bet you will discover that they are capable of much more than you originally thought.
If you adopt an older dog you won't be able to bond with them. Nothing could be further from the truth. Some of my closest relationships have been with older dogs. Senior dogs needs us more and that creates so many opportunities to bond with them on a deep level. You will find your time so rewarding and I suspect you will end up needing them even more than they need you and you will become inseparable. Getting close with your senior dog will help you see the world through their eyes and it will change your perspective on pretty much everything. I know that I appreciate the little things in life so much more because I have been witness to how my seniors embrace even the little things with such appreciation. A senior dog has so much love to give and so much gratitude to share, your heart will melt.
You can't train them - they are set in their ways. While I will agree that depending on their background some habits may be difficult to break, but not impossible. Dogs love routine and you will be amazed at how quickly even a senior dog will adapt to new circumstances if they have a routine to follow. They will thrive and you will have the chance to show them a new way of life. My senior Milo is better than any alarm clock you could buy. He knows exactly when it's breakfast and when it's dinner. He knows when we should be leaving for work and when it's time to relax on the couch together.
I won't have much time with them. Life is so unpredictable. I have seen young dogs have their lives cut unfairly short and I have seen older dogs live beyond 20 years old so to assume your time together will be short is to deprive yourself of a incredibly special relationship. It is like the old saying "quality not quantity". I adopted Milo and Lily when they were seniors and within no time it felt like they had been with me all my life even though in reality it had only been a few months. Time is precious, but memories are created in an instant and whether you have a short time or a long time together you will forever be changed for the better.
- I can't bring new dogs into our family if I have a senior. I have heard this many times from people and they often believe this out of respect for their aging dog. Older dogs can become anxious more easily and not every senior would welcome a disruption to their comfortable life, but adding another dog to your family can also help inject new energy into the life of your senior dog. I remember when Churchill, my first french bulldog, passed away. He and Mackenzie, my pug, were closer than any two dogs I had ever seen. To see Mackenzie alone was heartbreaking. He was grieving and I wasn't sure he would live long without his best friend. He was 12 at the time. To help both him and myself heal I brought Paige into our lives. At first he rejected her, but she was persistent and before too long I could see the improvement in him and how much he appreciated having Paige around. I believe it was because of Paige that he lived for many years after Churchill's passing.
Take it from me. there is something incredibly special about senior dogs. They not only have so much to offer, but they have this amazing ability to change those around them for the better. Give them a chance and you'll see what I mean.
Ann-Marie Fleming is the Founder & CEO of Dog Quality, a provider of products focused on improving the quality of life for older dogs.