We love senior dogs—with their gray muzzles and mellow moods, they make the perfect companions for both families with young children and people living alone. But at what age is a dog actually considered a senior? And is it true that you really can’t teach an old dog new tricks? We’ve got the answers.
At K9 Carts, we’re dedicated to helping you ensure your dog maintains a high quality of life no matter his age or range of motion, and part of that means acting as an information resource for pet parents! Here are a few little-known facts about our older furry friends.
1. A Set “Senior” Age Doesn’t Exist
There’s no hard and fast rule that can tell you at what age your dog will become a senior, but as a general guideline, a dog might be considered a senior around age 7 or 8. In reality, the “senior” designation depends more on your dog’s physical state than on his actual age. And research shows that dogs actually mature at different rates, depending on their size and breed. That means that a 10-year-old Miniature Pinscher is about 56 in “human years,” while a Great Dane of the same age is closer to 66! The best thing you can do for your aging companion is to keep an eye on him and consult your vet to determine when it’s time to begin treating him as a senior.
2. Older Pups Still Need Stimulation
Older dogs might seem more mellow than their yappier puppy selves, but that doesn’t mean that they’ll all be content lounging around day in and day out! Our old friends still need plenty of affection, exercise, and mental stimulation. The only thing that will change as they grow is the nature of those activities. You may find that your senior dog can’t walk long distances anymore—the solution may be to take more frequent short walks or to switch up your walking route entirely to provide new scents and environments she can explore happily.
Treat toys are another great source of stimulation, particularly when you have to leave your canine home alone. If your dog is particularly motivated by food, she could spend hours working at a puzzle toy or coaxing licks of peanut butter from a Kong! Just be sure that anything you purchase is safe for her senior self, with no sharp edges or hard surfaces that could hurt her teeth.
3. Their Mobility Issues Are Manageable
Even a perfectly healthy dog may begin to move more stiffly as he ages. Others will develop health issues like degenerative myelopathy that make walking difficult or impossible. This may seem like the end of the road for older dogs, but it doesn’t have to be! There are ways to help your old dog keep moving around and maintain his independence.
For dogs suffering from arthritis or other milder mobility issues, pet parents can adjust their homes to better fit their canine’s needs. That might involve building him a ramp or a few short steps to help him get back up on the couch and putting rugs down to create a safe, non-slip path over any hard flooring. Dogs experiencing limb weakness, partial paralysis, or who are recovering from surgery can benefit from a mobility aid like a customized dog wheelchair or handheld sling.
4. You Can Teach an Old Dog New Tricks
Always wanted your canine to ring a bell when he needs to go outside? Wish you had taught her to roll over when she was a puppy? You’ve probably heard that old saying, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks,” and despaired, but that adage couldn’t be further from the truth! In fact, older dogs can learn new habits and tricks—it just might take them a bit longer than young dogs. But they are able to focus for longer periods than puppies, meaning that training sessions can go on and be more productive. So pull out the treats and get practicing, because your options are limited only to what your dog can comfortably accomplish!
5. Aging Dogs Are Less Likely to Get Adopted
The ones that end up in shelters may have had a rough life. But they still have plenty of love left to give. Puppies get snatched up fairly quickly, while older dogs sometimes fall by the wayside. It takes a special kind of love and commitment to adopt an older dog, knowing that you may only have a few years with them, some of which may be shadowed by health issues.
Helping Old Dogs Walk Again with K9 Carts
It can be disheartening to watch your older pup slowly lose the ability to run and play. The good news is that K9 Carts has leveraged decades of veterinary experience to create customized dog wheelchairs that can get your canine companion moving again. Our dog wheelchair for back legs provides stability and support for dogs with rear limb weakness, while our full support cart is ideal for canines experiencing complete limb weakness. And you’re not limited to one or the other—our rear support cart can be converted into a full support wheelchair with a simple kit, allowing you to provide more support as your dog ages.
We’re all about keeping your dog happy, healthy, and by your side for as long as possible, and we can’t wait to chat about how we can help your old friend regain some mobility. Reach out today!