Caring for older dogs | Gelert Behaviour

This is a topic that’s very personal to me, as all of my dogs are older than 12, and all are retired working dogs, so have arthritis and various aches and pains from their working time which need care. It wasn’t a plan to have dogs of similar ages, two came to me second hand for various reasons, and it is a challenge meeting their needs as they age.

I am really passionate about doing all I can to keep them fit and active as possible, after all, they worked hard to help me in their younger days so I feel I owe this to them.

I thought I’d share what’s really helped mine to give other people the chance to help their own dogs as they age, so they have the very best chance of aging gracefully and comfortably.
The thing I feel makes the most difference to my dogs is how they are exercised. People are astonished at how relatively little I walk them (they are two collies and a springer collie cross, so you can see why!) Ask any older person, and I think they would agree that whilst they enjoy a good stroll, you can have too much of a good thing. I walk alternate days for no more than 30 – 40 minutes, and when I say walk, I really do MEAN walk. I make sure that in the main, they walk in a clear 1, 2, 3, 4 rhythm with lots of sniffing and watching things in the environment. They do play together and with their friends, and they will occasionally get the better of me and have a mad run, but we aim for slow walking to maintain their muscle tone without excessively exerting their creaky joints.

Next most important I think is keeping them warm. For years, I have been laughed at by farming friends for “mollycoddling” my sheepdogs. If it’s wet and or cold, they wear fleece jumpers with arms and legs, covering their back, elbows, hips and necks to keep them extra warm, and I see a great difference compared to farm dogs who sit in vehicles soaking wet and then are kennelled. Perhaps I’ve just been very lucky over the years, but for the sake of an inexpensive fleece, I’m happily convinced there is a benefit.
Diet, is of course vital. They are all raw fed and thoroughly enjoy their Cotswold RAW and they are all slim. Before I “saw the light” and started raw feeding, I tragically lost my very first sheepdog to cancer at the age of 9. My most recent dog to pass was a month short of 17, and fit and well to the end.

At home, there are no slippy floors – the current fashion for wood and laminate floors is a real danger for dogs, especially when they are older. I spend a lot of time advising people on simple alterations or additions to prevent injuries such as rugs, avoiding slippy floors at corners, avoiding stairs and safe landings from furniture. The dogs’ own beds are raised and have a variety of surfaces so they can choose where to sleep (although the definite favourite is the sofa bed in the sitting room, especially if it’s left as a bed)

My own dogs have the opportunity to self select additions to their diet and also to choose essential oils, guided by Rachel Windsor Knott of My Animal Matters, and it is endlessly fascinating to me to see their changing needs.

Finally, they have acupuncture every other month with Lindsay Brazil of Cotswold Veterinary Acupuncture and a massage by Gemma Hodson of All About the Dog Therapies, both of which they thoroughly enjoy. You will be able to find a vet if this is of interest to you.
It’s a big change for me to have retired dogs and not have the pleasure of working together any longer, but we do lots of new activities. A quick search of Facebook will give you lots of groups to look at with ideas for gentle enrichment ideas, and they are great for keeping older dogs mentally and physically active, but without over exerting them.

It’s important for us to change our habits to reflect our dogs’ changing needs as they age, not easy, but very, very rewarding.