Puppies for seniors? Is it a good idea?

As people get older, many “dog people” have concerns about adding a new puppy or dog to the household. There are ways be certain that your dog will be cared for forever. Puppies and seniors are a great combination.

It’s possible a new dog will outlive me. Is it fair to get a dog?

It’s not only fair – it’s a great idea! There are lots of ways to be sure your dog will be taken care of in the event something happens to you. Make sure you have your instructions in place, via a will or letter of instruction. You can even designate someone with power of attorney specifically for your pet.

Will breeders even talk to an older person about getting a puppy?

Of course! Yours may be the perfect home that every good breeder wants for their puppies! You’re financially stable, responsible, and have plenty of time to spend with your dog. Puppies and seniors are a great combination. And reputable breeders, in any breed, will have their puppy buyers sign a contract legally binding the owner to return the dog if something happens and the owner is unable to keep the dog. A dog from a responsible breeder will always have a home. 

What if I really don’t want a puppy? What are my options for older dogs?

Puppies require a lot of work and energy. And there are many older dogs waiting for “forever families” in rescues and shelters. It’s a good idea to research any shelter or rescue carefully – make sure the shelter or rescue will welcome the dog back if something unforeseen should occur.

Are there other options for seniors who want adult dogs?

Absolutely! Consider becoming involved as a “foster home” for dogs from your local shelter or preferred breed rescue in your area. In most fostering situations, the rescue picks up all the bills for the dog while it acclimates to life in a normal home situation. Some shelters and rescues encourage “foster failures” and allow the foster home to adopt the dog. Others have rules that don’t allow it, so do your research before you commit.

What if I really want a pure-bred dog?

We understand entirely! With a pure-bred dog, you know the size, type of fur, general disposition, and health concerns of the breed. Although, as we know, every dog has its own, unique personality! If you’d like an older dog of a particular breed, reach out to the parent club of your breed. Find the Breeder Directory (most breed clubs have them) and reach out to breeders in your area. Responsible breeders may have adult dogs that have been retired from their breeding programs and may be available to be spoiled, only dogs in your home.

New dog dilemma

Just this week we talked to a couple of people, life-long dog people, who had dilemmas about welcoming a new dog into their families.

The first woman came into the shop looking for a gift for a friend’s new puppy, which is what started the conversation. She recently lost her beloved mixed breed “malti-poo” after 16 years. She said she’d love to get another dog, but didn’t want to obligate her children to care for a dog if it outlived her. Especially since her dog had lifelong health issues that required careful management. She is exactly the kind of owner that any responsible breeder would welcome as a puppy buyer.

Maltese puppy

She had no idea that responsible breeders strive to eliminate the health issues her dog faced by doing extensive health testing on the dogs in their breeding programs. Or that good breeders will always be available to support their puppy buyers throughout the dog’s life. She left the shop with a plan to contact the American Maltese Association and set about finding a wonderful companion.

So much wrong

The second person called us by mistake, looking for a “board and train” facility for her 10-week old puppy. We were really happy she made the mistake – we were able to help.

At first, we were kind of appalled by how many things were wrong with the question. There’s a lot to unpack here.

First: you don’t board a 10-week old puppy. Research has shown that most puppies shouldn’t even leave their litters until two weeks later. 

Next: “Board and Train” is a terrible idea. Unless you know the trainer very well and have a long-established relationship with that person. And not even then. Search “board and train reviews” or “dog boot camp reviews” and read the horror stories. If you’re not there, how do you know that person who “gets great results” isn’t slapping a torture collar on your dog and zapping her into compliance? It gets results. And changes your dog’s personality forever.

As long-time dog trainers we know that dogs obey the person who trained them. And you’re missing out on one of the great joys dog ownership if you’re not playing training games with your dog. 

Onward: the family is scheduled to pick up the puppy on October 10 and leaving town for a family wedding on October 18. They’ll be gone a week. 

Naturally, we advised them to just call the puppy’s breeder and ask them to hold the puppy until they get back in town. This shouldn’t even be an issue! Any responsible breeder would be happy to accommodate! 

It turns out they’d already asked the breeder of their “Berna-doodle” to hold the puppy. And they wouldn’t. The “breeder” is the one who suggested “board and train.”

So wrong on so many levels

We were horrified and probably gasped audibly. This isn’t a responsible breeder. This is the owner of two fertile dogs looking to make as much money as possible without regard for any of the dogs. 

So we asked the caller why she chose that kind of dog. She said, “My husband’s allergic.” We probably gasped again. Anyone who claims that a mixed-breed dog will have a particular kind of fur is a liar. Bernese Mountain Dogs shed like crazy, some drool like nobody’s business, and are the last dog an allergic person should consider. Did you get the “best” genetics from your parents? Neither does your dog. It’s a mixed bag that only time will reveal.

Sadly, the poor woman caller was sniffling by this time – at a loss to know what to do. Under the circumstances, with all that we’d talked about, we advised her that the smartest thing to do would be to walk away from this situation. This wasn’t the time, or the puppy for them. 

Do your homework

And that’s possibly the best advice for anyone looking to get a dog. Do your research. Find a responsible breeder. Devoted to rescue? Delve deep into the ethics and reputation of any organization you’re considering supporting. 

A pet is the only family member you get to choose. Do your research and get the ideal dog for you. With luck you’ll spend more than a decade together. Don’t settle.

Welcome to the Naughty Dog club!

Do you have a naughty dog? Welcome to the club!

Not to name-drop (which we’re actually not going to do), but we know some of the top dog-sport competitors in the country. In a variety of sports; obedience, rally, agility, etc. Some are friends, some friendly acquaintances, some we nod and smile when we see.

Every single one of them is a member of the Naughty Dog Club, too!

They’re dogs!

Our first “Aha!” naughty club membership moment came a few years ago when a friend, one of the highest-achieving obedience competitors we know, admitted that her dog jumped on the dinner table, while she was eating, and begged for food. To protect her identity, we’ll just say that, naturally, her naughty dog was a toy breed. Just sayin’.

That’s when we realized that even the most competent trainers, world-class dog sport competitors, all have naughty dogs – just like you and us. There are times when their dogs are brilliant in public. And there are those private moments when we just sigh, or laugh, or throw our hands in the air. 

Everyone has a story

One of our favorite “naughty dog” stories happened quite a few years ago. We had a Boston Terrier named Daemon, a very well-mannered gentleman, most of the time. 

It was Memorial Day and the family gathered around the kitchen table, enjoying an adult beverage, catching up with each other, and waiting for the grill to heat up. The sirloin steak was waiting on the table, seasoned and ready to go on the grill. 

Boston Terrier Daemon the naughty dog
Daemon

Daemon was sitting on the breakfast nook, as he always did, watching the conversation like it was a tennis match. With the utmost delicacy, he reached over, sank two teeth into the steak, and started dragging it over. 

At first, we were too flabbergasted to react! Our perfect “gentleman” was attempting Grand Theft Steak right in front of our noses!

We were laughing too hard to yell at him. So we rescued the steak (yes, we still ate it!), grilled it, and Daemon got some. Crime does pay, after all!

Every dog is naughty

You’re not alone – every dog has moments of indiscretion! Some are funny, like Daemon. Others are frustrating.  Or infuriating. Or just aggravating. When Hope’s Teddy decided it was bedtime, he caterwauled until everyone knew about it. And usually got his way. He had an uncanny built-in alarm clock – it was usually time.

Those odd naughty dog moments are the ones that stand out. They’re the fabric of your special dog’s personality, the times that bring a smile to your face long after that beloved dog is gone. We’d love to know your “naughty dog” stories! Won’t you share?

Should you neuter your dog? Latest data says not so fast!

What were the benefits of early neuter supposed to be? 

The most obvious one is fewer puppies. Other purported benefits include: lessening aggressive and/or marking behaviors, minimizing chances of reproductive-system cancers, and avoiding messy heat cycles.

Has early neutering worked?

Well, yes and no. According to our friends in the rescue/shelter world, there are fewer dogs in shelters. However, the dogs that are in shelters are more likely to have behavioral and/or health issues. As dog owners have become more responsible over the past 40 years, shelter dogs are products of neglect, abuse, and irresponsible pet ownership. Fewer “nice” dogs are available for adoption from shelters and rescues. And the backlash against responsible breeders has made purpose-bred, mentally- and physically-sound dogs harder to find and less accessible to the average person. They simply don’t know where to turn for a nice pet, not a “project.”

What are the negatives of early neutering?

Recent studies have shown that neutering before maturity can cause orthopedic issues for dogs. More research is being done, but it seems that the hormones are needed to signal the dogs’ bones to stop growing. This can lead to problems like cranial cruciate rupture,hip dysplasia, and patellar luxation. 
There have also been links found between early neuter and an uptick in other cancers, including mast cell tumors, lymphosarcoma, and hemangiosarcoma. 
Additionally, the supposed behavioral benefits of early neutering have come under question. The research actually suggests the opposite – neutered dogs are actually more aggressive than intact animals. Neutered dogs also proved to be more excitable, fearful, and exhibit other less-desirable behaviors.

This is personal

It was a nervous week here at Golly Gear. Torque, Hope’s 4-year-old French Bulldog went under the knife for removal of a growth on his privates, and neutering surgery. The decision when, or even if, to neuter your dog is more difficult these days as the body of research grows.

Any kind of medical procedure on our dogs (or us!), especially surgery, is worrisome. Especially when you have a flat-faced dog like a Frenchie. And especially when the dog has never had anesthesia before. Even though we’ve known our veterinarian for years and trust her completely, it’s always a concern.

Brindle French Bulldog recovering from neuter surgery
Torque resting at home after surgery.

We’re happy to report that Torque came through with flying colors. He was a little groggy the first night and definitely not a fan of the “no food” surgical aftercare. The next morning, with breakfast on board, he was pretty much back to his usual self. He’s having a mini-vacation from rough-housing with the other dogs and training classes, but otherwise fine.

But we have to admit – if it weren’t for the mass on his “bits,” Torque would still be intact and likely would have stayed that way the rest of his life. Our attitude has shifted on the value of neutering dogs. Just like it shifted before.

Back in the olden days

Our first family dog was Spunky, a Boston Terrier who came into our lives in 1967. To the best of our knowledge, our mom never even thought about getting him neutered. It wasn’t routine, or automatic. At that time, according to the National Institutes of Health, a quarter of the dog population was “roaming the streets (whether owned or not) and 10 to 20-fold more dogs were euthanized in shelters compared to the present.”

Then, over the course of the next couple of decades, attention was focused on the overpopulation of dogs and cats and public opinion changed. Neutering became the “norm” – recommended for all pets as soon as they were about six months old. 

With the rise of the “adopt, don’t shop” movement, neutering started even earlier. Animals weren’t allowed to leave shelters unless they had already undergone the surgery. Now the consequences of that shift are coming to light and the results are a mixed bag.

What’s the take-away? Should I neuter my dog?

As always, it’s a decision that only you and your veterinarian can make, keeping in mind your situation, and your particular dog. While searching for answers, be aware of the source of the material you’re finding – many groups have biases. As critical thinkers, our job is to sort the wheat from the chaff, and take into account the writer’s point of view. 

For us, the choice was pretty clear. Torque is four years old, already mature. He’s done growing. As a matter of fact, the only thing that was growing was the mass on his scrotum. We weighed our options and made our decision based on the information available to us. It’s the best we can do.

Fence fighting isn’t fun at all

Fence fighting. It’s not fun. No one likes it. And no one wins.

Until the last couple, we haven’t had a next-door dog for more than 20 years. It’s been a huge learning curve. Mostly learning to look out back to see if our next-door neighbor’s dog is there before we go outside with our own pups.

Chloe is mostly a black Labrador Retriever. Unlike most Labs we’ve known, she’s not a very nice dog. If she sees us, or our dogs, she charges the fence, barking ferociously.

We have no idea what kind of training her owners have done, but they do have her under control when they’re outside with her. After her initial charge, they’ll call her and she goes to them. And, aside from watching us and our dogs constantly, she obeys.

The problem with Chloe is twofold – her owners are rarely out with her. She’s left out in the yard on her own for seemingly hours at a time. And, when she’s there, she spies on us. You can just see an ear and an eye watching around the corner of the house.

We’ve taken to calling her “creepy dog.”

No Angels

Of course, our dogs aren’t blameless in this contretemps. Tango and Torque are the worst offenders. Both are back-yard barkers. Tango will let out an initial bark, but after we tell him to be quiet, he usually does. He also doesn’t see all that well anymore, so we think he relies on the other dogs for his “Danger, Danger!” signals.

French Bulldog lying in the grass

Torque, on the other hand, has a single-minded obsession with Chloe that’s hard to fathom. And to deal with. He’ll race to the shared fence to see if she’s out (we’ve already checked – she’s not). Then, depending on how badly he has to eliminate, he’ll stand there, staring into our neighbor’s yard, until we insist he knock it off and get down to business.

Behavior Options

There are always three choices when dealing with dog behaviors:
Ignore
Manage
Train

Ignoring the fence-fighting isn’t really an option. It wouldn’t end, it would escalate and behavior would further deteriorate over time.

And despite extensive research, we haven’t been able to find any effective method for training without the cooperation of the other party. We haven’t asked, but based on their lack of response to friendly overtures, we’re guessing our neighbors wouldn’t be on board with a training program that would require their engagement over the course of a few weeks. So that’s out.

What’s left

So we’re left with the only other option – managing our own dogs’ behavior to keep the peace and at least limit the fence fighting. Our dogs now go out, in their own backyard, on collar and leash, practicing attention exercises all the way. If Chloe is present (sometimes she hides around the corner so we don’t spot her), Torque immediately goes back in the house. If we have an “all clear,” the leashes can come off and we can enjoy our own yard, at least for a little while.

One of the consequences has been having our dogs become increasingly reactive to any activity in any yard they glimpse along our block. We live in a congested, urban environment, so there are at least six or eight yards we can see parts of. They used to ignore human activity in all of them. Now? They notice. A casual “knock it off” command still works if they see people. If they’re amped up after a Chloe sighting – we have to retreat back in the house.

If anyone has ideas on how to improve the situation, we’d love to hear them! In the meantime, we’re saving up for a privacy fence.