Should seniors downsize their dogs?

Should seniors downsize their dogs?

As dog trainers, we belong to quite a few dog training groups on social media. These are places where we, and other positive reinforcement trainers, can exchange ideas, pose questions, and get others’ advice for dealing with particular situations. 

This week a member of the group asked about methods she could use to help her clients, a couple in their 70s, get their dogs to stop pulling on lead. Especially since the dogs are a German Shepherd, a Viszla, and a German Shorthaired Pointer. And, according to the poster, the couple aren’t in robust health.

We have to admit that our first thought was – they have the wrong dogs. Which is sad, but probably true. These people may have had large sporting, herding, and hunting dogs throughout their lives. But maybe there comes a time when seniors should downsize their dogs.

Close to home

We’ve both reached significant birthdays that make us think about our future with dogs. We can’t imagine any time, ever, that we wouldn’t have dogs, train dogs, compete in the dog sports we love. 

But realistically, we have to think about the “what ifs” of dog care. If, heaven forfend, something happens, can we lift the dog? Carry the dog? Maneuver the dog into a vehicle?

As people who love the Mastiff breeds, we considered getting an English Mastiff. One of the deciding factors was knowing we’d never be able to lift them in case of emergency. It wouldn’t be fair to the dog.

Training for someday

Picture of a woman carrying a fawn French Bulldog to illustrate should seniors downsize their dogs

A funny thing about having dogs – you never make the same mistake twice. (You make all new ones!) Hope’s French Bulldog Teddy (pictured) was so cuddly and adorable that she carried him around – a lot. So much so that throughout his life he was constantly wanting “Up!” So she decided to minimize the carrying with Torque. She did, and it worked. He hates getting picked up. Consequently, Hope is no longer conditioned to haul around 30 lbs. on a regular basis.

That reminds us of a commercial we saw posted frequently during the holiday season. An older man was seen working out in his garden with successively heavier and heavier weights. His neighbors “tut-tutted” and thought he was crazy. The final scene was the heartwarming image of his lifting his granddaughter to place a star on top of the Christmas tree.

Lesson learned

We don’t know what the outcome of the older couple’s pulling dogs will be. But we think it makes sense to consider the size of the dog in relation to the health, and means, of the owner. And Hope’s started her own weight-lifting program. Just in case.

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2 thoughts on “Should seniors downsize their dogs?

  1. Carlene

    Oh yep, I can’t have a dog I can’t lift (and I live on the 2nd floor, so that means carrying up two flights if necessary). So it’s a lotta planks (& picking her up occasionally for fun; she is not amused) for me for now. She weighs about 7–8 pounds more than Olive, and it really makes a difference!


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