Tag Archives: old dogs

Keep old dogs feeling young

Fran’s Brussels Griffon Tango recently celebrated his 11th birthday. For some reason, in our minds, passing a decade moved him from the “middle-aged” category to “old dog.”

Picture of a Brussels Griffon, Tango, now an old dog.

We know that small dogs (Tango weighs a smidge over 14 pounds) generally have a longer lifespan than big ones, but our history with dogs, unfortunately, hasn’t reflected that. Our longest-lived dog was our Boston Terrier Daemon, who lived to be 16. Golly and Roc made it to 13, but we’ve lost dogs as young as eight. It’s never long enough, but we admit to feeling cheated more than once.

Nowadays we’re more conscious of what it takes to keep our old dog feeling young. Even though he’s retired from all competition, Tango still gets play-training sessions every day. Fran is careful that he “warms up” before doing any of the tricks he knows. 

Creaky old dog

Over the winter we noticed that Tango was having some trouble moving – getting going was an issue for him and he wasn’t holding himself up. Although he’s never been good at holding himself together. You know how some dogs, when they’re held, hold themselves up so their people just have to give some support? Tango flops. It’s like he pretends he has no bones when you’re holding him. So Tango gets to do some simple, fun exercises to help him stay in shape.

We use an inflatable balance disc for the exercises- but anyone can easily use a couch cushion to try it out. It “works” his legs and core, the most important bits to make sure this fuzzy creature can keep moving. 

The first sit and stand. That’s it. We tell him to sit, he does it, he gets a treat. Stand. Treat. Sit-treat. Stand-treat. About five to 10 times. It doesn’t sound like a big deal, but just doing it on an unstable surface like the inflatable disc or couch cushion makes it a workout for the dog’s core muscles. We were surprised that he seemed sore the day after we started. But we’ve seen a noticeable improvement in how fast he can get moving after a nap.  Just the smallest thing can make a difference.

We’ve added some other little exercises on the disc; circling it with all four feet on, front feet, back feet. That’s a good warm-up for Tango. And he loves it so much that, when it’s another dog’s turn, he complains about it from his crate. He thinks all the turns should belong to him!

New attitude

We’ve heard two schools of thought on introducing a puppy into a household with an old dog. One side says to leave the oldster to enjoy the peace and quiet. The other, which we dove into, says that puppies/young dogs keep them young.In all honesty, since Tango had let Fran know he was no longer interested in participating in dog sports, and really wanted no part of training classes, either, we thought he was setting himself up for a comfy retirement rocking on the porch. She even wrote a book about him: Tango: Transforming My Hellhound

Then Fran brought Boston Terrier puppy Simon home. And Tango loves him. Simon torments Tango endlessly, batting at his face, bouncing at him, nipping at his beard, even, at times, barrelling into him and knocking him over. We thought Tango would hate the little hooligan, who weighs four pounds more. 

Not so! Tango adores Simon. He seeks him out to sleep by him. He initiates the bouncing! We didn’t know Tango as a young puppy, since he was 11 months old when Fran got him. He’s never played with any of the other dogs. He never even seemed interested in the other dogs. Simon, he loves! Go figure.

Live long and prosper

All of the mental and physical exertion is, of course, in addition to seeing to his medical well-being. Fortunately, aside from occasional fold dermatitis and tendency to form crystals, Tango’s healthy as well as happy. At-home grooming regimen includes:

  • Brushing, which also lets us check for bumps and sensitivities
  • Tooth-brushing, which lets us check his teeth and gums
  • Fuzzy dog maintenance, trimming his “fuzzy slippers” until he can see a groomer again

Keeping our old dog young at heart is a privilege and a joy. His joie de vivre makes us happy every day. We hope your life is enriched with an old dog. And that all your dogs live to be creaky old complainers.

Dog mobility tips – Keep your dog moving in comfort

Getting old ain’t for sissies – either human or canine! Dog mobility issues can crop up at any time, due to age, injury, or illness. We want to do everything we can to alleviate pain and to make our dogs’ lives easier.

We’ve been fortunate in the past – none of our dogs really had major issues with getting around. Even our oldest dogs were able to maneuver with stairs or ramps to beds and couches. And, of course, one of the advantages we have with our small dogs is that we can carry them!

Age isn’t the only dog mobility issue

While none of our current dogs is “old” – just this summer Hope’s eight-year-old French Bulldog Teddy was diagnosed with Degenerative Myelopathy, the canine equivalent of ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, a.k.a. Lou Gehrig’s disease). He’s losing coordination in his hind end. This progressive, incurable disease will inevitably rob him of mobility.

So we’re learning all kinds of “tricks of the trade” for keeping Teddy’s independent mobility. His feet start sliding out from under him on wood or tile floors. So the decor at the house now includes not-very-stylish but extremely practical yoga mats in the Teddy-trafficked areas. A great find – if you have “Five Below” stores around you – yoga mats are, in fact, $5!

The mats aren’t practical everywhere – some areas are just too tight, or there are doorways that won’t clear over the mats, or they need to come up so we can vacuum and wash floors.

Boots can help

We’ve also used Pawz dog boots for Ted. If you ever search for “dogs in boots” on YouTube, you’ll see countless hilarious examples of dogs trying to walk without putting their feet down. The “get this thing off me” expressions are priceless.

Pawz aren’t like that. Dogs tend not to hate them as much because they can still feel the ground under their feet. The natural rubber allows traction without “losing touch.” We just put them on Teddy’s back feet. They can’t stay on for hours on end, but if he’s “helping” with the housework, it’s a solution that works.

Stairs and ramps

We already mentioned stairs and ramps. Teddy’s lost the ability to go up a regular flight stairs now, so we carry him up and down. He is able to negotiate pet steps and ramps, so those have taken the place of coffee tables and nightstands at our house.

stroller for dog mobilityTeddy is still able to walk, although he tires easily and his back legs start to shake. We got a stroller for him so he’ll never be left behind. In all honesty, Teddy was never all that fond of going for walks, anyway. He was always more of a “sit on the couch and eat bonbons” personality than an athlete. Torque, Hope’s other Frenchie, is a goer and doer. So Torque goes and does, and Teddy watches from his stroller “throne.”

Dealing with pain and anxiety

One of the things we all worry about with our ill or old dogs is pain. None of us want our best friends to suffer! The “good” part of Teddy’s Degenerative Myelopathy is no pain is associated with the disease. Apparently it just kills off the nerves, from back to front, but doesn’t cause pain.

At first, Teddy seemed distressed, almost frightened, when his back legs didn’t do what he wanted them to do. He’s never been a particular anxious dog, but we could see the confusion in his expression. Because it wasn’t a constant state, we didn’t want to start him on anti-anxiety medication. Instead, we chose to start him on CBD oil. We’ve talked about our decision to carry it here in the shop and the testimonials we’ve gotten from dog owners convinced us it was the right thing to do. Now we can add our own voices to the testimonials. Teddy is still himself, and his legs still fail him at times, but he accepts his life as it is and gets back to chewing on his chews, or playing with his brother, or just carrying on with whatever business he has.

More common issues dog owners face, like arthritis or disc disease, may involve pain as well as difficulty in getting around. We all love our dogs and most of us are willing to try whatever we can to make their lives happy and comfortable. Dog mobility is part of that equation.

Keep in touch!

Every dog owner makes decisions based on what’s right for his own dog and family. For now, we’re coping with Teddy’s mobility issues just fine. If we can help you, with questions you may have, with products you may need, please get in touch. We’re here to help.