GUEST COLUMN: You can teach an old dog new tricks, by Rachel Butler, RSPCA
For National Old People's Day on October 1, I would like to give a big paw high-five to all the senior animals out there who make their owners happy every day.
I have an 11-year-old Westie at home. Even though he could give a puppy a run for his money some days, I do have to be mindful that his eyesight and his joints aren’t the same as they used to be, so I have to be careful that he doesn’t overdo things.
He is still a wonderful dog to have around. Sadly, rescue centres may find senior dogs harder to rehome and this makes me so sad, because they have so much love to give. If you are considering adopting a rescue dog, please do consider an older one and give them a second chance at life.
There are ways to ensure that your dog remains happy and healthy as they approach their mature years.
First of all, older dogs may need more rest. The ideal place for them to rest is somewhere quiet where they won’t be disturbed in a soft cosy bed, away from draughts.
But although they may be slowing down and wanting to rest more, senior dogs still need regular exercise and mental stimulation - walking them little and often will help keep their weight down and toys and puzzle feeders can keep them entertained. Consider getting a coat for them to keep them warm and dry when the weather gets colder and wetter.
It is a good idea to check them regularly for lumps and bumps, and gentle grooming would be one way to do this. As well as being an opportunity to check for anything abnormal, it is a good way to spend quality time with them.
Another thing worth mentioning is that, like humans, older dogs may have poor hearing and sight, so ask family members to avoid making sudden loud noises so that they don’t get startled. If you dog appears to be ignoring you, it could be because their hearing has deteriorated - ask your vet to check them over.
Having an older dog is very rewarding. They say: “You can’t treat an old dogs new tricks” - but this is not true at all. After getting a clean bill of health from the vets, my Westie started agility when he was ten and he picked it up much quicker than the younger dogs in his class!
There are so many older dogs in the RSPCA’s care looking for a home. Visit www.rspca.org.uk/findapet.