Adventuring with Senior Dogs


I don't know who made up dog years or how they got stuck being multiplied by 7. It's just not fair. There too quickly comes a time when your BFF is slower to action or has a little hitch in their get-along. Now is not the time to go quietly into that good night! Gaze past the fog of cataracts into not a flicker, but a blaze of enthusiasm. Run your hand slowly through soft fur, over knobs and lumps. Feel that? That is the spirit of living in the "now". The selfless instinct to play the dealt hand and forge on. Yes, an unwavering heart is a good thing. But using your brain to structure alternate activities that will be safe and enjoyable for your dog is even more important. Jogging and hiking out? Or are they? Start thinking of creative alternatives or new opportunities to spend every bit of valuable time together.

Grab n’ Go

Harnesses are a great way to leash-up older dogs. Even better is a padded harness with a built-in human handle on the top and a tie-off point on the bottom. The Ruffwear harness is just about perfect. The handle comes in ahhh… handy for helping your dog get up, over, or across uneven ground. The tie-off point underneath can be used, with a carabiner and some rope, as a restraint for riding in the back seat or cargo area of you car. Seniors just can’t take the corners like they used to. So, something to keep them securely in one place will keep them from rolling around like a loose cantaloupe.

This is how we roll

Just cause they’re old, doesn’t mean you have to cut your excursions short or leave them behind after an obligatory spin out to the end of the driveway. Break out the red wagon or, better yet, something like the Burley Tail Wagon. Walk a little. Ride a little. You will be surprised how easy it is to train a tired dog to jump in their wagon and lay down on a soft bed while your hard work keeps the wind blowing under their ears. Another nice thing about a carrier like the Tail Wagon, is that it doubles as a crate with shade and security. It also opens up more opportunities for bigger excursions like taking the train into the city or biking long distances. Just remember, senior dogs can tire quickly but will hide their pain or exhaustion the best they can. Recognize when they need a rest or a drink before they do. They usually thank you for the good idea by quickly lying down or taking a drink.

Dining with your dog

With age comes refinement. In years past, this activity might have equated to an afternoon at Chuck E. Cheese's. Now you can slow down and relax like two old friends sipping espressos in the afternoon glow. Bring a bed along with you. Not the big puffy corduroy one from the living room. Try an old yoga mat or something that can be rolled and washed easily. Not only does a bed provide comfort, but it also indicates a "place" where your dog can stay safely out of the way. Pack a collapsible water bowl and fill it from your water glass. Don't forget to check with the establishment prior to entering to make sure you understand and can comply with their dog policy. Alert your server that you have a dog. You don't want them to unexpectedly feel a wet nose against their leg when they are serving you hot plates of food. Above all, be low-key. This is for your enjoyment, not everyone else's. You know you both did great if you hear "I did not even realize there was a dog down there," from other diners as you leave.

Don't be afraid to look different

Cast vanity aside and use handled harnesses, sweaters, wagons, non-slip socks or whatever else works. After all, your dog is not self conscious about their grapefruit sized lipoma. Embrace your freakiness and enjoy every day you can together.