No pressure

Something pretty common with older dogs, especially those that have spend significant time outside on the cement is the occurrence of pressure sores.

Like any existing injury, should it change or the pet start paying more attention to it, it's best to check in with your vet.

The best way to deal with them, is to avoid them altogether by giving your old pal a softer place to lay on outside.

Here's an interesting article I found on the topic:
Heal Your Dog's Elbow Callus

Why adopt an older dog?

I recently had someone at work ask me why I would get a dog so old, although I suspect the question was really, 

"Why did I adopt an older dog?"

Quite simply, I did it because they deserved a second chance, I wanted a dog, and I felt I could handle the challenge and expense.

Adopting in spite of the challenges a senior dog brings

Senior dogs do come with baggage, but honestly, some handle it much better than others. My pal Boo Boo, for example, was afraid of everything when I got him. I couldn't put my foot up to block him from going out the door first without him cowering like he was going to be kicked. For some dogs, trust doesn't come easy. It was probably six months before I noticed that he wagged his tail for the first time.

Potential Expenses are just that Potential

The expenses can get up there quickly. Not in every case, and sometimes not until the very end. I'd venture that breed, size, and how well they're taken care of play big factors in these areas. As an adopter, you should do the research to understand the types of financial resources to take care of a dog of any age. Senior dogs do have their share of health related issues, however, these can happen with dogs of any age. Plan ahead, consider taking out pet insurance, and make sure that you're all in it for the long haul.

Consider the adoption an exercise in patience, because you may need it when working with a dog more set in their ways

Patience is another big factor. Some dogs are stubborn, and none more so than some older dogs. I've been lucky in that once we achieved a certain degree of trust, that my dogs have had an open mind about working with me. It may very well be that older dogs are so set in their ways that they take longer to train, so patience is something that I've had to learn when dealing with challenges. On the dog's side, the biggest challenge would appear to be, at least from what I've read in the many ads for older dogs on, is that they recommend the older dog, being an only dog. I could definitely see that and would never recommend dropping a puppy in with an old dog, who is more interested in sleeping than jumping around and playing all day.

Older dogs have had their share of experiences, including training

That said, older dogs are frequently house trained, and are usually eager to please their new owners (at least in my case). With Rusty, this has translated into me teaching him a variety of new tricks and skills, the most important being "Leave It". We still have a ways to go, but with persistence (and the occasional treat... OK sometimes more than occasionally) he's learning all sorts of new things and is much less of the madman that I adopted.

As far as I'm concerned, there will always be an older dog in my house for all of these reasons, as well as knowing that I'm giving a voice to someone who cannot speak for themselves. 

Roadkill - It's what's for breakfast

In my quest to work on "Leave It" with Rusty, we were testing it out on a dried up squirrel carcass that was in the road that he's been interested in for the last week.  Unfortunately I've learned that there are some limits to my training skills. 

Before I stop him, he snatched up the squirrel skin and was going to make a meal of it.  Somehow I was able to get all but the end of its tail away from him. 

We've got some work to do on "Leave it" and "Drop it".

Sometimes you can teach an old dog new tricks

Rusty's a trouble-maker. He doesn't get along with other dogs. He's aloof. He's got aggression problems.

These are just a few of the things that I heard that others said about Rusty, my 9 year old German Shepherd/Akita mix. Lucky for me his foster dad saved him from being put down in the shelter or I would never had the chance to prove everyone wrong.

Back two months ago when I got him, I might have even thought some of those things were true, but it became obvious early on that it was more nerves than anything that were causing what appeared to be aggression brought about his nervousness.

Each dog is different, but the most important thing that I've learned is that you first need to build trust. Trust and not letting behaviors of the past control the future. Sure, there were times when there was a bit more barking than I would have liked, but almost immediately, we had a very tight bond. I would say within a few days he was pulling a lot less on his chain and had chilled out around the house so that meeting other dogs became possible.

Now, don't get me wrong... this was a bit of a stretch for me, reintegrating an 80 lb. alpha dog back into his place in society. 

First, we set up some ground rules for my new senior dog:

1. No meeting dogs that were too anxious - Common sense and the results are that we're on our walks, when we see other dogs like that and I don't give him the signal to move to the other side of me, 4 times out of 5, he's avoiding them anyway.

2. Always meet face-to-face - This was a little bit easier said that none, considering there are folks who interpret the leash laws differently than we do. Two or three times I've had to turn him around to face a charging dog that wanted to meet us. Every time, but once the other dog stopped well short of us when we faced them. Almost every time the owners of the other dogs (those that weren't on a leash) had no control of their animals and couldn't get a response after 3-4 times calling them. Very uncool and irresponsible.

3. Be ready for anything - They're still dogs. I'm in no way a professional trainer and I certainly don't have a dog's senses that tell it when another dog is anxious or not. The plan was to play it cool, calm, and alert.

To date, I'd say that we've met on average one new dog every day and in most cases we've all had very positive experiences, and after seeing the same dog 2-3 times, Rusty and the other dog usually just pass each other wagging their tails.

Now, that's not every case, and I'll get into how I could have done a better job in some of those instances in other posts, but reinforcing socialization every single day, including knowing when not to socialize, has paid off in a big way, so much so that we can pass barking dogs on the other side of a fence without so much as an acknowledgement.

It starts with an ending

Three and a half years ago he found me looking for a dog at an event in the Encinitas Petsmart. I didn't go there looking for him. I already had another dog in mind, but that one didn't fit the bill.

"He needs a yard to run around in," the volunteer told me. At the time I was disappointed, but there were plenty of other dogs there, fortunately, I never got the chance to look at another one. "Can you you hang around for a few minutes," the volunteer asked. "I think your dog is on the way."

My dog? My dog. I was intrigued, but here I am three and a half years later and there was never really any doubt that a nine year old flat-coated retriever/border collie mix would have made such a difference in my life. There were plenty of reasons why I shouldn't have taken him home, and he wouldn't have minded one bit, but I did.

Two months back I laid my friend to rest after three and a half years of adventures that neither of us could have imagined. I'm grateful for the great times we had and that well before the end I had figured out exactly what the criteria were for determining the time was right to say goodbye. I miss him terribly, but I'm glad knowing he's in a better place now and that he went there without me prolonging his suffering to lengthen our time together.

This blog is for Boo Boo and for my new senior buddy, Rusty, and all of those senior dogs that make a difference in their owners' lives.