Life with a senior dog | How to take good care of your aging dog

Life with a dog offers many joys, from the silly puppy years to the (hopefully) obedient adult dog by your side. But one chapter in a dog's life deserves particular attention and care: the golden years. Senior dogs, with their gentle behavior and wisdom accumulated through years of companionship, bring a unique richness to our lives.

In this blog post, we celebrate the joys and address the challenges of life with a senior dog in collaboration with our talented ambassador Louise Sørensen from @junior_the_copenhagen_lab.

Louise, 46, currently has two Labrador Retrievers, Junior and Charlie, both from hunting lines. Junior joined the family when he was 4 years old, and in March 2024, he turns a proud 14 years old. Charlie became part of the family two years ago and is currently 4 and a half years old. Louise knew their previous owners and therefore knew exactly what she was getting into.

"They are both so easy, and I've been able to continue training them. They love to work, which is what the breed is known for." - Louise Sørensen

Challenges of life with a senior dog

As dogs age, various physical issues may arise. This is to be expected, and not all ailments necessarily affect the dog's quality of life. That being said, there are still things you as a dog owner can do to keep your senior dog healthy and happy for as long as possible.

To strengthen the dog in its old age, the most important thing is to regularly have it checked by a veterinarian.

"I do everything I can to take care of Junior. That means chiropractic care every month plus check-ups with a veterinarian who specializes in joints and bones, as needed." - Louise Sørensen

Depending on the breed's needs, you can seek out veterinarians who specialize in specific areas. This could be because the breed often has problems with the back or hips, or perhaps frequently suffers from eye diseases.

Something all dogs should have checked regardless of age and breed is their teeth.

"Good oral hygiene is extremely important, and Junior gets his teeth brushed every day." - Louise Sørensen

Another important factor that applies throughout the dog's life but particularly benefits in later years is weight.

"You go a long way by keeping your dog slim, giving it plenty of exercise, and at the same time taking care of them, as dogs are not always good at taking care of themselves." - Louise Sørensen

If the dog stays slim throughout life, the body is less burdened, and it will be at a lower risk of conditions like arthritis.

If you have an older dog, Louise's advice is to keep an eye on whether it changes behavior. In some cases, this may mean it's in pain, and then it's off to the vet for a check-up.

The importance of comfort for senior dogs

Labrador hunden junior ligger i sengen med tørredragt

Regardless of the weather, the dog needs to go out, even when they are older. However, senior dogs may react more sensitively to weather conditions than earlier in their lives, so it's important to be prepared with the right equipment.

To ensure Junior's comfort, especially on colder days, Louise uses various dog coats depending on the temperature. She has both fleece coats for cool walks and actual winter coats for the dog when it's extra cold. As soon as the temperature is above 8 - 10 degrees Celsius, Junior can do without a coat again.

Both Junior and Charlie lead active lives and love it. Over the years, they have gone on long walks and even hiked in the mountains when vacationing in Switzerland.

"They love being outdoors like me, and that's what I love about the breed too. As soon as the weather permits, there's a lot of swimming on the beach and also at the harbor in Copenhagen." - Louise Sørensen

The Labrador is a breed known for being somewhat of a water dog, and neither Junior nor Charlie can resist jumping into the water whenever the opportunity arises. However, it can create problems for the dog to be wet and cold for a longer period, making it important to dry the dogs effectively.

"Both my dogs love water, and since we live in an apartment in the city, I use both drying coats and drying mats from Siccaro, and have done so since they came on the market. It's important that the dogs dry quickly, and on cold days, they don't freeze when wet. It's wonderfully easy, and also prevents them from making a mess in the apartment. I use both the coats and mat in the car too." - Louise Sørensen

Activities with older dogs

With two dogs so far apart in age, it can sometimes be a challenge in terms of exercise. Here, Louise sometimes separate them.

"I walk the dogs separately since they both require different things on the walk. Most of the time, one dog waits in the car while I walk the other, and they also have the coats on in there to keep warm while they wait. In the car, I often use Recovery coats, as they also keep them warm." - Louise Sørensen Two labrador dogs on the FlexDog drying mat
Junior has required much more consideration than Charlie since he turned 12, after which Louise began to notice the onset of old age. This means he needs more rest and more time, while Charlie might prefer to burn off energy at full speed.

"We still go for 1-hour walks, but it's entirely at Junior's pace. He sniffs more and only runs when he gets to the beach or when it's snowing. Our morning walk is usually 1 hour, where he sniffs and then searches for treats." - Louise Sørensen

Good advice for you with a senior dog

The best advice Louise would give to other dog owners with senior dogs is to enjoy the time you have left. Even though it can bring many worries, Junior still has plenty of joy to give.

"We enjoy the small things more and just being together. When you've had a dog for so long, they're almost a part of you, and you know each other inside and out." - Louise Sørensen

She also believes that the best thing you can do for an older dog is to keep it active to a degree that suits it.

"Junior is almost deaf, and he suffers from wear and tear in his back, which has weakened his hind legs, so he needs to be looked after, but it's still important to keep him active so he doesn't lose muscle mass. Overall, it's a fine balance, so he has the best life." - Louise Sørensen

If you're considering getting an adult dog instead of a puppy, like Louise did, her best advice is to make sure you know what you're getting into. Possibly by having the dog over for a trial weekend, so you can sense whether it fits into your family's everyday life.

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