Accommodating Older Dogs

A friend with an older dog called and said her dog was starting to stumble when going down the steps.  She thought the problem was related to hips or shoulders that could no longer handle the weight of the aging Rottweiler.

I remembered a Border Collie I had years ago.  When he was an older dog, he started to stumble each time he stepped down a step on the wooden deck to the bottom section of the deck.

Like my friend, I had initially thought the problem was related to my dog’s hips or shoulders.  After he stumbled a few times, I watched closely as Laddie went down the steps.  I noticed that he moved as though he didn’t see the drop-off coming.  “This is a vision problem,” I thought.

The boards on the two levels of deck all ran in the same direction and each board on the ground level was perfectly lined up with the board on the step above it.

Wanting to test the theory that we were dealing with a visual problem, I went and bought a piece of bright green indoor/outdoor carpet and covered the bottom level of the deck.  Now the two surfaces were dramatically different.  The next time Laddie came outside, he handled the steps with no problem at all.  The problem was solved.

Older dogs can continue to have a great life if we are willing to make a few modifications such as ramps, changing surfaces, and adapting physical activities to the senior dog’s needs.

Do you have, or have you had a senior dog?  How did you help your older dog through that stage of life?  Share your stories and tips in the comments.

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About Canine Good Citizen

AKC Canine Good Citizen Director, Author of the AKC's official CGC book, "CITIZEN CANINE"
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One Response to Accommodating Older Dogs

  1. Tamara says:

    I have 3 senior dogs and 1 almost senior (9 yo). It is best to not assume something as you pointed out (that it’s arthritis vs. something else). That’s why you want to always have a vet check because aging is not a disease, and I’ve found that often what I assumed to be aging was in fact something that could be easily remedied.
    One of my dogs seems to be losing her hearing so I clap a lot and use hand signals. Another dog stumbles a lot due to spondylitis so I make sure his path is clear as even stepping over a crate entrance can make him stumble if there’s also a water bowl there.
    I love senior dogs–they’ve done so well by us for all their years, so it’s important for us to make sure their senior years are as pain and stress-free as possible.

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