Willow and Chica at Sun-Oka beach in Summerland, BC
Okay, so maybe at 5 years old Chica isn’t a puppy anymore. But at 16, Willow definitely falls under the Old Dog category. And she’s got Chica beat by a whopping 11 years. And Chica still has the energy of a puppy, shocking most people who meet her when I say that she’s 5.
I got Willow as a tiny little puppy when I was 11 years old. She moved with me from Saskatchewan to Kelowna and has left my side as little as possible throughout the past 16 years. Her love for me borderlines obsession. I’ve got to admit, I feel like a bit of a fraud when I look at Willow’s eyes. I can tell that she is looking up at me as if I am the center of the entire universe.
Chica came along 5 years ago. She was an awkward little puppy from Mexico who I was fostering for Paws it Forward Dog Rescue. After going to a potential adopter and not mixing with the new family, I knew that Chica belonged with us.
While Willow is still surprisingly healthy for her age, the last few years have seen a definite change in my old girl. Especially this last year or so. She is totally deaf and losing mobility in her back legs – sometimes it just seems like they’re along for the ride. Willow also seems to get confused and ‘turned around’ sometimes, making me think she might have a mild case of doggy dementia or something similar. I am starting to learn how difficult it can be to have an old dog and a ‘puppy’ at the same time, and I’d like to share my experiences and offer some tips for anyone who might be in a similar situation.
How Walks Change With an Old Dog and a Puppy
Willow is a border collie mix, so she’s always had an abundance of energy and the ability to keep going and going. It’s been sad to watch her energy, mobility, and speed decline, and to have to start cutting our walks short. I don’t want to leave Willow at home, but I also want to make sure Chica gets enough exercise. I’ve started to accept the changes that are happening and here are some tips on dealing with this situation:
- Let your old dog tell you what she can do. I’ve learned to watch Willow more closely and I can tell when she is not enjoying herself and just wants to go home. Other days she is full of energy with a huge smile on her face, and I know that I can take her for a longer walk.
- Go on shorter walks more often. Instead of one big walk I try to take mine on one shorter walk in the morning and another after work.
- Go for a short walk with both and then continue with the younger dog. If you see that your old dog is fading you can turn back home, drop them off, and finish off a longer walk with the young pup.
- Off-leash walks. If you have access to some good off-leash areas then you can let your young dog run free and burn energy while you mosey along at your old dog’s pace.
- Consider a backpack, stroller, or wheelchair. If your old dog has gotten to the point where they can’t really walk but they still want to be outside, there are options. They’re not cheap, but seeing your senior dog continue to enjoy his time outside is priceless.
Most carrying devices are made for small dogs. Since Willow is 50lbs I went on the hunt for something big enough for her and found this. Problem is, it could take 40 days to get to me in Canada!
A wheelchair is another option I looked at, but shipping to Canada gets expensive!
Also check out Handicapped Pets Canada for harnesses, slings, splints, braces, wheelchairs and more.
Other Tips for Finding Balance With an Old Dog and a Young Pup
- Teach your puppy to respect its elders! The old dog should always get fed first, get their treats first, exit the door first (after you!) for a walk, etc.
- More frequent potty breaks. Your old dog probably can’t hold their bladder like they used to, or like their younger doggy sibling. Make sure that you are basing potty breaks on your old dog’s schedule.
- Make sure that feeding time is fair. Don’t let the young one gobble up your senior’s meals. And if you have to add something to your old dog’s dish (medicine, a supplement, etc.) then make sure that they are eating from the right dish.
- When I started adding the yummy Joint Formula to Willow’s dish suddenly Chica became more interested in eating from that one. I trick Chica by adding a little dribble of the Joint Formula to her food too so she sticks to her own dish.