Winkie Spiers works professionally as a dog trainer and behaviour consultant and Bowen Technique therapist for both people and dogs. With over 15 years experience in dog training and public speaking. In addition Winkie speaks at seminars and conduct workshops in the UK and abroad on a variety of canine subjects for both professionals and members of the public. Her first book ‘How To Handle Living With Your Dog’ was published in 2008 by ShortStack Publishing.
Honorary Member and current Chair of PDTE (Pet Dog Trainers of Europe).
Full Member of APDT (Association of Pet Dog Trainers), ABTC (Animal Behaviour and Training Council), BTPA (Bowen Therapists Professional Association), ECBS (European College of Bowen Studies) and Association of INTO dogs.
Investigating the Use of Commands
MAKING LIFE EASIER FOR PUPPIES AND OLDER DOGS Winkie Spiers
©2017 Dogsymposium Holland
It’s important to meet the individual needs of a dog, especially when they are young or getting older. In these stages of a dog’s life more problems can occur. Most clients of dog trainer and dog behaviour consultant Winkie Spiers have questions about their puppy or elderly dog. These dogs have a greater need to feel safe, get overtired very easily due to health issues such as pain, too much training or lack of coordination. Winkie explains how we can help our puppies and elderly dogs to have a happy and safe life.
The amount of sleep will vary and change during a dog’s life. Puppies and elderly dogs need more sleep than an adult dog: at least 18-20 hours on a daily basis. Because dogs are polyphasic sleepers, they need to be able to lie in all sorts of ways: stretched out, curled up, with or without a blanket. Therefore they need a variety of beds with a choice of places and different surfaces to lie on, help to get up or down (steps or ramps), something to support their head, and a higher place to sleep to meet the greater need to feel safe. Puppies and elderly dogs are less able to regulate their body temperature, they often need a blanket and shouldn’t sleep near strong smells, noise, draught or heat.
Dogs are social sleepers, they like to be close to people and other dogs. Companionship is important, especially for a puppy and elderly dog. But stroking not always is a good idea, for instance if a dog is in pain.
Puppies and elderly dogs can’t coordinate their body movements as much as an adult dog. You have to be sure they have easy access to the toileting area and drinking water is close to the sleeping area. Also be prepared that older dogs can become incontinent. Puppies and elderly dogs do sleep a lot, and need a quiet place to sleep where they can feel safe, they also like to chew and do things.
Food and chewing
Give your dog choices in what he wants to eat, especially when a dog is young or getting older. The metabolism of a dog changes throughout his life, blood sugar level can be more variable and sometimes lower than in an adult dog. Feeding puppies and elderly dogs, therefore is a delicate matter. When a puppy is changing teeth, his food can’t be too hard. Be sure your puppy gets enough food during this period and doesn’t get hungry. Older dogs can be losing teeth and need less food when their activities decrease. But they do need enough nutrients, so be sure they get a complete meal even if it’s less than before. Be aware that you might need to raise your food and water bowls when a dog gets older. He may get problems bending over.
Social chewing is important for young and old dogs. Older dogs are just as curious as younger ones, people tend to forget that. But older dogs also need a variety of things to explore and chew on. Dennis, one of Winkie’s own dogs, her golden oldy which is 16 years of age, even spends more time sniffing and chewing when he gets older. He can sniff on an object for up to 4 minutes. A puppy on the other hand, needs more time to sniff to be able to understand what he is sniffing.
Movement and coordination
Asking too much of your puppy or elderly dog can cause pain, injuries and stress. When a young dog is growing up, he can’t control his limbs the way an adult dog can. Muscles need time to develop. An older dog can be in pain, this affects his coordination and movement. Treat search or a treat tree can be a great help to develop coordination or keep an elderly dog moving in a suitable way. It’s much better than physical movements or physiotherapy. Just exploring can be great fun. Brain, body and the connection between neurones all need time to develop or recover. Be sure your floors aren’t slippery and the steps are suitable for your dog. For her old boy Dennis, Winkie made special new stairs with deeper and lower steps, so Dennis still is able to access her garden.
Such changes at home can make your older or younger dog feel safe. Unfortunately it often is very hard to convince people to make these permanent changes at home, which can be a permanent solution for all ages. Think again about the need for companionship: you don’t want to isolate your dog from the rest of the family, just because he can’t move properly in the current situation, do you?
The need for exercise changes when a dog gets older. He might walk more slowly, stop more often and needs to rest. If this is difficult for you as a dog owner to get used to, try to do some exercises yourself when your dog needs a pause. Don’t rush or pull the leash. Walk slowly at your dogs pace and try to find some soft surfaces, like grass, to walk on. This may be easier for your older dog.
Think about the quality of the time you spend together, don’t focus on quantity. And remember: when your dog has a good day and tends to walk longer, you always have to get back. So don’t overdo things. Your dog has to recover after a busy time. Keep things calm, you might mask tiredness with high adrenaline. For instance when you usually have many visitors at home, try to change the amount of visitors. It might be too tiring for your dog. However, excitement is not always stress. Being exited can be fine, we need it, but not all the time. Imagine yourself winning the lottery, this stress makes you happy. But winning the lottery everyday isn’t.
Puppies need safe and appropriate encounters as much as elderly dogs do. Young dogs should be able to learn from these situations and elderly dogs should be able to cope with the situation. Social walks are a great opportunity for both younger and older dogs to feel safe, they are able to explore at their own pace.
You don’t want younger dogs to experience negative emotions during encounters, they might carry these emotions with them their whole life. Same for elderly dogs. A slippery floor, glass door, sharp corners, chemicals and strong smells can cause a negative experience. Please, avoid them. Younger and older dogs don’t always regulate their temperature very well; they can either be too hot or too cold. Be sure you can give them a blanket or colder place to lie down. Regular health checks are needed for both younger and older dogs, their bodies develop and change all the time. Therefore they are more vulnerable. Remember: when you are visiting your vet be sure you are travelling in a safe way and the vet is willing to examine your dog on the floor. A nice relationship with the vet is very important, otherwise the regular health checks will cause massive stress.
Winkie cannot stress enough the importance of looking after your dogs health. In puppies the immune system is developing, while in older dogs the immune system may be compromised and prone to downhill quickly. Puppies do experience growing pains and older dogs can have other general pain issues, such as osteo arthritis. Common health issues are: worms, kennel cough, allergies, vomitting, fleas – puppies and older dogs may be worse affected. If a dog is keeping his head down or to the side, you for instance, can see a dog is in pain. It also is useful to handle and touch your dog on a daily basis. That way you can feel lumps, bumps, etcetera.
Body therapies also can be a great help. Winkie, a Bowen therapist herself, has her dogs massaged every month. Not by herself, because she is convinced she is not objective enough. Both younger and older dogs are more prone to choke. A regular health check can help to find the cause(s). Ensure that while grooming, clipping the nails, this is a non-stressful situation, not painful, not exhausting, and use comfortable equipment.
All dogs need to go to the loo when they feel like it, especially older dogs. They tend to forget what they do, can have trouble holding on or have difficulties in the coordination between body and mind. Also their digestive system changes, or they can be too tired to walk to their toileting area. When too much is going around, they can get confused and maybe forget where the door is. Therefore you need to keep things the same as much as possible. If a dog has hip problems they tend to walk when they poo. They are not able to keep the squatting position. This will affect their digestive system. Older dogs also tend to get incontinent. Unfortunately a lot of older incontinent dogs are euthanized because off that, but incontinence can be helped with therapy. Not many people know this.
Observe and keep your dog healthy
Observation is the key to keeping your dog healthy, young and old. Watch sleeping patterns, toileting habits and movement of your dog. Observe how your dog gets up and moves about generally. It allows you to see the changes in his behaviour. An older dog can be likely to stare, react quickly, slow or inappropriately. They can be frightened, confused and have a different reading of the situation. Younger dogs need more time to get used to new things. Therefore it’s important to meet the individuals needs of your dog, young or old. Be prepared to change the routine at home, observe in an objective way, empathise, ask opinions of others and make a video registration if you are in doubt. But foremost: enjoy and learn. Dogs can teach us so much. And they continue to teach us if we listen throughout their lives.
There is no reason why dogs shouldn’t live longer. They are now living 10-11% less long compared to 10 years ago. Which means we are doing a lot wrong. We should start listening to our dogs again.
© Images: Winkie Spiers