Aging is an inevitable fact of life that can sometimes cause us to long for the days of our youth. But with age comes – hopefully – wisdom and an appreciation for what’s good in our lives. Our pets don’t have our level of knowledge about what lies ahead, and they can’t tell us what they are going through as they grow older. Some changes can indicate a medical issue, and some are just normal changes that can alter your pet’s behavior.
The average lifespan of dogs is around 7 to 14 years, but many canines live well past the average. Cats have a lifespan around 14 to 16 years, with many felines living into their 20s. Proper vet care, a premium quality diet like CANIDAE natural pet food, daily exercise, and mental stimulation can add years to a dog and cat’s life.
As responsible pet owners, we need to recognize when our four legged friends have reached their twilight years and understand that there will be changes which can affect their behavior.
Don’t we all marvel at the calm, focused demeanor of service dogs? My husband and I were being seated for lunch last week when I immediately noticed a giant Newfoundland calmly lounging under the bar. The dog wore a bright red “service dog” vest. My eyes traveled up to the gentleman sitting above the pup, eating his lunch, and I gave him a weak, polite smile. I didn’t want to gawk, but the dog captured my attention and it was hard to turn away.
Some time later when I was convinced the gentleman wasn’t looking, I stealthily pulled out my camera phone and snapped a photo. Don’t judge! Have you ever seen a Newfie service dog? It was a sight to behold. Congratulating myself on my sleight of hand, I snuck a look at the image. The photo was blurry. I’m clearly not cut out for the spy business.
I really wanted a closer look at this dog before the guy left, so I approached him, introduced myself and told him I was an avid animal lover and was mesmerized by his dog. He beamingly said she was one of only a handful of Newfoundland service dogs, told me about her special training, and allowed me to pet her. When I got up to leave, he said “Do you want to take another picture? I’m sure the first one didn’t turn out too well.” I laughed and told him I was trying to be sneaky. He confirmed that I need to keep my day job.
Although we often credit our dogs with capabilities far beyond their actual mental abilities, they do often seem as if they understand and respond to specific things we say. For example, when we spell words the same way we would in front of a small child in order to hide our meanings from them. Eventually a child grows old enough to understand what we are spelling, but a dog learns those words in very specific ways.
Dogs are not actually learning to spell the same way, even if it seems they suddenly understand and react to specific words spelled out in front of them. They make associations, and with constant repetition begin to associate certain words, sounds and letter sounds with any given situation such as a treat or other reward. They are clever animals and are aware of everything going on around them, but they process it differently than we do.
Take my dog Kira, for instance. One of her favorite games was chasing bubbles. If my daughter or I said the word “bubbles” Kira immediately went into an excited frenzy and raced to the door of the pantry where we stored our bottles of bubble liquid and the battery operated bubble blower that blew dozens of bubbles at a time for her to chase all over the yard until she was happily exhausted. Her tail would wag and all 100 pounds of her would bounce up and down impatiently waiting for us to get out the bubbles and go outside to play with her.
People have a variety of reasons why they dress their pet up in clothes. Some put a coat or sweater on their dog in the winter because he gets too cold without one. Others just think their pet looks cute in a costume. Some pets seem to enjoy all the attention they get when wearing clothes; there’s even a National Dress Up Your Pet Day. But from your pet’s point of view, is he really that excited about wearing clothes? There are things to consider when choosing clothing for dogs and cats, and signals your pet sends that will tell you if he’s comfortable or stressed out in his new getup. Dressing your pet in clothes can change his behavior.
I have a windproof/waterproof coat for each of my dogs to wear during heavy, wet snowfalls and when the temperature is below zero. Winter winds can be wicked where I live, and my dogs appreciate their coats. All except Keikei, my Border Collie mix. She is more of a hat and sunglasses kind of gal, and doesn’t like wearing a coat no matter how cold or snowy it is outside. Keikei is a high energy canine and can’t wait to get outside, but with her coat on she has trouble moving around and prefers to act like a statue. Her personality changes, and I know she feels uncomfortable and confined wearing a coat, so I don’t put it on her.
Border Collies are consistently among the top ten on those “smartest dog breed” lists, and they often rank number one depending upon who put the list together and the criteria used to assess canine intelligence.
What would happen then, when a Border Collie puppy gets adopted by a retired psychology professor with a penchant for scientific research and new discoveries in canine intelligence? Add to that, the man’s desire to help his smart dog unlock her full potential, so much so that he’s willing to devote four to five hours a day on training and teaching her?
The result is Chaser, a dog who knows more than a thousand words; that’s more than any other animal except human beings! Her trainer and constant companion is John Pilley, and he’s written a wonderful account of his experience with this incredibly intelligent dog in the book Chaser, Unlocking the Genius of the Dog Who Knows a Thousand Words.
I’ll never forget the day we met. I was living in that noisy place with lots of other dogs, sleeping on concrete. Lots of people came to that place. Most of them would look at me behind those bars and pass right by. Then on that fateful day, one of the workers came and took me out in the yard. He told me, “Petey (that’s what they called me there), we’ve got someone we want you to meet. Come on, big boy.”
And there you were, already out in the yard. You looked so pretty and white and dainty. And you smelled really good. You were fun to play with, too. Friendly, but you didn’t take any guff. You quickly let me know who was boss, and that was okay with me. We got along from the very beginning.
That was the best day ever. Meeting you has changed my life.
I love being your boyfriend. Your house is warm and you let me get up on the soft furniture. The food is good here too. I know you like me to wait until you have finished eating your CANIDAE before I start. It’s clear that you are the boss of me. That’s fine. There is always plenty to eat and drink. You are so good to me.
One of the best things about living with you is those two people who work for you. They feed us and pet us and clip our toenails. They take us for walks and car rides and runs in the woods. We even get to sleep in their bed. No more concrete floors! Thanks for letting me share them. I love you and our life together, Frosty. Thank you for everything.
A Valentine Message from Frosty to Al:
You’re a big, clumsy, stinky mess… but you’re my stinky mess. For many years it was just me, the humans and the cat. I didn’t mind being single, but being your girlfriend is more fun. When our people leave the house, I’m not alone. Well, I wasn’t really alone before but I can’t count the cat. He doesn’t like to play the same way that you and I do. See, that’s the thing: I like having someone to wrestle with and boss around. The cat won’t let me do that.
My favorite time together is when you and I are running free in the woods, racing each other at top speed. The wind blows our ears back while we playfully body slam each other, good-naturedly growling and snarling and yapping. Good times.
One thing I’d like you to work on, however, is your neediness. When the humans are petting me, you always run up and butt in. You push me out of the way and shove your head under their hand. And when I’m sitting on the couch curled up against one of them, you try to wedge in between us. Why must you be so desperate, Al? I find that a bit unattractive.
Otherwise, I appreciate you. When I hurt my leg you took such good care of me. You were attentive and concerned, you wouldn’t leave my side. When I tried to stand up and get around on three legs, you were right there, encouraging me to keep trying. You didn’t want to do anything that I couldn’t do. You didn’t even want to go out in the yard if I wasn’t there. I’m glad my leg is getting better but it certainly showed me how much you love me. You are a good dog, Al, and I’m glad to be your girlfriend.
The personal opinions and/or use of trade, firm, corporation or brand names, in this blog is for the information and convenience of the reader. Such use does not constitute an official endorsement or approval by CANIDAE® Natural Pet Food Company of any product or service to the exclusion of others that may be suitable. All opinions in this blog are those of the individual authors and not necessarily of CANIDAE® Natural Pet Food Company.