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Can You Hunt an Aging Dog?

by Dave Carty   |  December 13th, 2012 4

With proper care, you can still hunt your aging dog.

It seems like yesterday that your dog was a puppy bouncing happily on your lap. Now, when he looks up at you, you can see the age in his eyes.

The problem is, he doesn’t know he’s old. He wants to hunt as much at 10 as he did at one. As a conscientious owner, should you let him? You bet! But a little common sense and prevention can go a long ways toward making his last days afield enjoyable.

First, keep him in shape. Running, swimming, fetching Frisbees—whatever he enjoys should be continued. You should, of course, allow for the inevitable loss of strength and endurance that come with age, but as long as your dog is enjoying himself, let him run.

Give him a good workout, keep him well hydrated if it’s hot, and then let him have all the time he needs to recuperate. Seniors can’t, and shouldn’t be, exercised to exhaustion. But you’ll be surprised at how long an older dog can go if he’s allowed to fully recuperate between exercise or hunting sessions.

Many dogs, like many people, develop arthritis as they age, but two medications will work wonders. The first is Rimadyl, a highly effective drug available by prescription. The second is aspirin, the same garden variety aspirin you buy for yourself. Some recommend buffered aspirin, so talk to your vet and see what he suggests. Both work quite well at managing chronic pain in hard working dogs.

Loss of hearing is another problem, which manifests itself when you try to call your dog in, either by voice or whistle. But there’s an easy solution: train your dog to recall with the tone button on his e-collar. Unless he’s completely deaf, he’ll be able to hear the beeper attached to his collar, and it’s an easy command to teach—simply transition the whistle (or verbal) recall command to the tone by hitting the tone first, followed by the customary whistle. In a few days, your dog will start responding to the tone alone.

Finally, avoid hunting in hot weather. If it’s warm for you, it’s far too hot for an older dog. Keep him home or hunt him early and late, when it’s cooler.

He’s spent his life hunting for you. Now you can repay his devotion by letting him hunt at his own speed, safely, for the rest of his life.


    1 have a GSP who's 13+ now.I hunted him until he turned 12 last year.He seemed to do it with no problem but it seemed it was his time to retire.I knew this when he could no longer jump up into the SUV to go for runs with me this spring.I have a 1-1/2 year old pup now but it's just not the same as bringing my buddy to play.It brought a tear to my eye to watch him struggle to get in the truck.He's been all over the N.E. with me and I will miss him very dearly.His time is coming.

  • S. Minter

    I also have a GSP who is 8 yrs. old and running and hunting like he was 2. I just know this grouse season he will slow down as any dog will after some point in his life. He is not on any meds yet and until he needs them I will probably keep him off of them. I do notice from last season to just running him around my property that he doesn't have the stamina that he had before but he sure does love to please. I concur with the above article about using the tone command on the dogs collar. That is all that I use in the field (since he was a puppy) and my dog will return immediately after toning him. Great feature to get a young dog started with.

  • Dr Dog

    I have to respectfully disagree with the writer. Aspirin is not a safe drug to use in dogs (even buffered aspirin)! Studies have shown that aspirin can cause gastric ulcers in as little as 5 days when given to dogs. NSAIDS are species specific! So, we should not give them human NSAIDS! Rimadyl, Previcox and Metacam are FDA approved NSAIDS for canine arthritis. Keep in mind these drugs can be dangerous as well so make sure your pup is monitored frequently by your vet.

  • Terry

    I have a 12 plus Llewellin that also cannot jump up in the Truck anymore. I bought her a ramp. She loves to hunt and went on her last big trip to Maine this past Fall. She has been to Montana, Wisonsin, Maine and etc. Cannot bear to leave her behind so I mainly just Preserve hunt her now. Her hearing is going and her eyesight is fading but the nose is still there. Shows my four year old up all the time. Cold weather is the ime to hunt these dogs, heat does them in. I cannot fathom not having her. She is the best present I ever received.

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