December 13, 2012
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.