As your dog ages, you may find their habits change or they come to rely on their routine. This can be caused as owners start to adapt their behaviour to their pets due to perceived changes in their older pet. It may be as owners you might not take the dog out as often as you used to, or even communicate with it within the house together, more so when the dog tends to slow up and sleep more.
When that occurs the dog may put on weight, his bodily functions may become irregular and he probably will develop health problems, such as heart, liver, kidney, and muscle tone. Also his natural instincts slow as his brain becomes lazy through lack of stimulation and use, says Mike Mullan, dog behaviourist and Crufts judge, who has teamed up with Butcher’s Pet Care to offer you dog training advice during Fit & Fun Dog Month.
Here Mike offers his advice.
When this occurs we have at least four problems to address.
1. Firstly and most importantly, are any health problems? Always seek veterinary advice if you think there may be an underlying health issue.
2. Secondly, house fouling – these two may be linked.
3. Thirdly is to review your dog’s weight and correct the problem, getting him back to a healthy weight whether he is under or over weight.
4. The fourth – encourage him to stay active and protect the family. If he has become lethargic he will probably not make you aware when there is a prowler around your property or even a friend at the front door, so we need a plan of action that will cure these problems while at the same time not over exert the physical aspects of your dog.
We need to start slow and steady building up any exercise that we introduce with the dog gradually, remembering that if you have any concerns about your dog’s health, you must consult your veterinary surgeon.
Getting Your Dog Back To A Healthy Weight
Usually excessive weight can be dealt with by introducing steady exercise and the correct diet. I have been involved recently with a dog food trial using Butcher’s Lean & Tasty canned dog meat. We closely monitored twelve dogs, all different breeds and sizes who were all overweight with ages ranging from 4 years -10 years old, all of these benefitted greatly by losing weight in a steady safe way, and as they did, their activity increased naturally. Read their stories online here
I am often consulted by folk whose dog has become incontinent when left alone in the house or when either just coming in from the garden or when returning from a walk. There is usually a psychological reason for this brought about through being left alone in the house for too long a period because they have not been allowed into the garden frequently enough or for a sufficient amount of time to enable them to eliminate properly and completely.
I recommend the use of soda crystals in warm water as a cleaning agent when washing areas of your home that have been fouled but I always try this out on a small patch to ensure you do not damage any affected fabric. This will help to eliminate the odours that would attract the dog back to the same place and repeat the unwanted re-occurance.
Remember, with a little bit of patience and training you will be able to re-teach your dog to eliminate on command, this will ensure that your dog has less stress, is physically more comfortable and is happiest when around you, instead of fearing your return to the house.
Regardless of your dog’s breed or age you and/or your family members must set aside sufficient periods of time to carry out the re-training programme for house-training your older dog, as this procedure will be similar to the one you carried out when you first got the dog whether he was a puppy, or a rescue dog that had become used to living in a kennel.
This is as follows:-
1. Immediately when you get up in the morning you take the dog out into the garden and stay out with him (regardless of the weather) until such time that he performs no matter how long a period of time that it takes. You do not talk or distract him unless he tries to return to the house. If this occurs you call him away across the garden using a pleasant voice.
2. When he eventually starts to perform, whether it’s a number one or a number two, you quietly but positively give him a command such as ‘be busy, be busy’ or something similar. As soon as he has finished you quietly praise him just once with ‘good boy’. He will usually need to go at least twice on this first morning visit. You both now return inside. Prepare and give him his breakfast (you do this anytime within an hour).
3. As soon as he has finished his breakfast take him out into the garden again and stay with him until he has been to the toilet. As he does, quietly and positively, you again give him the command ‘Be busy, be busy’ and when he has finished say ‘good boy’. You repeat this procedure every two and half hours throughout the day for two or three days depending on how quickly he starts to perform. Then you change the frequency to every three hours and eventually four hourly.
4. When you find he is going to the toilet sooner rather than later when you take him into the garden you can start to command ‘be busy, be busy’ before he starts to go, but you must also allow him enough time to have a wander around and stretch his legs before you start to command him. To ensure that he is able to go right through the night without needing the toilet, we will give him his evening meal at around 7.30/8.00pm, then take him out into the garden as before allowing him sufficient time to carry out his necessary toileting routine.
5. When we bring him back into the house we will ensure that he has a drink of water and then we will remove his water bowl, again take him immediately into the garden and follow the established procedure. Repeat the garden routine again at 10.30/11.00pm before you go to bed.
If you find him difficult to get started on this training programme request a friend or neighbour that they bring their dog into your garden, ensure that this interloper eliminates in several places. As soon as this trespasser has left your garden bring your dog out and walk him on a lead (if necessary) around the area that has been marked by the other dog.
Your dog will want to reclaim his territory and should therefore start to go to the toilet and cover where the other dog has been. Thereafter, your training programme should easily follow.
Once complete you should be able to confidently use the commands (‘Be busy, be busy’ and ‘good boy’ when he complies) when needed. Final advice… always praise your dog when he obliges you.
Keeping your older dog active both mentally and physically is key to any dog’s mental health and wellbeing.
The extra steps you take to re-train your older dog are designed to actively encourage them to go outside at regular intervals as part of a routine that will also keep them active and less lethargic.
However, sometimes the weather doesn’t particularly make this an easy task so you may not want to be outdoors too long with your dog. If this is the case, make your home the fun zone.
Read some game tricks and tips online here: http://www.butcherspetcare.co.uk/your-dog/dog-health/weight-control/training-tips/
And remember, have fun! Be firm, be fair, be consistent.