I'm not getting any younger, are you?

I seem to be getting more "seasoned" clients these days. There is no age limit on the love for dogs. My current veteran client is 92 years young. She has a lovely Cavalier King Charles Spaniel that she wants to be able to walk without him pulling. I admit that when I got her call I did an inner cringe at her age. However upon meeting her and the dog we had a wonderful session. She had everything in place to make life with her dog as easy and comfortable as possible for both of them. A large fenced in yard, family nearby to help when needed, crate training established, a lovely well tempered dog from a reputable breeder, and a willingness to try new things. She had owned many dogs through the years as well so it wasn't her first rodeo.

Due to some physical limitations we went for the option of a head collar system. It was the quickest way to solve her specific problem and was the easiest for her to comply with on top of the needed training practice. The dog adjusted to it beautifully.

Driving home after the session I realized that I had been unfair to jump to the conclusion that she would be a difficult client due to her age. Over the years I have had many older clients do fabulous and many younger clients not do as well. Client compliance problems have never been based on age. So why the hesitation?

I had another client the other day who made me revisit my thoughts on the subject. A lovely married couple in their 60's with a recently adopted lab from a shelter. They already had a well mannered older German Shepherd in the home as well. She explained she had a hard time finding a rescue dog because no one would return her calls. The dog they saved had 3 hours to live when they took her. This was a wonderful dog knowledgeable home! As soon as she told me the story I knew she had been overlooked due to her age. I can understand a rescue groups concern about the dog long term however there are no guarantees for any dog going into a new home. Who is to say that the younger adopter won't die tomorrow in a car accident? Perhaps ALL adopters need to outline the plans for the dog in the case of an untimely death. (Or perhaps some rescues need to remember they are looking for good homes for the dogs and ask better questions.) Again I had a wonderful session and they are doing fabulous with the new addition.

Even an older client with a young dog can work if all the right things are in place. A willingness to train the dog regularly, a way to safely contain the dog when needed, a plan for the dog if something unexpected should happen to them. How many of us (supposedly) younger people have that plan in place now? Who says we won't get hit by a bus tomorrow? Do not assume the dog will outlive the client or will be left homeless by their death. Many older clients realize their limitations and have taken steps to ensure their dogs safety in that event. It is a topic for ALL dog owners regardless of their age.

Fortunatly we even have some great tools out there to help people with physical limitations or who lack strength. Head collars and easy walk harnesses have done wonders for dogs that pull by giving the walker a leverage advantage without causing the dog pain. It doesn't take a large dog to be able to pull a person around. Consider that they are 4 wheel drive and have a lower center of gravity on their side after all.

When I am in my 80's do I plan on getting a puppy? Likely not. But that doesn't mean our clients aren't out there doing it. We need to fairly assess their situation individually before we judge and then help them from there. Yes we will have that fustrating client who has gotten in over their head but consider that it happens for all age groups, not just the elderly. Have the number for a local reputable dog walker handy for them to utilize if needed. The biggest downside for some older clients is the physical limitations that may prevent good regular exercise for their dogs. Teach about mental stimulation such as stuffed kongs and bones as an outlet for the dog. Fetch is also a great game to teach as it provides exercise without much work on the part of the owner.

I guess my point is that none of us are getting any younger. We will all be in the same shoes some day. (If we are lucky.) Are we going to give up owning dogs? Doubtfully. Treat our elderly dog owners and clients with respect and do not assume they can't handle the dog solely based on their age. Education is for everyone, not just the young. Remember that you CAN teach an old dog new tricks, if they are willing to learn.