Finding Your Best Friend: A Senior’s Guide to Pet Ownership

Owning a pet can be an absolute joy and benefit to your health. Entering your senior years doesn’t mean you have to forgo having a loving pet, but it does mean you should take some extra care and time finding your next best friend…

Puppy Tails (4)

Puppy Tails (4)

So life at the moment is very hectic (hence missing doing posts for March and April) but hey ho life goes on! Let’s talk about the pups…

Rollo turned 1yo in January and was treated to a birthday biscuit (decorated like a cake) and he shared some pupcakes with Brina! They were treated to tuna and veg pasta for dinner – as I wanted to make a bit of a fuss, even if he had no idea why!

His teenage behaviour (due to teenage hormones) was not improving after this milestone and he began to ignore known commands when he wanted – not a good advertisement for a dog trainer! Still, I persisted and had been asking my vet about neutering him, as I know from experience that this can help with getting behaviour back on track – my vet however kept telling me he needed to be 18mo before they would neuter him. I’d always been taught at uni, and been informed by vets, that a male dog can be neutered from 6mo onwards. Needless to say, I was not wanting to put up with this behaviour from him for a few more months, so I posed the question to a few other local vets who all confirmed they would neuter a male dog from 6mo onwards – he was done growing and there was no reason not to.

So, we changed vets, got him booked in and he has recovered marvelously! His behaviour post-recovery is almost back to pre-teenage behaviour and he’s a lot more responsive to training again! He’s still hyper focused on the squeaky ball, which is a walkies only toy (to avoid him getting bored of it) but he will do most commands without the prompt of toy or treat, just like before 😊

And then there is Brina. Little Brina. Not so little anymore (she was in the photos in “Puppy Tails (3A)“)… She is almost 10mo now and has just recently come into her first season. This is new for me as I’ve only ever owned male dogs, or dealt with bitches well established in their seasons (not in a home environment). So I’m dealing with all the behavioural changes that come along with this – for her and for him! She’s gotten a lot more snuggly and in need of a lot more physical contact with her humans and a lot less tolerant of Rollo’s attention.

So a bit more on Brina, our German Shepherd Dog (GSD) up to this point – she adores Rollo, she follows him everywhere and certainly has ‘fear of missing out’ (FOMO) if Rollo is doing something she’s not involved with, even if she’s not interested! He loves a good tug of war or game of fetch, but she was always just interested in running alongside Rollo or jumping on him whilst he’s playing tug of war with one of his humans, as opposed to actually getting involved in play. They love to play fight and I’m sure to the untrained eye they’d look/ sound like they were trying to kill each other sometimes! The key thing is the play sneeze you’ll hear throughout, meaning that they do love each other really 😊

Brina is the most vocal doggo I’ve come across (not counting working in kennels, with multiple persistent barkers) – I can’t decide if this is a GSD thing or a bitch thing or just her! She talks to her toys, in her sleep and to anyone who will listen – as well as being very loud when she can’t keep up with Rollo (his zoomies are fast!) or when her FOMO kicks in 😜

Her on-lead walking has very much improved, with the help of the Gentle Leader when necessary, as she is a puller! Training aids, such as a Gentle Leader, can be instrumental in getting the desired behaviour – which I hope to go into in more detail in the next “Puppy Tails” post. The aim is to have her walking nicely without the aid of the Gentle Leader (but with her pulling strength and my health issues, the Gentle Leader has been a major help) and I’m confident we’ll get there!

Despite them both being a bit of a handful at the moment due to her hormones affecting her and Rollo, they’re still very much snuggle buddies and friends.

I am hoping the next installment of “Puppy Tails” can be a bit more training focused relating to their individual stages of life and training levels, with some insight into the training process.

To read the previous”Puppy Tails” please follow the links below:

Puppy Tails (1)Puppy Tails (2)Puppy Tails (3)Puppy Tails (3A)

Puppy Tails (3)

Puppy Tails (3)

So, this isn’t exactly how I hoped this third post would go – I was hoping I could focus more on updating you with Rollo’s training progress but things took a bit of a back-step after Rollo injured himself in July! Poor pup was running and playing with his friends, when we noticed red on his leg – he had a fairly sizable (although, thankfully, superficial) cut on his inner thigh, close to the upper bend in his leg. He was stitched up and confined to the house and garden – no walkies, no running, no jumping, etc. whilst he healed.

As you can imagine, for an active 6 month old lurcher like Rollo, this was tough! He spends most of his time being very active and playful! But for two weeks, he needed to try and be calm and rest, without getting too bored! He was, for the most part, very good – providing we were relaxing and not doing too much, he was happy enough to relax with us.

I’m not sure what was worse for him (aside from the injury itself) and the “cone of shame” – being restricted to on-lead toilet breaks in the garden only for the first few days after the stitches went in, or after his first follow-up appointment when he was allowed to go on very short walks (again restricted on-lead) for a week, which has meant no off-lead running and playing with his friends, or the post-stitches recovery week when he was allowed mostly back to normal but still couldn’t run off lead with his friends. Thankfully that’s all behind us and he’s fully recovered and back to his mischievous self!

His recovery, once the stitches were out, wasn’t too bad – he was confined for so long, then for a week after his stitches came out it was necessary to restrict him to lead walkies just to make sure he did t over-do it; to ensure we got him back to full health in the right way (no sense rushing things and ending up damaging the leg further).

Rollo being restricted to the lead for a while did however highlight some training areas which needed more focus – specifically his lead and heel training. Because he is more often than not taken somewhere for walkies where he can run off lead with us or with friends, it seems I’d neglected lead and heal training a bit.

With this brought to my attention, I decided now was a good a time as any to recap this training with Rollo. He was not happy about his restricted lead walks when he was healing, but had come to accept lead walkies as it is preferable to being restricted to the house and garden! So I took advantage of his new acceptance of being on lead more than he liked by doing more lead walks, focusing on heel work with the command “on heel”.

Early “on heel” lead training back in May

I started by giving him a run or a play somewhere to allow him to burn off some of that excitable energy! It’s a lot easier to train a dog who can focus on you than one who is distracted with all their pent up energy and looking for a way to release it! We would then walk with Rollo on lead; when he naturally walked at my heel I would give him the command “on heel” (with the corresponding hand signal I chose) then click my clicker (yes, the clicker came back out) and give him a small treat – this was so Rollo would associate the command with the action he was doing. Rollo picked this up very quickly whilst on-lead and we soon progressed to learning “on heel” being off-lead.

Rollo will (more often than not) come “on heel” on command whether on the lead, moseying around off-lead or from a distance off-lead (he’ll respond to my “come” whistle (yes I whistle differently for different commands) and the come “on heel” to the hand gesture and the command when I give it, when he’s within earshot.

He’s almost 9 months old now so still very much an adolescent, and by no means a perfect teenager haha! His progress has been brilliant and I’m proud of how far he’s come. Sometimes the commands he knows well, need reinforcing when he’s pushing boundaries but most of the time he’s “such a good boy!” and he knows it!

“such a good boy!”

Look out for more puppy tails!

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Cape Town, South Africa