Dog Training 411

posted May 15th, 2012 by
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by Mary Green

Q My mother, who is 80 years old, wants a companion dog. She re­cently lost her elderly little dog and is really lonely without him. I am con­cerned about her being able to house train a new dog, and I worry about a dog knocking her down or scratching her skin. I’m not really excited about the prospect, but I want my mom to be happy. Suggestions?  — Karen

ASeniors and pets have so much to offer each other; I hope you are open to supporting your mother in bringing a new pet into her household. Besides the companionship a pet can provide for your mother, being respon­sible for feeding and watering the dog and toileting him can really give her a reason to get up and going in the morn­ings. Dogs always seem to wake up hap­py and ready to get on about the daily business. Their happy attitude works wonders toward getting their humans motivated, too! Petting and stroking an animal has been proven to lower blood pressure—so there are even health ben­efits to pet ownership.

My recommendation would be to bring in an older dog rather than a puppy. I would also recommend a dog not over about 15 lbs. Some groups only adopt senior dogs to senior citi­zens. Dogs that are 7 or 8 years old are often overlooked at a shelter, but have a lot of living yet to do! As you meet prospective pets for your mom, look for a dog that is friendly and wants to be petted, or wants to sit in your lap, but is not “clingy.” A dog that can settle down with a toy or chew bone, or is crate trained, will give your mother suf­ficient space and time to do what she needs to do without having him underfoot.

I understand your concerns about an octo­genarian being responsible for house training a new dog. A small dog can learn to eliminate on the wee wee pads or in a litter box. You also might consider installing a doggie door if that is possible. If you fashion a small yard (maybe an exercise pen) just out­side of the doggie door, the dog can’t go through the doggie door and get to the remotest point in the yard! If a dog is in a foster situation, you might know if you are adopting a house-trained dog.

Could a family member volunteer to take mother’s dog to a training class? She could be included in doing the homework, and she might enjoy the class outings without having to manage the dog at the same time. Someone else could teach the dog how to greet properly without jumping up and how not to be underfoot. At K9 Manners & More, we have a Day Training program where the professional trainers work with the dogs, and then teach the own­ers what to do.

Don’t just rush out and get your mother a dog. Do your homework to find the right fit for her. The shelters are full of previously owned and loved family pets looking for a new family. Sometimes people lose their jobs and/ or homes, and move where they cannot take their pets. Not all dogs at the shel­ter are from hoarding situations, puppy mills or from the rough streets.

Lastly, have a plan in place for caring for your mother’s dog’s needs: veteri­nary transportation and care, purchas­ing food and supplies, and see to his or her grooming needs. And have a plan of who will take care of your mother’s dog should she be hospitalized short term, or long term, and who will be respon­sible for the dog in the event of your mother’s passing away

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