Dogcharmer: Not taking my own advice

How old is too old to get a larger dog? Maybe there isn’t an answer.

Jeffrey the golden-doodle might be a bit too much dog for an older person, but maybe not. — Tom Shelby

Dear Dogcharmer Tom,

I recently heard a cute tip, or recommendation for older people when it came to travel: “In your 60s, go go, in your 70s, go slow, in your 80s, no go.” Well, considering myself, I’d change the prescription to “Go go in your 70s, go slow in your 80s, and no go in your 90s.”

But when it comes to dogs, I have to revert back to the 60s, 70s, and 80s, when it comes to midsize and large four-leggeds. It’s probably been well over 20 years since I’ve lost count of all the “older” people who asked me about getting a dog, whom I told to get a small dog. And for good reason. I’ve witnessed and been privy to way too many catastrophes when the “not young” owner suffers a broken hip or arm when accidentally tripped or pulled down by the exuberant 8-month-old, 60-pound “whatever” dog. In addition to the negativity of the owner’s healing time, it sometimes ends up with the dog in a shelter, or worse.

So, about three weeks ago, I’m in a “not young” lady’s house to help her with her recently acquired 8-month-old goldendoodle. I’ll call him Jeffrey. Jeffrey weighs about 50 pounds and is extremely smart and responsive, but basically totally out of control. 

When I entered the house, the well-intentioned owner had Jeffrey on a leash, trying to hold him back while opening the door, which resulted in Jeffrey pummeling me with his body as he kept jumping on me till I was able to take the leash and snap it when he was airborne and praise him when he had four legs on the floor. I was pleasantly surprised at his quick uptake and response. He didn’t cooperate out of fear, but rather with an attitude of, “OK, I get it.” He was appreciating the mental stimulation and challenge of quickly figuring out what I wanted, and loving earning the treats for his cooperation. 

But the leash transfer, getting the owner able to extract that cooperation, was clearly a long way off. At my second visit, long story short, she asked me if I could find a home for him. Thinking, knowing that one of my daughters will be ready for a dog quite soon, he’s now living with me, my initial intent being one of civilizing him and then giving him to my daughter. But as I told my daughter, if I have him long enough to seriously bond with him, all bets are off.

My standard poodle, Paula Jean, is almost 11 yrs old, and the easiest dog in the world to live with. Totally cooperative, hikes off-leash with us every day, no hassles, nothing. 

Enter an 8-month-old, unruly, wild punk to our calm household, and Paula Jean is thinking about renting a room at a B&B for a respite. And wife Jaye and I, for our own survival, are back to full-on training. As I’m writing this, I had to tell Jeffrey to drop the small rock he took out of the pot the jade plant is in. But truth being told, Jeffrey’s a really nice guy, really nice, and really smart. And Paula Jean has actually wagged her tail at him a couple of times. Looks like I may not be taking my own advice!

Dogcharmer Tom

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