Log In

Reset Password

You're How Old?



Text Size

Doggone Etiquette —

You’re How Old?

By Bardi McLennan

A Word to the Dog:

How old are you? How old were you yesterday? How old will you be tomorrow? You haven’t a clue, right? Dogs are very sensible about their age. You don’t waste time thinking about it the way people do. Your own VIPeople, however, often find it difficult to keep track of how far along in life you really are – translating people months into dog years, that is. You can’t help them because you are only concerned with today. But once in a while you might want to thank your people (and your best friend, the vet) for helping you to live longer, healthier lives than your ancestors did.  

A Word to the Dog’s Owner:

Dogs are very smart when it comes to age. They are not in the least concerned with passing months and years. The only thing that comes close is their health. Physical well-being is their determining factor. As long as Rufus can continue to do all the things he loves to do, he doesn’t care a hoot whether he’s two years old or 12. Dogs are as young (or old) as their bodies let them be. For example, a dog can become deaf at any age. It’s not a sign of old age. An older dog that limps may not have arthritis, but merely something stuck in its paw. Any dog coming down with an illness – from kennel cough to pancreatitis – shows signs of how he rotten feels, but not how old he is.

We all know that puppies, regardless of their breed, mature rapidly. A few months makes a big difference in body size and brain function. The first change we tend to notice (sometimes alarmingly!) is that stretch between five months to a year or more which is referred to as the “teenage” period. It can be quite a stretch! The puppy is growing up and going out-of-bounds in every direction. Numerous dog bites are associated with this time-frame. The pup is testing its teeth, or trying to play (or to steal), but the bites are mostly due to this somewhat erratic teen behavior, not to aggression or rabies. Handled properly, with firm good-natured discipline, the frustration for the family soon ends.

Keeping our dogs in the best possible health is something we more or less take for granted, with essential checkups by the veterinarian along with immunizations and modern medications to prevent all kinds of calamities from rabies to heartworm to fleas and ticks. Our dogs’ ancestors had no such luck. Most of their health care came after the calamity took hold – there were no proven preventions. Rabies and distemper were common concerns for all dog owners.

In a book on the care of dogs written in 1857, the author, Francis Butler, states upfront that he is merely presenting the satisfactory results of his own practical experience. There may well be some raised eyebrows as we take a look at a couple of his suggested treatments! For example, this is how he deals with bites by a “mad dog.” The person “should have the wounded parts immediately taken out by a skilful surgeon and the sore burnt out with lunar caustic.” He then recommends “the application of a dozen leeches” to the wounded area! He would also treat a rabid dog-bite by means of “salt water-ducking.” Holding the victim under three times a day, until he is nearly exhausted! You could call it all quackery – these are dogs we’re talking about, not ducks!

Do not try this one either, but Mr. Butler’s cure for an upset tummy caused by distemper consisted of placing brandy, ground allspice and brown sugar in a saucer and then setting it afire. When cool, a half- teaspoon or more was given in a little water three of four times a day! Impossible to imagine what this did to the poor dog’s stomach! We should all be grateful that today’s dogs have scientifically tested cures and preventions.

So, after those mind-boggling “cures” from yesterday, be sure your Rufus gets the very best of modern health care. And if you want to celebrate each of your dog’s birthdays, go for it! He won’t be counting!

Until next time – BE GOOD!

- Bardi


Bardi McLennan bred, trained and showed Welsh Terriers for 30 years, during which time she wrote a monthly column on canine behavior in Dog Fancy Magazine. In addition to contributing to numerous dog publications, she has written 15 books on dogs, the latest being Rescue Me!, which received the ASPCA Humane Issues Award in 2008.

Comments are open. Be civil.

Leave a Reply