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Understanding Older Dog Behavior

fenrir focus on older dog general behavior

Which Behaviours Are Normal For Older Dogs?

Maybe you are planning to adopt an older dog – or your current canine companion has reached their golden years. And you are asking yourself which behaviours are normal for senior canines. Just like humans, dogs can change a lot over the course of their lives. Sometimes, the behaviour of an older pet can be puzzling to their human family. In this article, we will speak about certain traits and characteristics that are typical for older dogs.

Common Characteristics Of Senior Dogs

So, when do a dog’s golden years begin? This largely depends on their breed and size: Very small dogs are considered seniors once they reach 9 - 11 years of age. Medium-sized canines age a couple of years sooner. Large dogs become seniors around the 8 year mark. And giant-breed dogs reach that point at around 6 years of age.

There are a few common characteristics that all senior dogs share, such as: slowing down, sleeping more, and being less enthusiastic about their daily activities. They still enjoy their walks and playtimes. But older dogs engage with life at a slower pace. Compared to younger canines, they are less adaptable to change, and take more time to learn new skills. You absolutely can teach old dogs new tricks – it just takes more patience. In social situations that include other dogs, older individuals may still play for a bit. But after they had enough, they want to be left alone. Therefore, it is important to monitor playtimes with your older dog. In this way, you can ensure that the other dogs around respect their decision to be left in peace.

In many ways, senior canines are easier to live with than out-of-control puppies, or boisterous adolescents. They are far less likely to chew on furniture, jump up on everyone they meet, or play too rough. This is why we encourage people to consider adopting an older dog: Giving such a pet a chance for a loving home for the remainder of their lives can be extremely rewarding.

What Do Senior Dogs Need To Be Happy?

If you have an older dog at home, there are certain things you can do to enhance the quality of their lives. One of them is taking them to the vet regularly for health-checks. Senior canines are more likely to develop diseases than younger animals. To prevent any painful ailment from impinging on your dog’s well-being, it is important to see your vet more often than during your dog’s younger years. Good joint-care is particularly important for senior canines. Ask your vet to recommend joint-supplements, vitamins or any other supplement that will enhance the well-being of your canine companion. An essential aspect of joint care is avoiding your older dog lying on hard, cold surfaces such as bare floors. Therefore, we recommend investing in an orthopaedic dog bed for your aging family member.

Healthy nutrition becomes even more important in a dog’s golden years. The digestive process uses up a lot of energy. Ideally, you want to free up as much of that energy as possible. Therefore, choosing foods without unnecessary fillers (such as corn, soy and wheat) is important. At Fenrir, we recommend feeding your senior dog a healthy, well-balanced raw diet – or a high-quality, grain free kibble.

Your older dog will still enjoy spending time with you: Cuddling on the sofa, receiving massages and grooming sessions, going for leisurely walks, playing interactive games, or accompanying you on road trips. Giving your older dog plenty of affection is important. They want to feel that they are part of the family, even if they cannot play as much, or walk as far any more.

Should You Adopt An Older Rescue Dog?

Adopting a dog from a shelter or rescue organisation is a noble deed: In doing so, you are giving this dog another chance at having a loving forever home. And depending on the laws of your country, you might even be saving their life. Adopting an older dog has many benefits. For example, you save yourself the considerable work of training a young puppy. Raising unruly puppies into well-adjusted adults comes with many challenges.

By choosing an older dog, you can benefit from all the socialisation and training they have received earlier on in their lives. For an 8-week-old puppy, everything is new. But the average older rescue dog has at least basic levels of socialisation, house- and social manners, as well as obedience. This can make life with your new pet considerably easier, especially if this is your first dog.

Bonding With Your Senior Rescue Dog

Of course, some older rescue dogs had a difficult past. And all of them have to overcome trauma of some kind – even if their “only” negative experience in life was to be placed into a shelter-environment. Dog shelters are busy, noisy places. The people running them mean well, but most of them lack the time and money to make life there enjoyable for the dogs. And no senior dog will relish spending time in a concrete kennel whilst being bombarded by the loud barking all around them. All this can throw even the most resilient canine off balance for a while. As their new owner, your job will be to assist them in regaining their balance, their confidence, and their calm. This does not happen overnight: Just like any other relationship, the connection between you and your older rescue dog needs time to grow.

How To Prepare For Your Senior Rescue Dog?

Set Up A Crate

In our opinion and experience, crates are wonderful tools for dogs of any age. And older dogs in particular appreciate having a refuge in the home – a place where no one intrudes, or disturbs them. We recommend equipping the crate for your senior dog with a soft, cosy dog bed, and partially cover it with a light blanket. In this way, you create an inviting, den-like space. Most dogs happily accept a crate as their designated sleeping place. By giving your senior rescue dog this place of refuge, you help them to adjust more easily.

Get A Comfortable Dog Harness

For taking your senior dog out in public, we recommend a high-quality harness. With its soft, padded interior, our padded Ragnar Harness, for example, is very comfortable to wear. Available in different sizes, the expert-approved harness keeps your older dog secured at all times. And whenever you need them to stay close to you, simply grab the dual traffic handles. You can trust that your senior dog will be completely safe in any situation, and in any environment.


Sharing your life with an older dog can be an immensely rewarding experience. Dogs in their golden years have lived through many different experiences - either with you or with their previous owner. All these experiences have shaped the dog’s character, and honed their social skills. One might even say, their life-experience gives them a certain degree of wisdom. Anyway, we wish you and your senior canine companion all the best. And we encourage you to be the best canine leader possible to your dog. Because no matter their age – all dogs thrive on calm, consistent leadership.