5 Ways My Pet Parenting Is Different Now That My Dog Is a Senior


There are many wonderful things about being a dog mom. My pup gives me companionship, protection, happiness, and unconditional love. It is life-changing, and I can’t imagine being without my sweet boy, Riggins. The only downside to this relationship: His life will be so much shorter than mine.

My baby boy, Riggins, and me. (Photo by Wendy Newell)
My baby boy, Riggins, and me. (Photo by Wendy Newell)

As dog parents, we devote our hearts and souls to living beings we know will be gone way too soon. Perhaps because of that, my style of parenting has changed as my dog has aged — he’s 10 now. He’s a senior, and as such deserves a little slack.

Here are just a few ways my parenting has changed, although my love has always remained constant:

1. I relax the rules

Riggins behind bars. (Photo by Wendy Newell)
Riggins behind bars. (Photo by Wendy Newell)

Rules can be a major buzzkill, and yet they are absolutely necessary. Imagine the chaos if we all threw up our hands and said, “Consider these guidelines but do what you want.” Yet for Riggins, this is what I have done. Well, almost.

When Riggins was young, I did what I could to let him know his place. “People first, puppies second” was our motto. Now that he is my grumpy old man (said with love), he gets to do what he wants. If that means going into the house before the humans, then so be it. Age before beauty, after all!

I even let him cheat at the “no street” command at corners during our walks. He will squat, but his butt doesn’t always hit the ground, just hovers there. Life’s too short for a full sit.

2. I always listen to him

"What do you want Riggins?" (Photo by Wendy Newell)
“What do you want, Riggins?” (Photo by Wendy Newell)

One day I was cruising the Internet and came across a picture of a sad-looking pup with the words, “Listen to me when I come to you. One day you won’t be able to.” WHAT? HOW HORRIFIC IS THAT? How dare that random sad dog make me feel bad.

It worked, though. Boy, did it work!

Riggins is really vocal when he wants something. He will tell you if he is hungry, thirsty, needs to go outside, wants to cuddle, or anything else that strikes his fancy. In an effort not to let the dog run the house, I wouldn’t always listen to him before. After all, who is in charge here?

Now that he is 10, I rarely ignore him when he comes to me. If I’m watching TV and he comes and whines a little, I’ll ask, “What do you want?” Ninety percent of the time he will lead me to the treat cabinet! He doesn’t always get what he wants, but he always knows I’m listening.

3. I don’t push activity

Riggins still likes to hike when he can. (Photo by Wendy Newell)
Riggins still likes to hike when he can. (Photo by Wendy Newell)

Riggins has always been very active. We used to hike every weekend, and then I became a dog sitter and hiking became an everyday event.

As he has grown older, his activity level has gone down, and because of that, I’ve had to modify what I want from him. Now when we go for a hike, if it is going to be long or if it’s too hot, I’ll bench him, leaving him to nap in the cool air conditioning of my bedroom. Sometimes he will even tell me he doesn’t want to go. I’ll get his harness on and put all the other pups I’m babysitting in the car. Riggins will stand near the back gate and look at me.

“Do you want to go for a hike or do you want to stay?” I’ll say.

Most of the time he will force himself into the car, but every once in awhile he chooses to go back inside and snooze.

I have to admit, I’m a little jealous of him when he makes that choice.

4. I let Riggins be Riggins

The start of Riggins' love affair with my niece. (Photo by Wendy Newell)
The start of Riggins’ love affair with my niece. (Photo by Wendy Newell)

Riggins doesn’t like kids. It isn’t his fault; he didn’t grow up around them. But he is oddly tolerant and madly in love with my niece and nephew. Somehow he knows they are family and that he has to make them the exception. Other than that, most kids are things to be barked at.

When Riggins was young, I’d scold him when he acted out against kids. Now I let him be him. “I know,” I whisper. “They are crazy with their frantic energy and high-pitched voices.”

I just keep him away instead of trying to force a love that will never be.

5. I let him have his space

Riggins on his spot in the bed. (Photo by Wendy Newell)
Riggins on his spot in the bed. (Photo by Wendy Newell)

You know how the character Sheldon on The Big Bang Theory has his space on the sofa? That’s Riggins with the bed and the car. I used to make him move for me, but now I move for him. If I’m on his side of the bed and he comes up and whines, telling me to move over, I move over.

Every once in awhile he also kicks me out of my place on the sofa. He prefers my spot because he can curl up and rest his head on the sofa arm. I’m sure he will soon claim that as his own, too, and I’ll have to move down and find another place so my darling old man can live his life in the comfort he deserves!

How has your parenting style changed as your dog has gotten older? Let us know in the comments!

Read more about pet parenting:

About the author: Wendy Newell is a former VP of Sales turned Grade A Dog Sitter. After years of stress, she decided to leave the world of “always be closing” to one of tail wags and licks. Wendy’s new career keeps her busy hiking, being a dog chauffeur, picking up poo, sacrificing her bed, and other fur-filled activities. Wendy and her dog, Riggins, take their always-changing pack of pups on adventures throughout the Los Angeles area, where they live together in a cozy, happy home. You can learn more about Wendy, Riggins, and their adventures on Facebook and Instagram.

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