3 Senior Dog Athletes Who Defy the Limits

Senior dog running
Some dogs can enjoy canine sports well into their senior or geriatric years.

Many veterinarians classify dogs over age 7 as seniors. Often that means it’s time to pay closer attention to nutrition and key wellness markers. It can also be a time to find new ways to keep your dog active. Physical and mental exercise is important at any age. That’s why some dogs continue canine sports well into their senior — and even geriatric — years.

Think your older dog is ready to try something new? Check with your veterinarian first, as he or she is the best source of information about your dog’s current health. Discuss any limitations your dog has before taking up a new activity.

“Older dogs have so much to offer and so much to teach us,” says Laura Coffey, author of My Old Dog: Rescued Pets With Remarkable Second Acts. “Don’t let their age fool you! Dogs love to be mentally stimulated regardless of their age, and they can astonish you by what they’re still able to do.”

Odyssey: Otterhound, 9 Years Old

In her prime, Odyssey trained in agility two or three times a week. These days — after two litters of puppies and three Best of Opposite Sex wins from the Otterhound Club of America — she only trains a little before events.

Odyssey branched out later in life and began tracking, an event where dogs follow a scent trail. She earned her tracking dog title in 2013. At one point in that competition, owner Joellen Gregory, DVM, says, “She spent about 20 minutes trying to figure out how to get me to make the turn with her so she could continue to follow the scent. She finally walked farther down, around a big tree, and then back to her track so that I would follow. Thank heavens she’s persistent.”

Not a fan of the heat, Odyssey takes summers off from agility, but she tracks year-round — typically a few times a month for fun, and more often before a competition.

Dr. Gregory credits high-quality food and regular exercise for keeping Odyssey robust. “Staying at an appropriate body condition is essential for a dog’s healthy life,” says Dr. Gregory, who also includes a joint supplement as part of Odyssey’s meal routine.

Charlie Brown: Cocker Spaniel, 11 Years Old

Too wiggly to be a model obedience student as a puppy, Charlie Brown needed to find his passion, so owner Robin Setzer enrolled him in a class where he could try several canine sports.

He took to tracking the fastest, but Charlie Brown also competed in agility and flyball. He holds nearly 20 dog sport titles. His first title came in tracking. “Sometimes, when we would be at the top of a hill tracking on a beautiful, sunny day, he would just stop, look around, and smile as if to say, ‘Life doesn’t get any better than this,’” says Setzer.

A knee injury ended Charlie Brown’s career in both agility and flyball when he was 8. Freestyle, which combines dancing and tricks, helped during his rehabilitation, but Charlie Brown needed more.

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