Reprinted from AKC Gazette, Volume 130, Number 3, March 2013.
Our guest columnist is Carrie Franz-Cabrera, who with her husband, Ken, has had Canaan Dogs for over 15 years, including Maccabee, the first Canaan Dog and one of the first dogs in the U.S. to earn the AKC's Therapy Dog (THD) title.
The only breeder of Canaans in Arizona, Carrie competes in both conformation and performance, including obedience, rally, and herding, and she is currently working with her dogs in tracking.
Good genes, conscientious breeders, and devoted, savvy owners mean that a majority of the time living with a senior Canaan Dog means few, if any, concessions. Remaining spry and relatively healthy in his later years is one of a Canaan Dog's especially attractive traits.
To keep our 15-plus-year-old bitch as healthy and happy as possible, she gets several supplements: Yucca Intensive herbal extract drops (available through Azmira Holistic Animal Care), to deal with minor arthritis inflammation and pain; Cholodin (from MVP Laboratories, Inc.), a chewable dietary upplement to improve cognitive function; and vitamin C and salmon oil. She is still very active, accompanying me on our daily two-mile walks at the pace set by the two younger dogs. A monthly professional massage along with stretching and an orthopedic bed are a couple of the perks that senior status affords her. We're pretty sure that the younger ones in our pack aspire to seniorhood just to share in these goodies!
Older Canaan Dogs can learn new tricks, earning titles well into their teen years.
Our senior Canaan Dog earned her Rally Novice title at 11, was herding sheep at 13, and continued to make therapy dog visits until she was 14. She continues to enjoy obedience class. Her obvious joy in getting out and about and being rewarded for a job well done hasn't diminished one bit.
We have recently started doing some nosework with her. Since her eyesight is starting to fail, she relies on her nose more in everyday life, so nosework is right up her alley.
As a general rule, most veterinarians consider a dog to be geriatric around 8 years of age. Don't tell that to a Canaan Dog! As a slower-maturing breed, with an average life span of 14 to 15 years, an 8-year-old Canaan Dog is barely approaching middle age. Many are still being shown at this age, and beyond — and winning!
Keeping an older Canaan Dog's mind engaged with learning new tricks and practicing old ones, keeping her physically fit with regular exercise, at a healthy weight and providing wellness vet checkups, along with a good set of genes from the breed's long history of natural selection will hopefully keep senior Canaan Dogs healthy, happy, and active long into their later teen years.
Thanks, Carrie, for your perspective on living with our wonderful veterans!
— Denise A. Gordon, firstname.lastname@example.org