PBGVs have often been described as a long lived breed that ages gracefully.  This has certainly been my experience, having had many hounds live active lives well into their teens.  In the past, many national specialty winners in our breed have come from the veteran class and it’s been a common occurrence for the top obedience and agility PBGVs to be well over the age where they would be considered veterans as well.

In my own household, I don’t feel that this has changed at all.  I currently have two “double digit” PBGVs, 12 year old Chili who recently completed MACH6 and 10 year old Maya who is a very active therapy dog in addition to competing in scent work.  Chili’s 9 year old daughter Salsa is in her prime, running better and faster than ever in agility.  Recently, though I’ve heard comments from others in the breed about longevity and what should be expected in a PBGV’s senior years that troubled me.  I understand that a dog’s show and breeding career is likely to be concluded at a relatively young age, but the idea that a 7 or even 10 year old PBGV is a senior citizen who shouldn’t be expected to have an active life is a concerning attitude, especially for those in a position to make breeding decisions.  It was recently widely accepted a major breed event that a dog who was clearly lame should win a major award because he was a veteran, even though others in the veteran class were still sound and in excellent condition.  To (probably slightly mis-) quote Temple Grandin, “when bad becomes normal”, it doesn’t look promising for the breed going forward.  If the show ring is really an evaluation of breeding stock ( which it’s no secret that I seriously doubt), shouldn’t the veteran class be a showcase for a breed’s longevity?  For that matter, shouldn’t longevity be a factor that is given serious consideration when selecting breeding stock?

Ranting aside, here are some things that I think are worth considering to give your PBGV, or any other breed, as long and happy a life as possible:

  • First and probably most important- do things!  Your older dogs deserve to be maintained in as good physical condition as your young superstar.  This means the chance to run and exercise, not just life in a fenced yard.
  • Second and probably just as important- mental stimulation!  Walks and hikes (dare I say off lead?) allow a scent hound to sniff and explore, which is a huge source of information and excitement for them.  Dinner in a puzzle toy or hidden throughout the house is much more interesting than a bowl.  If your dog’s life and routine are exactly the same day in and day out, he doesn’t have much to look forward to or get excited about.
  • Training never ends.  There are many sports out there that are totally appropriate for older dogs, but teaching new skills or tricks around the house are just as valuable.  My older dogs are often the guinea pigs for new training ideas or techniques because I don’t have the pressure of potentially causing confusion or stress in the younger dogs who are just learning or of “breaking” a behavior right before a competition.
  • Common sense health care and lifestyle.  Not just following vaccine and parasite control advice blindly, but doing research and being honest with yourself and your vet about your dog’s lifestyle.  Feeding a really high quality food.  Minimizing exposure to substances like lawn treatments and (yes, I am going to say this) chemical styling products.

Why are you still reading?  Go take your older dog for a walk!  Take some treats and do some training while you are out.