If you’re the owner of a senior dog, you might think your dog sports days are behind you. But participating in dog sports with your dog can provide mental and physical exercise, the thrill of competition, and a chance for you both to have fun. With veterinarian approval, there are still many sports you and your dog can participate in. In fact, there are dozens of senior dogs who competed in the 2019 AKC National Obedience Championship March 15-17 in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Generally, dogs are considered seniors starting at seven years old, but how your dog ages will vary depending on what breed he is. At the 2019 National Obedience Championship, 65 of the 118 competing dogs were age seven or older. That means more than half of the competing dogs are considered seniors! We sat down with the oldest of all these dogs — Bet, an 11-year-old Golden Retriever.
Oldest NOC Competitor – Bet, Age 11
Yvonne Piefer has ten Golden Retrievers between one and 14 years old. And less than a month before the 2019 National Obedience Championship, she had a new litter of puppies born. As a dog trainer and breeder, she almost always has her hands full.
She built her house with her dogs in mind – there’s a training building, outdoor dog runs, and a place for all ten of the Golden Retrievers in the house upstairs.
One of Yvonne’s dogs, Bet, happens to be the oldest dog competing at the National Obedience Championship. Add to Bet’s accomplishments that she has also had three litters of puppies herself. Yvonne says this meant she didn’t earn her Utility Dog title until she was eight years old.
“For, Bet, at that age, I maintain her health as closely as what I can,” Yvonne says. “I take Bet to a chiropractor once a month. We just had an eye check-up. When I have an older dog, I try to keep them in as best health as I can.”
It takes balance to manage the health and training of all of her dogs, including the new litter of puppies. At a puppy check-up the other day, the vet started talking about the age of her older dogs competing in obedience. “I believe that it keeps their mind sharper,” Yvonne says.
Every once in a while, someone is surprised by Bet’s age. “She jumps unbelievably,” Yvonne says. “She’ll clear a jump six to eight inches higher than what she needs to jump.”
What Yvonne looks forward to most at Nationals is getting to see the friends she has made over the years.
Yvonne actually met her husband, Mike, because of dogs.
“It’s getting close to 40 years of doing this,” Yvonne says. “I think about where the dogs have taken me and the people I’ve met, and how it’s changed. What a big thing it has been in my life.”
Want to read about more inspiring senior dogs? Meet the oldest dog competing in the National Agility Championship here.