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 hundreds of senior dogs competing in the 2019 AKC Agility National 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 Agility Championship, 702 of the 1313 competing dogs are 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 — Stormy, a 13.5-year-old Shetland Sheepdog who will turn 14 this July.
Meet Stormy, Age 13.5
Greg and Jayne Lang of Ilion, New York, once owned a Yorkshire Terrier who lived to be 16 years old. But now, they prefer Shetland Sheepdogs. In fact, they have five. At first, it was Jayne who would take the dogs to local obedience and agility classes. Greg tagged along. And then, in 2005, the couple got another dog – Stormy.
“That’s the one I ended up with,” Greg says. “So we started with obedience just to get her out into classes, and we realized pretty quickly that they needed more input than that. So we started with the agility.”
When Greg took Stormy to her first class, she was just over one year old. He says they didn’t start competing in trials until age two.
More than a decade later, Stormy and Greg are still competing. The pair has qualified for Nationals every year since 2009.
Once Greg learned he would be attending the 2019 National Agility Championship, he told his mother he would be surprised if there were many dogs older than her there. “When we got the email that she was the oldest, I was pretty proud of her,” Greg says. “It’s funny because we’ll go to shows and talk to different people here and there that maybe don’t know her. And you tell them how old she is, and they don’t believe it. To look at her, you wouldn’t know. To see her run, you wouldn’t know.”
At one recent competition, Greg told a spectator his dog was over 13. “There’s no way!” the woman responded. Greg just smiled. “I think that’s what makes it fun.”
Is it possible years of competing in sports have kept Stormy healthy mentally and physically? Greg thinks so. “To me, I think it’s just finding the right amount of exercise for the stage of life she’s in. I think working with us has kept her brain sharp and her mind follows.”
What about the challenges of competing with a senior dog? Greg says in the past few years, Stormy is almost completely deaf. She can no longer hear Greg’s commands. “She made me become a little more aware of your body and what your arms and legs and things are doing.” For example, if Stormy were to make a wrong turn, Greg couldn’t shout “wait!” to get her attention. “You get basically one chance at it,” Greg says.
Greg still remembers something someone said to him at an obedience competition when Stormy was two or three. “What are your plans with her?” they asked. He told them he didn’t know what they meant. “In twenty years, when she’s long gone, you’re gonna want her back,” they said.
Even then, people knew what a good dog Stormy would be. It was a special moment for Greg, and the start of a long, successful career. He doesn’t know when Stormy will retire, but for now he is focused on enjoying their moment as the oldest dog at the National Agility Championship.
Want to read about more inspiring senior dogs? Meet the oldest dog competing in the National Obedience Championship here.