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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I wanted to get everyones opinion on what can be one of the hardest times for a handler. The day you realize your old pal may need to call it quits.

Ive heard from some people that when their dog starts getting very arthritic and slowing down they have decided to retire them. They have done this in hopes to prolong their lives by not putting their bodies through all of the rigorous conditions.

Another man told me that as long has his dog has the desire to hunt and still has the physical ability to go he will bring him. He just may not send him for the long grueling retrieves he had in the past. When i asked him about it he told me " do you want your dog to lay up on the couch for the rest of his life or go out on fire doing what he loves more than anything to do." He also told me that he has seen more dogs go downhill much faster after retirement than the ones that continued to hunt for as long as they physically and mentally wanted to do this. He claims that once dogs just lay up on the couch all day and dont get the excercise calcium will start builing up in their joints.

The reason I ask is because I have an 11 yr old lab that is starting to reach this crossroad. Arthritis has really set in and his back hips are starting to weaken a great deal. On the other hand he still loves to hunt more than anything. There is nothing else he would rather do. Where i hunt is easy hunting with hard bottom ponds. So whats yalls opinion? Would you rather retirement to hopefully slow this process down or would you rather let him "go out on fire" doing what he loves.
 

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It's a personal decision.

I don't think folks retire retrievers that are the age of yours to "prolong" their lives. I think they just decide that the dog has given and done enough, and he's earned the right to lounge, watch American Idol, and rest.

Only you are there to see how your dog feels and reacts. If your dog is happy hunting, and you are happy hunting him, go for it. There is no permanent decision here. You are allowed to decide one thing this week and change your mind next.

When I've been in your situation in the past, I've picked the days with the right conditions to hunt the elder retriever. On more challenging hunts, leave the pup on the couch to watch Spongebob with the kids.

Just know that at your dog's age, every mile you get out of him is gravy. He's earned his keep. He's given you your money's worth.

I don't think that retiring an 11 year old dog "prolongs" their life. At that age, they go when they go. That's my philosophy.

Good luck, have fun!

Chris
 

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Hunt him on fair weather days for as long as his eyes, body, and mind allow him to do it. I trained yesterday with a guy who has an 11 1/2 yr. old dog that still comes to train occasionally and runs singles, the dog lives for it still at that age!

One other comment is that you have to be the controller of how many retrieves or how hard they are, because most dogs I've been around will want to make the retrieve no matter if it hurts or puts their health at risk.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Thanks for the reply. He will be 12 by the time the season opens. I hope to hunt him at least some. He is my first dog so i jus really wanted to see what people with past experiences thought.
 

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Definately agree with letting the dog go as long as they can. Ive got a female pushing eleven and i think she would fall apart if she was resigned to living as a house pet. Just use common sense, you dont want to do more harm than good. Earlier poster made a good point about having some limits for an older dog. I have a year old pup that will be chasing the long, difficult retrieves along with a 2 year old chessie owned by one of my hunting partners, but the short to mid range easier ones will belong primarily to the queen. :razz:
 

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When the hurt out weighs the fun, it is time to stop.
Warm days, light wind, easy retrieves. They deserve to go out with dignity.
MP
 

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Thanks for the reply. He will be 12 by the time the season opens. I hope to hunt him at least some. He is my first dog so i jus really wanted to see what people with past experiences thought.
I had a dog named Bam-Bam.
His whole life he never knew where he was going, but by God he was gonna be the first one there!!!

When Bam-Bam was 14 years 3 months and a couple days old I took the grey beard on a pheasant hunt.

Bam-Bam flushed a big ol' rooster, I shot and he was gone, hell bent for election.
He came back out of the sorguhm with that chest puffed up just like the glory days!!!
PROUD doesn't even describe what he and I felt!

3 days later he passed.

With dignity!!

My opinion is, you and only you know what to do!

PEACE!
 

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Two years ago my 10 yr old retriever layed down and died in the back seat of my truck after picking up ducks as set up dog at our hunt test.
The day before he was test dog for the finished test. He loved nothing better than being out and retrieving.
He would have been miserable not being there with me.
Just have to know your dog and love-em.
 

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Very good responses here.

One little thing I'd add that I think could be helpful would be ask what you'd want done. Of course we can't know what level of pain they're in/having when it's moderate, but we can at times get a pretty good idea. As was said, when the pain outweighs the fun---which to me will vary per dog just like it does with humans.

Get what looks to be a good day coming, familiar with the scenario enough to know the likely level of effort required, let the old timer get out and enjoy himself if he's able and willing.

I'm dealing with this right now and it ain't easy. Mine will be 13 this year and last was truly the first where anyone besides me could/would notice he'd lost a step and that things were getting tougher. New pup is on board and they get along great. If I hold up my end junior will be able to at least go come season, but I'll still take my older dog.....how much and when remains to be seen.

He deserves to go. He deserves to not be pushed. I'll watch him and go from there...
 

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Very good responses here.

One little thing I'd add that I think could be helpful would be ask what you'd want done. Of course we can't know what level of pain they're in/having when it's moderate, but we can at times get a pretty good idea. As was said, when the pain outweighs the fun---which to me will vary per dog just like it does with humans.

Get what looks to be a good day coming, familiar with the scenario enough to know the likely level of effort required, let the old timer get out and enjoy himself if he's able and willing.

I'm dealing with this right now and it ain't easy. Mine will be 13 this year and last was truly the first where anyone besides me could/would notice he'd lost a step and that things were getting tougher. New pup is on board and they get along great. If I hold up my end junior will be able to at least go come season, but I'll still take my older dog.....how much and when remains to be seen.

He deserves to go. He deserves to not be pushed. I'll watch him and go from there...
BINGO!!!!

He will let you know, follow his lead.
 

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I'm primarily a dove hunter, so some of that isn't necessarily as arduous as cold weather duck hunting, but my first dog hunted regularly his 12th year and even went once when he was thirteen. Then I hung up the gun for a couple of years. I just couldn't go without him as it would have killed him to be left behind. He lived to 15.
 
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Mine was retired from FT's after his shoulder surgery. He went on to hunt ducks for 2 yrs after that. He was diagnosed with cancer last year and suffered another shoulder problem so now he just gets a walk down the street or maybe a short swim. H e really misses retrieving. My husband quit hunting for now its to sad to walk out the door and leave him behind.
 

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Found out this past Tuesday that mine needs to be retired from FT's and pretty much training too at 8.5. But I will hunt her as long as she can physically do it.
 

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When the hurt out weighs the fun, it is time to stop.
Warm days, light wind, easy retrieves. They deserve to go out with dignity.
MP
^^^^^^This^^^^^^^ I just retired my 10 year old. This last season hurt more than anything. It was even harder this past spring HT season not having the "old man" on the truck. When we train now, he follows us around to the wingers and carries a duck or two for me. Every now and then when im setting up a water mark ill let him pick it up from the winger just to check it out and put his "stamp of approval" on the set-up. I really wish I could still take him but I dont know what would hurt more...watching him limp out and back on the retrieve or watching him watch me pull out without him. I feel for you, it still brings tears to my eyes.
 

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He deserves to go. He deserves to not be pushed. I'll watch him and go from there...
Absolutely. Sometimes you've got to suit up and go through the motions for the sake of the dog. His life's work is to retrieve and please you so I say take a couple of hunts as long as he's comfortable that are just for him. I'd be happy to just hang out together in the blind. There will be a day that you'll be happy you did.

I liken it to watching the old timers tee it up every year on the first hole on Thursday at The Masters even though we all know they'll withdraw after the tee shot...we do it because they've earned the right to do it by being past champions and they enjoy going through the motions and participating. We set up a scenario that they can exit from gracefully and have a good time doing it.
 

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About 10yrs ago I had 12yr old lab named Maxx. If a duck went down, he got it. He got collar and test wise and we had to quit running Hunt Tests. He achieved his HRCH and SH had 1 Master pass before we quit. His hunting manners were impeccable. Everybody loved having Maxx along. Most of our hunting was fairly easy...small flooded corner of a bean field...shallow water...usually just a friend and myself. Maxx never missed a beat or lost a bird. One morning after driving right to our blind, we set out decoys and sat Maxx right beside blind and took truck to hide in woods. When we walked back to blind Maxx was right where we sat him only he was laying dead. Vet said old age and heart. I buried Maxx, not 50 yards from that blind so he could always be at the place he loved most. Before I covered him up, I tried to blow his whistle...one last time...I couldn't get enough air to blow. I just had to toss whistle in grave and say last good bye as I wiped away the tears. You just never know when you'll be saying that last good bye. So IMO, let them hunt as long as they want and the pain doesn't outway the pleasure. I think they'd rather go like Maxx than just laying around at home getting fat. Maxx will always be in my heart and by my blind.
 

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Nice post. Pulls on the heart strings. Not easy. Chris nailed it --personal choice and your observations will dictate the decision. I retired Bramble last season after a couple of easy warm hunts. He is 14. He loves chillin on the sofa, and we now have a ramp to ease the entry to kennel. HAPPY LAB. Read your dog.


His tail never never stops waggin--makes it easier (or possibly harder) when " the day" comes.
 

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You can’t just stop things on a dime. Can’t do it…Sorry…It will break your heart if you do. When you have been with a dog that long, you both click in almost everything and I mean everything.
When it is time for hunting and you start to bring stuff to the front door for loading in the rig, you first hear a whine, and then it becomes a cry when loading. I am not talking a bark or whine…I am talking about a cry….A cry that will absorb your soul…There is no comfort in what you say to your dog that knows you. They want to be with us. And when you let them go….They are like a puppy….Prancing around and almost giving you a high 5 for letting them go. In the field, they know what is going on and will dance around you and fellow hunters in euphoria, knowing. Please let your dog share with you the many seasons that you both enjoyed together. I truly promise, and I mean that from the bottom of my heart, you won’t be disappointed and they will try not to disappoint you, no matter what ails them.
You are a team come thick or thin…so please don’t let the dog down…….If it is their time, then it is their time. You can’t stop that, but show your dog with a smile and a warm hand on their head is all that they want from us. Don’t deny that from them.
 

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You can’t just stop things on a dime. Can’t do it…Sorry…It will break your heart if you do. When you have been with a dog that long, you both click in almost everything and I mean everything.
When it is time for hunting and you start to bring stuff to the front door for loading in the rig, you first hear a whine, and then it becomes a cry when loading. I am not talking a bark or whine…I am talking about a cry….A cry that will absorb your soul…There is no comfort in what you say to your dog that knows you. They want to be with us. And when you let them go….They are like a puppy….Prancing around and almost giving you a high 5 for letting them go. In the field, they know what is going on and will dance around you and fellow hunters in euphoria, knowing. Please let your dog share with you the many seasons that you both enjoyed together. I truly promise, and I mean that from the bottom of my heart, you won’t be disappointed and they will try not to disappoint you, no matter what ails them.
You are a team come thick or thin…so please don’t let the dog down…….If it is their time, then it is their time. You can’t stop that, but show your dog with a smile and a warm hand on their head is all that they want from us. Don’t deny that from them.
Well that should just about do it for this thread. Beautifully stated!
 
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