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Stop Insulting My Dog’s Age

I want people to stop insulting my dog’s age. It happened again and it will continue to happen: People are rude to my dog. I am not alone, as when I told the tale of my recent run in with “why do people say the off color things they do,” a bevy of “me, too” folks chimed in with similar experiences on Facebook.

My Cocker Spaniel is turning 8 years young next month. My previous dog lived to be one week shy of 15. The aging process is something that affects us all. Despite all the human age creams, Botox injections, and concealers on the market, we cannot stop the aging process. We will all live and we will all pass from this Earth. There is a timeless proverb that goes, “Death is the great leveller.”

While in PetSmart doing some shopping this past weekend, a gentleman and his wife approached to meet my dog, Dexter.

Said gentleman informs he is a Cocker Spaniel lover and asks Dexter’s age. After I tell him, his reply set me more than a bit back.

“Once a Cocker Spaniel is over five years old, they no longer look like puppies,” he proclaimed.

You know that mouth agape emoji that looks like this? 

Well, that was me.

Thankfully, my wife thinks on her feet and replied, “”Kind of like people.”

I am not sure what the gentleman thought of that response, as our intent is never to inflame, instigate, or anger someone when we are out in public with our dog, which is often.

Sometimes people, however, need a wake-up call.

Stop insulting my dog

Why Do We Want to Know a Dog’s Age Anyway?

We don’t approach people and ask their age at random (well, most of us don’t). Why then is it acceptable to ask a stranger how old their dog is? Granted, there are many valid reasons to know a dog’s age, especially as a pet parent. You want to communicate with the dog’s veterinarian in testing, report any changes, and adjust exercise, activity level, and dietary issues as they arise.

Dogs age faster than people.

I am guilty of asking strangers a dog’s age. On the flip side, I am respectful and do not thwart rude comments to pet parents because I respect people and pets.

So what’s the deal with asking a dog’s age?

Here’s our FiDOSE of Reality theory:

Theory A: We are comparing our dog to the stranger’s dog, whether consciously or subconsciously.

For example, if I see a Cocker Spaniel out and about, of course I stop to talk to his or her parent. At some point, the age question comes up. I think deep inside I want to know if my dog looks as good or maybe even is getting along a bit better than this dog.

Theory B: People are curious creatures.

We love to (make) and read headlines about the “oldest living XXX” in the world. The Today Show features folks who are 100+ years old and if you listen closely enough, a little tidbit about what keeps them on this Earth and feeling young is revealed. The same holds true with dogs. I often ask a dog’s age and then if I am surprised by the answer, I may say something like “Wow, the love you give your dog shows” or “Whatever you are doing, your dog is happy!” I want people who love dogs to feel good.

Theory C: Some people want to cut you down and just have an ignorant streak in them. It saddens me to type it but cuts deeper to know this is true. There is a rude and condescending component of society that knows no barriers. At the age of 47, I’ve learned that getting mad and allowing negative comments to tie me up in knots serves no purpose in my life. Speaking against naysayers and trying to educate the ignorant has become more the norm in my life. Of course, there are some folks who just aren’t worth educating.

rude people

How To Respond To Rude Comments About Your Dog’s Age

Although age is but one of the topics that is often discussed in doggie circles, it is not the only fodder for rude folks. Everything from weight to behavior and even the clothes a dog wears are all fair play in a rude person’s world.

There are a few ways to handle rude comments about a dog’s age:

  • Ignore it and walk away.
  • Toss a pot shot back.
  • Educate said person that what they said is hurtful. You know, stop the behavior and end the cycle.

I asked a few folks how they handle negative or overly bold comments about their dog’s age. The replies ran the gamut, but one thread ran through all: Every person felt saddened and/or hurt by the comments.

We live in a day and age of violence that seems to be getting worse each day, heck with each passing social media minute. I understand that fear of retaliation causes some folks to stay silent. On the highways and byways, it’s called road rage. I have no idea what one calls retaliation for correcting a rudeness against one’s dog? Fido Frenzy?

I digress.

Most dog parents I asked told me they are usually caught off guard and don’t know what to say. Here are some of their replies (see if any of these have been lobbed your way):

“My dog is white around the muzzle and he’s been called an old timer.”

“One time, a person at the dog park told me that my dog’s time is limited because he has a white face.”

“Oh, those big dogs don’t live long lives, do they?”

Who in the hell says these things and finds them acceptable?

Stop it!

Seriously, stop it!

It isn’t nice, welcomed, warranted, and is downright poor manners. If you can’t say something nice, say nothing at all. And if you aren’t sure what’s nice and not nice, then get a life coach. Learn.

I don’t want to engage people when they slice at my dog’s age: And since when is 7 or 8 old? Since when is 14 a time to tell me, “Well, she’s had a good life, you’ll be saying goodbye soon” acceptable?

It’s NOT!!!!! And yes, that statement was said to me at the veterinarian’s office once upon a time with my previous Cocker Spaniel.

Stop it!

Love all dogs

If you are of the ilk that saying something back will make you feel better and will hopefully stop the cycle of rude and uncalled for behavior, feel free to borrow these quips the next time someone insults your dog’s age:

“My dog is white around the muzzle and he’s been called an old timer.”

Your reply: I’m glad my dog doesn’t understand what you just said, because he’d be insulted just like I am .

“One time, a person at the dog park told me that my dog’s time is limited because he has a white face.”

Your reply:  “You wouldn’t say that to a person, so please don’t say that about my dog.”

“Oh, those big dogs don’t live long lives, do they?”

Your reply: “Age is just a number.”

It would behoove you to leave the conversation at that point. Some people don’t want to be educated and are not worth doing so. Rude seems to be the norm for some.

my heart beats dog

Why Does It Cut at A Dog Parent’s Heart?

From time to time, this blog gets heat—some of it quite flaming—from human parents who belittle me and the belief that pet parents and human parents have nothing in common. For me, and millions of others, dogs are members of the family and like children to us.

I know, though, they are not children. At the age of 15, when a teenager is out with his or her friends and a human parent watches the clock and worries, I have the same feeling about my dog. A human parent worries that their child is safe and will walk through the front door. I worry that my dog will make it another day. If my dog is blessed to live to 15 years of age, the hands of time are all that more precious to me.

This is a reality-based blog, so I am being honest when I say: I believe I need my dogs more than they need me. I am happier, calmer, more focused, in tune with myself, live more in the moment, and have a wider circle of connections, friends, and pet lovers in my life. I am happier than I’ve ever been sharing my life, my social circle, and my career with, by, and for dogs.

When someone insults my dog, he or she insults the short time that dog has on this Earth. He or she insults a being so innocent and one who does not judge. He or she is stomping on my heart that beats dog and this Mama Bear is having none of that.

You just don’t insult a person’s dog.

Age really is just a number. We’ve all got one and it creeps up on you and ticks forward year after year, stopping for no one. Embrace each day you have with your dogs and don’t let haters and negativity impede your joyful life.

Have you ever dealt with rude people insulting your dog? How do you handle it?

If you liked this post, you should check these out:

How to Thwart Rude People

Age Old Old Age Dog Dilemma

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Comments

  1. Ha! I know the feeling! Pippa is a mixed breed, and she has all kinds of colors in her coat, due to the white/black/brown on her snout, she looks a bit more mature! So I adopted her when she was 8-9 months old and that same day, someone told me: “Ooh, look at that old fella”!
    My face was probably the same as yours and the emoji :D! But, I don’t really care, I love my dogs, in sickness and in health, till death do us part <3!

    • I totally understand. You made me recall something. My dog has a lot of white in his coat. At 3 years of age, someone called him a senior citizen. Um at 3? “Because he is white” they said. I had no reply. No reply needed Ugh

  2. Great post Carol! By the time our Maggie was twelve her entire face and most of her beagle ears were white. We used to get odd questions as well. I agree, if you are polite I don’t mind but please be respectful. I know my little pup wasn’t going to outlive me. I do not need you to remind me of that fact.

  3. We recently had some issues with judges at nose work competitions laughing at me or commenting about me being low energy. I guess they haven’t seen me chase a wabbit. I am slower than I was a few years ago, but everyone slows a bit with age. It really upset my mom, she was crying in the car about it. True, I’m no speed dog, but I do my job slow and methodically. Being fast isn’t the only way to do things. Mom is extra sensitive right now after losing Katie and it really got to her. We are sure those people never meant it in a mean way, but it was hurtful anyway. Think before you speak – always a good thing to do.

    • I totally hear you, Emma. Having someone insult my dog at the vet when we were there for a visit was the straw that just tipped us over.

  4. When mom says I’m 8 people say”Ooooooohhhhhhhhh” I guess that means I’m old or something
    Lily (& Edward)

  5. I’m guilty of asking what a dogs age is when I meet new people. For me it’s just small talk, and I admit I’ve never thought that deep into it, but that’s probably because I’ve never added any negative connotations to it. Occasionally I’ll say something “Like wow he’s so well behaved for such a young dog” or “He looks amazing for his age.” Luckily my dog Laika has never been at the butt of someone’s age related comments myself, I think it would take quite a bit of self restraint not to be rude right back.

  6. I’m not insulted when people comment on my dog’s age. I’ve had people say all kinds of stuff like that to me. I don’t get offended, because it’s usually true. I know my 15 year old dog isn’t long for this world more than likely. I might just be because I worked in the vet field for so many years, though. I look at my pets differently than I did before. I don’t love them any less, I just don’t labor under any illusions about health and lifespan. =/

    • Usually the comments I get are not nice and are generally rude when it comes to age, so I do take offense. My new goal is to educate and not be upset by it.

  7. Great post. Some people are just jerks… and some are just dumb. Senior dogs rock. As my Lola ages, she actually got more and more compliments on how beautiful she was… the more grey her face became, the more folks would stop and tell us she was stunning. I was lucky with her. ON the other hand, with my boys I’ve had some rude remarks about how they were just “old saggy dogs” — really? My Zeus had a stronger will to live and was happier than most people I know. He lived to 14 but sadly, cancer and a broken heart (we lost Lola first) got the best of him.

    • Spot on, Nichole – some people are truly jerks. I am so sorry about your losses. I know exactly what you are going through.

  8. My blk/tan cocker started getting a gray muzzle about 10, so I understood when they asked about his age. They were never rude, wanted to pet and visit him.

    My red/white Parti event at 16 still look like a puppy (even if the redhead gotten lighter.
    People always said what a pretty puppy. Most people were amazed to learn he was blind as he got around so good.

    Thank never ran into rude questions.

    Now will have to see how it goes, I have a 5 year old liver colored field spaniel.

  9. We have a senior dog. He’s a black lab and starting to go grey here and there. People often comment about how old he is. I always tell them how young at heart he is though. He is so lively and so full of love with his kids that you’d never know his age is almost 13!

  10. I’ve never considered the fact that asking someone how old their dog is would be taken as an insult or being rude. Interesting. If I ask, it’s simply because I have a puppy (she’s almost 2 😉 ) and she is always wanting to play. Most of the dogs we come into contact with aren’t as excitable. Usually most people ask me how old my dog is first and again, I think it’s just because she is so playful.

  11. Ignore and avoid next time. Way to any parent’s heart is through their kids. Say nice things, get in. Say bad things, door is closed.

  12. I adore senior dogs! I often ask people how old their dog is, and I certainly hope I never say something that would be taken offensively. Growing old is a privilege that far too many don’t get to achieve.

    I love Dar’s response to that guy, but honestly, we need to rethink the whole “younger is better” thing. I wouldn’t mind a younger body, but honestly, this older brain is much a better friend to me than my younger one ever was!

    Senior dogs mellow, have dignity and have beautiful souls. Watching my sister’s Pug age has really helped me understand the term “bittersweet.”

  13. I don’t really have to worry about this because through no fault of my own, my dog hates people. He is the sweetest most gentle dog to my family but try to deliver my mail or visit my family and he will eat your face. lol

  14. I get this with Speedy but I think with rabbits its difficult to tell the age from their looks as people just see a fluffy white bunny with brown ears and nose.But when it comes to dogs there are certain dogs like Spaniels that to me always remain like puppies no matter how old they are.I had an English Springer Spaniel and he always had the puppy quality about him right up to the day he died when he was 16 years old and on the outside he aged very well ,he never looked that old he always looked a youngish dog.but when you looked deeper you could see he was starting to get old in his last 6 years.He started to get arthritis and had a few aches and pains and his eyes started to cloud when he was in his final year.But he always kept that puppy mentality everything was just one big game to him.I still miss the big guy.Dexter is an adorable fella and still looks like an overgrown puppy to me,so forget the silly people who have no clue and just enjoy your puppy while you have him,xx Rachel and Speedy

  15. This is indeed a great post on how to handle the rude comments about our dogs. I have never had a rude comment come from anyone about my dog or my other babies I have had in the past. If I ever run into a rude person I will now know what to say and I think your dog looks handsome.. Thanks for sharing your experience and the tips.

  16. I don’t know why people insist on saying rude things. It is just the way the world is turning I guess. So sad that people can’t just be nice to each other. People love to tell us what breed they think our dog is and they are never right. So frustrating!

  17. Eight is still young for a dog I think. My little dog is 13 and still healthy. I think it best to just walk away when someone is being rude.

  18. I’ve had people make comments about my dog’s age too or they ask me why I didn’t get a puppy since he was already an adult when I rescued him. I think dogs only get better with age.

  19. We have a very unique looking dog, and she also has two different colored eyes. We once invited a friend in and she shrieked and yelled “OMG Ugly DOG!”. It seemed like an involuntary comment, that just spit out of her. I was very hurt, and she never apologized. I am sure to her, our dog, is “just a dog”. Of course to us she is not, and we think she is stunning <3

  20. Your dog is adorable. I am so sorry for everyone who has suffered rude comments about thier dogs. I have never had anyone do that to me. One of my german shepherds had a back foot missing an accident of birth sometimes people would notice after we had chatted for a while and ask what happend but in a nice way, then told her how amazing and lovely she was. I find when I ask how old a dog is thinking they are very young they are a senior. I love the seniors. I went to the shelter to adopt a senior being a senior myself and not getting older only better like a fine wine I was chosen by a 15 month old Min Pin/Chi she is black and tan but at her young age 3 has a few white hairs coming in. I plan on adopting a senior the oldest and longest in rescue when I adopt again.

    So ignore the rude people they don’t know any better.

  21. I feel like you-I am sure that many strangers have seen my emoji face! Would you ask me, my age? Because if you do, I will not be polite! I have commented on a dog’s looks, habits, personality, and people poise. I don’t need to know if they are 9 months or 20 years. One woman did ask me about buying senior dog food-with cockers, senior and lower calorie are basically the same, so I explained that. It also depends on the exercise a dog gets. That is an intelligent conversation. Remarking on losing a “baby face” is stupid.
    I so LOVE your saying-my heart beats dog. SO TRUE!!

  22. Though I don’t have dogs, I do love them and when I ask questions about them to their human parents I try to be respectful

  23. I won’t ask about a dog’s age, I’ll just try to pet them. My cat is seven years old and somehow she’s considered a senior. The only thing senior about her is her forehead wrinkles. She’s gonna claw me if she reads this.

  24. When people ask my dog’s age and I reply “12”, they say “awww” with a sad face. Thanks for the reminder that my dog won’t be around forever…..dipshits. 😒

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