Many of our dogs have been our companion since puppy hood. Watching them age and get older is always easy for us, but we can do things to assist them in coping. Some of those things include providing him with an age-appropriate diet, as well as enough exercise to ensure they are living their best life. Another way to keep your senior dog healthy is to introduce some mentally challenging activities into his life, vary his daily routine, or take him to new places. Below, we’ve provided you with some ideas to help you get started keeping your aging dog content, happy and healthy, and as always, don’t forget to involve your dog in your daily activities as much as possible.
1. The Shell Game
For those of you who have senior dogs who are experiencing mobility issues, such as arthritis or hip dysplasia, finding games that are fun and rewarding without requiring much physical activity can be difficult, as chasing balls, going for long walks and runs are now out of the question. But this is a good one. The shell game allows you to engage your dogs mental capacity, with very little movement. This is a variation of the old shell game, where the onlooker must determine under which of the 3 cups the ball resides. Here, you’ll replace the traditional ball, with a delicious doggy treat, which will be used to engage your dog as well as provide a reward. There are a number of ways to do this. First, you can take 3 paper cups, place the tidbit under one of them, and begin to move them around. Encourage your dog to locate the treat, and when they do, give it to them! If you don’t have a cup, then use your hands. Place the treat in the palm of one hand, close both fists, and begin to move your hands around, encouraging your senior to sniff out and locate the hand with the treats.
2 Activity Toys
Since you’re dogs mobility may be hampered by old age, finding toys that are specifically made to stimulate their senses is imperative. Fortunately, there are pet toy companies that specialize in stimulating their brain. One such company is Trixie Dog Toy company, located in Germany. They have a category of 15 products devoted to this topic, called, dog activity strategy games. The purpose is to offer your senior dog new and exciting challenges without taxing their physical strength. Toys include: the Windmill, Gambling Tower, Solitaire, Slide and Feed, and Flipboard, just to name a few. For instance, Trixie’s Flipboard is a colorful toy that challenges your dog to locate the treats by scent, then try to figure out how to ‘flip’ the various shapes to get a treat. If you notice how alert the dog becomes toward the end of the video as he catches on, and flips the plastic shapes and learns to move the two levers. If nothing on Trixies site grabs your attention, then know that puzzle toys for dogs are available from a variety of pet toy makers.
3. Turn Your Older Dog into a Therapy Dog
Did you know that older dogs make great therapy animals? Well, they do. Senior dogs are a welcome visitor, offering comfort to the elderly in nursing homes, people in hospitals, schools and libraries. Therapy dogs are not service dogs. Service dogs require intensive training to be able to tend to their owners needs. Therapy dogs, however, can be any dog that is deemed calm, dutiful, and not prone to disobedience. So, as you can see, the older dog is perfect for this task.
As a therapy dog, you and your dog will be able to visit new places, meet new people, and have an all-around great time doing so. If you think that your older dog would benefit from being a therapy dog, then contacting the Good Dog Foundation is a great place to start, and will provide you with a schedule of their classes. They provide you with a short and simple course, which provides you with a certificate of completion at the end.
4. Long Car Rides
Let’s face it, most dogs simply adore riding in cars with their owners. Often, all you need do is open the car door, make a gesture towards the dog to enter, and they eagerly oblige. What makes car rides so special? Well, for one thing, it’s the overall sensory stimulation they receive. As we all know, dogs have a keen sense of smell, with over 200 million olfactory receptors, compared to our 50 million, which makes long car rides quite the excursion. Another benefit, is the change of scenery. Dogs get to experience new places, all without taking a single step. This is particularly meaningful for those with hip dysplasia or arthritis. They still get to be adventurous, and do so without any pain or exertion. As always, don’t forget to make a stop somewhere for a tasty treat! Also, remember if you have a small to medium-sized dog, consider purchasing a dog stroller and take them for long rides in the neighborhood.
5. Scent Work or Treasure Hunts
Treasure hunts are something that your dog will really enjoy, and it can transform your home or back yard into a veritable adventure for your best friend. All that’s needed is some basic grunt work on your part, and some interesting and delectable treats from around the home or beyond. The goal for this activity, is to stimulate their olfactory senses, allowing your dog to fully exercise their sense of smell in a positive and playful way. There are two basic methods used to set up this activity. The first one involves, “dragging”. Here, you take an item, such as one of your shirts, or perhaps a dog bone, and attach it to a rope or leash. The purpose is to drag the scent through the house, or yard. Have some fun here and make it interesting for your dog. You can make it simple, or add some easy to overcome obstacles along the way. At the end of the drag trail, be sure to have a delicious reward waiting for him! The second method involves taking individual items, such as dog treats, and hiding them. Your dog must now use his sense of smell to locate and uncover the goodies. You can have your dog look through boxes for treats, hide them under bushes, or behind chairs, you get the idea. Of course, since this is a fun activity, it’s perfectly acceptable for you to give your dog some hints from time to time!
What you see here is just the tip of the iceberg. The market place is packed with dog toys that serve to stimulate and engage your senior, and local dog trainers are right there waiting to assist you if need be. Keep in mind, that older dogs can develop depression, they can even feel left out of your daily activities if their health changes. In other words, once your dogs mobility decreases, so do the daily walks to the dog park. By finding supplemental activities for your senior dog, you can be assured as his condition alters his past activities, he’ll still feel a part of your life.