How to Add Years to Your Senior Dog's Life

Behavior and Training  •   Mary Shaughney  •   Nov 30, 2017

Just because your dog is getting older doesn’t mean you have to cut down on your adventures together! In fact, a lot of senior dogs get stuck in “shrinking world” syndrome when owners stop including them in daily life activities. These dogs who aren’t engaged tend to sleep their days away and often become anxious or depressed. When mental and physical challenges are eliminated from a dog’s every day activities, they are likely to show signs of aging faster. Here are some ways you can keep your senior dog feeling like a young pup!

 

Obedience Training

While you may have mastered sit and stay years ago, it doesn’t hurt to reinforce basic obedience training as your dog ages. Dogs will forget commands if they aren’t used frequently just like people can! Teaching visual and verbal cues can be helpful if your dog starts to lose their hearing or eyesight.

Learn New Tricks

Training new tricks can be fun and a great way for your dog to show off their smarts. While some tricks like ‘dance’ may be cute, remember that older dogs may have physical limitations. Try to choose tricks that are easy on your dog’s body and focus more on mental exertion.

Training Clubs and Fitness Classes

There’s a large increase in facilities that offer senior dog fitness and training. Classes like Senior Pup-Pilates and Dog Yoga are great ways to keep your dog physically fit. In addition to the benefits of training, these classes are great social outings for your dog as well.

Scent Games

Playing scent games can be an excellent way for your dog to learn how to focus on smells rather than relying on their eyesight. Hide treats around the house or in various dog safe containers. Ask your dog to follow his nose right to his treat reward!

Train to be a Therapy Dog

Senior dogs make great therapy dogs because of the general low-key energy that comes with age. Working as a therapy dog allows your pup to get out of the house and socialize with other humans. Plus, senior dogs will take pleasure in the joy that they are bringing to everyone they visit!

Massage

Learning how to give your dog a massage, or taking him to a professional, can be a nice way to ease the aches of aging. Massages are also great for improving flexibility, reducing anxiety, and promoting circulation in your pet. 

Get Outside!

It doesn’t matter where you go, most dogs are just happy to be outside. Take your dog to the park and sit together watching joggers or children on the playground. Go for a walk in a new place. Set up play dates with other dogs in your backyard. Fresh air is good for both of you, and leaving the house can wear your dog out so he is ready to come home and relax.

 Swimming

Swimming can be great physical training for your dog. Swimming tones and strengthens muscles in dogs and has less impact on their joints than other activities do. Plus, most dogs absolutely love water! Even if your dog isn’t built to swim, they may like wading or getting their toes wet for a change of pace. A doggie floatation vest might also be a good option for your senior pet.

Concerned about your senior dog’s limitations?

While senior dogs may not be able to keep up the level of activity that they used to enjoy as puppies, it is important that they still get exercise and are able to socialize. If your dog can no longer handle the mountain hikes that filled his youth, try a short walk around the neighborhood or at a local park. Ensure your doggy playdates are with compatible dogs who won’t roughhouse or run your dog too much. Most games such as fetch can be modified to be less physically intense, but are still a lot of fun!

Remember, keeping your dog fit, active and at a healthy weight throughout his life, not only keeps your dog feeling young but also reduces the risk of health problems and, in turn, can add years onto your dog’s life!

Share the Greatness
Mary Shaughney

About the Author
Mary Shaughney

Mary comes to AKC Pet Insurance with an extensive background in animal care and as a lifelong animal lover, has a passion for promoting pet health and wellness. She lives in Raleigh, North Carolina with her orange kitty, "Cat", and is currently searching for the right pup to join her family!