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Pet Health

4 Joyful and Stimulating Activities To Engage a Senior Dog

How to maximize your canine companion's golden years by creating moments of joy and enrichment to keep their tail wagging as they age gracefully.

Dr. Bethany Hsia

June 04, 2023

As your canine friend gets older, declining activity levels are common. Keeping them active can help improve their quality of life in their golden years. If you've noticed your dog slowing down in their old age, it might be time to introduce some senior dog activities to their daily routines to help keep them active mentally and physically.

What Is Canine Enrichment and Why Is It Important?

Like young pups, senior dogs need to be stimulated and exercise regularly to help them live longer and happier lives. One way to keep your dog active is through canine enrichment activities that physically and mentally engage them. Enrichment is any activity that brings richness into the dog’s life. Such dog-friendly activities can help them stay mentally sharp and physically healthy and strengthen their bonds with people through quality time together.

Not all dogs enjoy the same activities, and some may require a more gentle approach to canine enrichment. Regardless of your dog's preferences, there are several enrichment activities catered just to seniors that can keep your dog stimulated.

4 Fun Activities That Your Senior Dog Will Love

Senior dogs require a gentler approach to an active lifestyle. Strenuous physical activity like jogging, running, and hiking can do more harm than good if the dog is not conditioned for such exercise. The activities you introduce into your dog's daily life will depend on their mobility, health, likes and dislikes, and any recommendations or restrictions from their veterinarian.

Here are some outdoor dog activities and indoor dog activities that almost any canine will enjoy.

1. Simple Trick Training

Teaching your dogs simple tricks is an excellent activity that provides mental stimulation and improves your bond with your companion. Now you may be saying “wait, I thought you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” While it is true that training geared toward changing bad habits is harder in older dogs, simple trick training can be fun and engaging at any age. Dogs who may struggle to learn new tricks are those suffering from cognitive decline or physical limitations regarding the trick being taught..

Simple tricks to try teaching your dog include:

  • Sit until given a release command
  • Back up
  • Smile
  • Shake
  • High five
  • Bow
  • Speak

If your dog knows these commands already, you may spice up the routine by adding in new words to request the same behavior. For example, add “pleased to meet you” as an alternate command for “shake.”

2. A Game of Fetch With a Tennis Ball

Dogs and fetch go hand-in-hand, and most dogs will enjoy a fun game of fetching a tennis ball; or in my dog’s case, getting the ball and playing keep away. Senior dogs often have mobility issues in the form of arthritis or obesity, so a rigorous game of fetch might be off the table. However, you can modify the fetch game and roll the ball on the ground instead of throwing it. Your dog will still be able to follow after the ball and bring it back to you…or keep it and taunt you with it.

3. Hiding Treats in a Puzzle Feeder

Puzzle feeders and snuffle mats are great interactive toys for indoor activity and keep your dog mentally and physically active. These toys encourage dogs to sniff out and dig for their kibble or treats. Exercising a dog’s sense of smell is an excellent way to engage their brains while providing non-strenuous physical activity. Keep an eye on your dog as they learn how the toy works and to be sure it isn’t destroyed after all the treats are recovered. As your dog adjusts to their new toy, you can layer on complexities by putting the toy under an empty box or hiding it in a different room of the house; and ultimately trying out new toys with different challenges.

4. Meeting and Playing With New Friends

Socializing can help dogs experience new sights and smells and add richness to their lives. For dogs who enjoy meeting new furry friends, having a playdate or visiting a new park can provide wonderful mental and physical stimulation.

If your dog does not enjoy meeting other dogs, they may enjoy interacting with new humans. Consider bringing your dog along for a coffee date with a friend or to visit an assisted living facility where permitted.

Not all activities will be right for all dogs, but you know your dog best and can gauge what new experiences will bring them the most joy without inducing anxiety. In addition to considering your dog's temperament, you will want to make sure they are current on all their preventative treatments such as vaccines and parasite control. Also be sure your dog doesn’t “overdo it” out of excitement, shorter and more frequent visits are helpful.

Your Pet's Quality of Life Is Everything

Understandably, a pet's happiness and health are top priorities for many pet parents. While you can take steps to improve your pet's quality of life in their senior years, there may come a time when you've done everything you can. If you find that your pet is in decline without a clear path forward you may be facing difficult decisions such as when and how to stop the decline via dog euthanasia.

When you're ready, reach out to CodaPet we can help you learn more about in-home euthanasia; a gift of love at home.

About

Dr. Bethany graduated from the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine in 2010. After graduation, she moved west. Dr. Bethany spent a year at a small animal exclusive practice in Washington state, where she was first introduced to in-home euthanasia. She gravitated towards helping pet parents and their pets in their last moments when it seemed other doctors did not find an interest. Growing up, Bethany had many childhood pets and occasionally tended to injured wildlife. The ability to calm and comfort animals seemed to come naturally to her. Dr. Bethany believes a peaceful passing is the last gift we give our pets and that it’s a gift best given at home. In her spare time, Dr. Bethany enjoys reading and running, although her favorite time is spent together with her husband and their young children. Read More