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Tips for Providing Enrichment to Senior Dogs

Tips for Providing Enrichment to Senior Dogs

As dogs age, they can become less physically active and appear to slow down mentally as well. They may also begin to get left out of events or activities they used to be included in such as runs, long hikes, road trips, or even play time with others because they are not able to keep up or don’t seem to enjoy the activities as much anymore.

To keep pups healthy and happy as they grow older, you can provide enrichment activities to suit their needs and also ensure they get the attention and human interaction they crave.

Training

  • Older dogs can learn new tricks! Training is not just for obedience and is also great for mental stimulation to help keep a dog’s brain active, sharp, and engaged as they age.
  • Check out a rewards-based dog training class on topics such as tricks, mobility, or scent work.
    • A good trainer will always be able to help you adapt a skill to suit your dog’s needs (for example, if sitting is a normal part of the skill, but your senior pup can’t do this easily anymore).
    • Check out your local Camp Bow Wow® for available training services.
  • Continuing to practice the cues your dog knows at home is also a great way to keep up their mental acuity.

Puzzles

  • Food puzzles are a great way to keep your dog’s senses sharp.
  • Try out soft puzzles like a Snuffle Mat or plastic and rubber puzzles to hide treats. We love the KONG Flipz!
  • You may even start putting part of your pup’s meals in a puzzle to make mealtime an interactive experience.
    • This can also help cut down on the number of treats you give as many senior dogs can gain weight easily because their physical exercise has decreased.
  • Raw veggies such as carrots, celery, or cucumbers can also be fun for a dog to chew or shred without the worry of too many calories.

Games

  • Even if your senior pup can’t play games like fetch or tug like he or she used to, you can adapt these games to make them easier.
    • Try just rolling a ball or toy on the floor for fetch rather than chucking it across the room or yard.
    • Use a nice soft toy for tug and make sure you don’t tug your dog’s feet off the ground. Keep the game gentle and brief.
  • Playing hide and seek (whether you hide from your dog or you hide a treat or toy) can also be a fun way to interact with your dog without high physical intensity.

Walks

  • Even if you’ve always included walks as part of your dog’s routine, there are ways to make the walks even more beneficial for senior pups, especially if they are not able to walk as far or are not getting as frequent of walks.
    • Try to let your senior dog go at his/her own pace and choose the path (within reason for safety).
    • Allow long periods of sniffing.
    • Take a short car ride to walk in a different neighborhood so your senior pup can explore new sights, smells, and sounds.
    • Consider using a long-line for open fields, parks, or other areas where your pup can explore and wander while staying safe.
      • Make sure your pup has a reliable recall to use while on a long-line so you can easily call them back to you.
      • Watch for other pups and people as well so your dog doesn’t take advantage of the extra freedom to go greet others without permission.
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