It's easy to connect with a young dog. You can go for a run, play games, or participate in agility or obedience classes together.
But an older dog can have trouble navigating the stairs or walking across a slick floor, much less participating in an agility course.
It can be frustrating for owners to watch their couch potato elderly dog, who used to do so much, spend all day, every day dozing. Many owners want to interact with them, but beyond petting or feeding them, what can you do with a dog that struggles to even sit for a treat anymore?
Here are four great ways to connect with your beloved dog in his or her golden years.
1. Scent Games
Older dogs can still play games, and some of the best games are scent games. Although many senior dogs lose their hearing or eyesight, most still have a strong sense of smell and enjoy putting it to good use.
Many pet stores sell puzzle games or interactive toys in which you can hide dog treats. If you don't want to spend money on one of these puzzle games you can substitute plastic cups or yogurt containers, hiding a treat under one and letting your dog find out which one holds the treat. You can also scatter some of their favorite treats on the floor or in the backyard and let your dog hunt for the pieces. It sounds far too simple to humans, but most dogs enjoy tracking down their food, as active games help keep their minds sharp, and mental stimulation is key for senior pets.
2. Interesting Walks
Walking is good for older dogs. If you know your dog is stiff, it can be hard to ask them to go for a long hike, but a short walk is almost always to their benefit. Not only can it help dogs maintain their muscle strength, it can also refresh their spirits to see (and smell) new and interesting places.
There are a few cautions, however. You should always know your dog's limits and physical abilities, and never stray too far from the house or car. At the first sign of discomfort, cut the walk short and head directly home.
3. Car Rides
If your dog struggles to walk or can't walk very far, car rides are a great alternative. Most dogs love car rides, especially if they can stick their nose out of the window and take in all the interesting smells. Whether it's a longer ride or just a quick zip down the street, your dog will enjoy experiencing scenery beyond what can be viewed from the comfort of his or her bed.
For dogs that suffer from arthritis, swimming is a great alternative to walking. It's a great physical exercise that is low-impact and easy on the joints. If you live near a body of water, you can let your dog try swimming for free. If not, certain areas provide swim classes for dogs. For smaller breeds, you can even use your own bathtub.
Whatever method you use, be sure to watch your dog closely when he's swimming, as older dogs tire faster and get cold more quickly than younger ones.
An aging pet can present many challenges, but senior dogs still have a lot of love to give and still benefit from playtime. Do some careful planning and give old dogs some extra help. And most importantly, cherish every minute you have with your best friend.
Have you tried any of these activities with your older dog? Share your experiences below!
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