By the time your dog becomes a senior, you have probably had enough time with him to know what he enjoys. Now that he may be lacking energy or have a tender mouth or achy joints, it may just be a matter of modifying what you have always done for fun to accommodate his changing needs. No dog wants to stop doing things that bring him joy. It’s up to you to figure out which fun activities to do with your older dog that still bring both of you joy without putting any added strain on his aging body.
Below are some ideas to help you out!
1. Enroll Him in Obedience Training – Even if he is perfectly behaved, it can’t hurt to go back for a refresher course. Dogs love nothing more than interacting with their owners and this is one way that you can work together to achieve a common goal. The activities are also more mentally challenging than they are physical so they won’t cause your dog any physical stress. If he has any specific limitations, just work around those activities that he might find uncomfortable.
2. Play Hide-and-Seek with Treats – Most dogs retain their amazing sense of smell to a large degree through their senior years. Take advantage of his nose and hide treats around the backyard or the living room by placing under containers or behind objects where he will have to sniff them out to find them. He will get as much fun from the game as he will from the rewards of a job well done.
3. Keep Walks Regular and Entertaining – Walking is one of the best exercises for people and their canine companions. Regular walks can help keep senior dogs’ joints limber and their muscles strong. Make walking a habit but mix up your destination to keep it interesting for your dog. Different places can offer a myriad of smells and experiences that will make it more fun than just walking around the block twice a day. Consider going to a park with a stream, across a large parking lot at the local mall, or on a mountain trail. If you have to take a short car ride to get to your destination, that’s okay. He will probably enjoy the sights and smells along the way.
4. Take Him on Your Next Vacation – Instead of leaving him behind, make your next vacation a pet-friendly one that you can both enjoy together. Senior pets are especially vulnerable to depression when being left alone. Check into pet-friendly hotels, beaches, swimming pools, and restaurants and make it a fun time that you can always remember. If special needs make traveling difficult, keep your vacation closer to home.
5. Get Him Registered as a Volunteer Dog – If your dog loves people and he is well-behaved, he may be the perfect candidate as a volunteer dog. Many hospitals, nursing homes, and other types of care facilities use volunteer dogs to help improve patients’ moods and even boost their health. It will be an experience that both of you will enjoy.
6. Make New Friends – The best new friend for your dog is one who is younger, more energetic, but who isn’t aggressive. Make friends with a new dog and dog owner for play in the park. Dogs like to be in the company of other dogs and it can help make them feel and act younger. Just be sure you find the right dog and not one that makes your dog uncomfortable.
7. Learn Dog Massage – There are many resources online where you can learn different massage techniques that will help senior dogs relax and work out some of the stiffness in their joints. Dogs tend to get more anxious as they age and massage is a good way to help them relax and reduce the effects of arthritis.
8. Reinvent Old Favorite Activities – Don’t give up on the things that your dog loves to do most just because he isn’t able to jump, run, and tug as strongly as he used to. Instead, get softer toys, throw them for shorter distances, and play in a comfortable environment that doesn’t add to the challenge of the game. Also, look for toys that make sounds or light up to make them even more interesting. Having fun with your senior dog is about making activities entertaining, not eliminating them altogether.
If your dog doesn’t seem interested in doing any of the things that he used to or that you have attempted to introduce to him, have him checked out by the vet. Never assume that a lack of energy or interest is just due to aging. Before your dog can be active and happy, he has to be healthy and feeling his best.