If your dog is spending more time lying in his bed than chasing tennis balls, don’t mistake his lack of enthusiasm for his favorite pastimes as a lack of interest in doing fun things altogether. As dogs age, they may experience a decrease in energy, painful joints from arthritis, or a loss in sight or hearing. Some dogs develop health problems that interfere with their ability to participate in activities they used to enjoy.
Determining how to entertain an old dog means finding the best activities for his overall health ,and knowing which things he seems to enjoy enough to participate in. If he doesn’t seem enthused with a new activity, let it go and look for something he seems to “click” with.
Challenge Him Mentally
That old saying that “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks” is not only untrue, but challenging an older dog’s mind will help prevent boredom and keep him busy and content. Some ways to do this:
· Literally teach him a new trick – If he already has the basics down, look for something new online. Dogs love nothing more than doing what their owner wants and learning new tricks is a great way to accomplish that! Be sure to encourage him for his efforts and award high praise when he gets it right.
· Invest in Interactive Toys – There are several interactive toys on the market that challenge dogs to figure out puzzles and earn their treats. They are certain to be as entertaining for you as they are for him.
· Take Him Along for the Ride or Walk – Those little jaunts and short errands that you used to never think about taking him along for will be more interesting to him now that he is slowing down.
Don’t take him anywhere that you will have to leave him in the car unattended, but a trip through the car wash or shopping at a pet friendly store will be something new for him to focus on.
· Get DogTV – If you have to leave your dog at home alone while you take off to the office, DogTV is there to do the job for you. Everything they broadcast is targeted at dogs, giving yours something new to look at throughout the day. New subscribers even get a month free to give it a try.
Challenge Him Physically
Even though your aging dog may not be able to run and play to the same degree that he did when he was younger, it doesn’t mean that he should stop being physical altogether. Regular exercise will help keep his joints limber and make him feel better overall. New surroundings and faces may be the incentive he needs to make him want to push a little harder. Some ideas include:
· Take Him to the Dog Park – This is another place where he can enjoy a lot of new smells and make some new friends to play with. Most of the time, there will be other dog owners who are ready to give him some much-appreciated attention, too.
· Replace Old Toys with Gentler New Ones – If your dog always loved to chase balls and catch Frisbees, he can still enjoy these activities without discomfort. He may be ignoring his current toys because they are too hard for his aging teeth and gums.
Look for toys made for older pets and spend a little time in the back yard playing with them every day.
· Walk, Walk, Walk – Dogs love to experience new smells, especially where other humans and animals have already been. Use a retractable leash to give him as much room as he needs to explore while retaining control over him when you get close to other people or traffic.
· Stage a Play Date – Nothing is more entertaining to a dog than another dog. If the date is with a new dog he has never met before, make sure it is a dog with a good temperament and make the proper introductions to get them started.
· Play Different Versions of Hide-and-Seek – Turn three (or more!) cups upside down and put a treat under one and let your dog find the right one. You can also find some hiding places to put some of his favorite treats outdoors. Choose a command word to associate with the game like “Search” or “Find It” so he always knows when there is something to look for. Once he catches on, he will always be up for a little outdoor jaunt. Just take care not to overfeed treats since older dogs tend to gain wait easier.
· Go Swimming – If you have a swimming pool or a generous neighbor who doesn’t mind sharing theirs, make swimming with your dog a regular routine during the warmer months. It will help keep dogs cool and provide them with a low-impact exercise that they will enjoy.
The most important thing to remember is that your dog will still enjoy being active, especially if an activity involves interacting with his favorite humans. Even if it is just a daily walk around the block or to the mailbox, the time you spend doing something with your dog will mean more to him than anything else you can do to entertain him.