I have been blessed by having two amazing teachers in my life – my senior dogs – who have taught me that getting old doesn’t mean giving up fun. Even though they move more slowly – so do I – and take more time getting started in the morning, they still look forward to every time we go on a walk or get in the car to go to a class, the pet store or the park. During her last weeks of life, Izzy, my 15.5-year-old Border Collie mix, still gave it her all in class because we were in the ring, just the two of us, having fun together.
Senior dogs, especially those retiring from sport careers, need continued enriching activities to stay healthy and mentally vital. There are many simple ways we can provide physical and mental activities for our silver-muzzled companions and resist consigning them to “too old to do anything fun” status.
Short and Sweet
The long walks up hills and over rough terrain may be coming to an end for your senior dog, but don’t give up on walking; it’s still one of the best things to do for you and your dog’s health. Plus, it’s a great way to spend time together. Remember to adjust your pace to what your dog is capable of doing. Choose a nice, relaxing stroll instead of a brisk, fast-paced trot, and your dog will be happy, have less discomfort afterward, and love being with you.
Let the nose have fun too! In their lives, sniffing is the first sense that dogs have, and it’s usually the last one they lose. On a walk, giving them time to occasionally check things out delivers “the daily canine newspaper” and enriches them mentally. Don’t be so focused on getting the walk in that he doesn’t get to enjoy just being a dog. This is so important for our older dogs as it can help them understand that they are safe, orient them in the world, and its just good fun for them!
Don’t forget the simple pleasure of going for a ride in the car as well. Even a short ride to nowhere and back is fun for your dog as it provides visual and olfactory stimulation. Remember to have a safe way for your dog to ride in your car either through a harness or a crate, and never leave them unattended.
Looking for a safe, ice-free place to walk your dog in winter and give both of you something to do? Try hardware stores! Many local hardware stores are dog-friendly, including Lowe’s™ and Ace Hardware™. Don’t forget pet supply stores as well – just watch out for those open bins on the lower shelves – many dogs like to self-serve! One thing to keep in mind for our senior dogs is that the flooring may have less traction, so keep an eye on them while walking in stores.
Written by Sharon Middendorf, CNWI with Animal Inn Training School