If you haven’t read Part I yet, click here!
Never Too Old to Learn
Even though you may have “retired” your dog from high-impact activities or activities that require more endurance and focus, it’s important to keep her stimulated to help maintain canine cognition. Take the case of Michelle and Winnie – a 13-year-old coonhound. Michelle took Winnie back to basic manners classes, not because she needed a refresher, but because it was a way to give Winnie some external activity in a safe environment without stressing her. Winnie loved the class: she got to meet new people and dogs, spent time with Michelle one-on-one, and was doing something she knew how to do. On top of that, she still got rewarded for performance!
Find classes that will meet your senior dog’s physical needs such as Rally, Nosework, WAGS classes, basic manners, and enrichment games. Animal Inn Training School in Lake Elmo offers a Senior Enrichment Games class where you and your dog get time in the ring to just play – there are no rules (outside of the general class ones) and the games vary from finding hidden treats or scents to low/no impact obstacle courses to brain games.
Maybe your dog is ready to learn something new! As your dog moves from puppy and young adult energies to adult and senior energies, you might consider therapy dog training. If your dog has the right temperament for therapy work, such visits are a great way to give back to your community, and the benefits for both your dog and the humans you visit are well-proven.
Keep Having Fun at Home
Stanley, a 14-year-old Viszla, went from being considered “too old to do anything but sleep on the couch” to “Wow! He’s still got a lot left in him” by taking some of the fun from a senior enrichment class and bringing it home. Robyn, Stanley’s owner, also enrolled in Dognition games after hearing about them in class. Dognition is a collection of interactive games that are fun and easy to play with your dog at home; Robyn now plays these games regularly with Stanley.
There are many brain-game products on the market you can purchase for your dog, and also many DIY games you can make with just a few simple items.
Here are a couple DIY ideas!
- Take two muffin tins, placing your dog’s meal in the cups and invert a second tin on top of the first. Place some balls or similar soft, not too heavy objects, on the top of the inverted tin and let your dog “play with dinner.”
- Take a muffin tin, put treats in the bottom of a few of the muffin cups and cover with softballs or just plastic cups or mix it up! Then watch your dog have a blast trying to get to the treats.
Watch Beau, a 15.5-year-old Beagle/Lab/Border Collie mix, play muffin tin games:
Talk with Your Vet
On a regular basis, it’s important to review with your vet your senior dog’s current capabilities. He or she may have a variety of recommendations from supplements to physical therapy to help your dog maintain good physical and mental condition.
Don’t let the graying fur around your dog’s muzzle stop you from enjoying him in his senior years! Very simple things – a short walk, a supervised ride in the car to anywhere, homemade brain games, lower-activity classes – are all fun and stimulating for your dog. Using his senses, brain, and body to keep moving, figure out puzzles, learn or relearn something new, helps your senior dog live a longer, happier and more enriching life.
Written by Sharon Middendorf, CNWI with Animal Inn Training School
Photos by Caprise Adams Photography.