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Friday, September 9, 2011

Senior Dogs: Invigorating
Their Life Experiences

by Carrie Boyko, CEB
© Carrie Boyko
Thirteen Year Old Xena Checks the Smells
as her Husky Friend Does the Same
Research shows that stimulating the brain—both canine and human—helps stave off dementia, memory loss, mental fatigue, and most importantly, boredom. Even when your senior pup is 14 and spends most of her hours napping or looking out the windows, she still needs mental stimulation for good health.

Here’s a few techniques that will be easy to add into your daily activities, while not too taxing on your aging fido’s stiff hips, vision impairment, or diminished hearing. Notice that each technique allows you to stimulate a different sense. Keeping in mind your particular dog’s strengths and weaknesses, choose a variety while including more of the tactics that use your pup’s strongest senses.

Most dogs retain their sense of smell as their strongest sense. Despite a lessening of her ability to sniff out a piece of kibble, she may be able to play the same game with a snack that has more aroma. Try chicken, peanut butter or dried liver pieces to elicit some interest in a search game.

Most dogs enjoy a ride in the car to experience the smorgasbord of smells along the route. Please do heed your vet’s advice and only crack the window a few inches. Flying debris--no matter how small--are frequently the cause of eye injuries. Protect your dog from this danger by only allowing a sniff of the outside air, as opposed to a head hanging out the window.

When walking your senior dog, you may want to offer a few extra opportunities to stop and ‘smell the roses’, or better yet, the doggie graffiti. Sniffing the scents of other dogs is how your pup reads the newspaper—which dog is nearby, what they ate last, male or female, whether the female is in heat, and much more information is available from that quick sniff of a tree trunk or mailbox post. Give your dog this daily experience to maintain her interest in her neighborhood’s goings on. She may even wish to participate with a little scenting of her own.

If your Fido’s eyes are still serving up a view of the world, even if only a limited one, she can continue to enjoy the sights. Keep it fresh by offering different routes on your walks. Take her with you to the pet supply store or simply out for an al fresco dinner or latte. The bottom line is offering a variety of experiences and sights to keep her spirits and eyes motivated to work.

Moving on to your pup’s ears, let’s explore some ways to give her a few new experiences. Without frightening her by suddenly taking her to a noisy fireworks expose, choose events and activities where people and other dogs are present. This is her world, her interactive areas of expertise. By giving her a chance to hear her name and the barks, bays and yaps of her own kind, she’ll remember life and all its joys. The dog park may be a great place to offer these invigorating outings; however, I would suggest you choose off-times for your older pup. Don’t overwhelm her with a park full of young whipper-snappers that are all about wrestling and running. Your goal is simply to offer variety of sight, sound and smell.

Maintain your dog’s sense of touch by allowing her to walk and lay on different types of ground. Try grass, carpet, towels, rugs, sand, sidewalks, mulch, and yes, even her soft bedding that protects those delicate hip joints from pressure as she ages. Be careful about temperatures as you allow her to enjoy outings—never too hot or too cold for her more delicate senior tootsies.

Finally, Fido’s sense of taste is extremely important to maintain. Continue to give her nibbles and sprinkles of tasty specialties to encourage her appetite and enthusiasm for eating. Older dogs often lose the energy to complete their meals, but a few slivers of grated cheese or cooked lean meats mixed in can do the trick of keeping the appetite invigorated.

Remember, it’s all about enhancing your older dog’s experience. Even when she cannot enjoy a jog through the woods any longer, she may be able to take a hike along a path, if given proper guidance. Keep it light and watch her back; that’s your job. Help her enjoy her last years, months, and days with you and you’ll always be thanking yourself for these memories. 

Looking for more ideas for your senior dog? Try these:

  • Today's post is part of the Saturday Pet Blogger Hop hosted by Life with Dogs, Two Little Cavaliers, and Confessions of the Plume. Following are the rules established by this threesome and copied from Life with Dogs' site on 9/9/11:

  • Link up your pet blog name and URL using the Linky Tool below. You only need to add your link once to be seen on all the Saturday Pet Blogger Blog Hop Linky Tools for that week. Note that if your blog is not pet related your link will be removed. Also note that only one post per blog is acceptable, and links promoting giveaways that are unrelated to the pet blogger hop will be removed. This is a community building exercise and not a promotional vehicle – please treat it as such.
  • Grab the “Saturday Pet Blogger Blog Hop” button on the right hand side of the hosts' sites and include it in your Saturday Blog hop post so that your readers will know what is going on. *Note – posting is optional. Feel free to just link and follow.
  • Follow your co-hosts listed in the first 3 slots of the Linky Tool.
  • Follow as many other blogs on the linky as you’d like.
  • Take a moment to comment on the blogs telling them you’re from the blog hop.
  • Follow back when you get a new follower through the Saturday Pet Blogger Hop.
  • Make friends and grow. ♥


Pamela said...

Some really good tips. Senior dogs are lots of fun and sometimes it's good to have someone in our lives to remind us to slow down a little.

I bought a bike trailer so my last senior dog could continue to be active with us--she didn't care for it; she wanted to run. But she liked going on canoe rides. I think she fantasized she was Cleopatra and we were her slaves rowing her down the Nile. :)

Carrie, with Tanner and Oliver said...

@Pamela: That's actually a pretty cool image for a dog--Cleopatra. I can see Xena in that role. Her full name was Xena, Warrior Princess. LOL

Sage said...

After all our Toby's been through this past year, he still enjoys a trip to the dog park and meeting all the dogs. It's good to keep our senior dogs moving as long as possible.

Anonymous said...

I am not a senior dog, but you have taught my human something about my behavior. I am an energetic dog but I like my walks to be more leisurely strolls where I often stop to "smell the roses." Now that she knows I am keeping mentally alert, maybe she'll see that this is just as important as the physical exercise part of our walk.

melfr said...

Really good advice. I started throwing treats in my yard to help my puppy mill dog learn about smells and show her how to use her nose. That continues to this day. As she gets older, I may switch to something more smelly.
I loved all of your suggestions.

Peggy Frezon said...

I love this. I have such a heart for senior dogs, I've felt so deeply for each of mine as they've aged. I hadn't thought about stimulating their mind like this, and I really like your advice about appealing to the senses, especially smell. Even if they can't get out on a long walk, by varying the route each day they will get new smells. Kelly is 10 and a young gal at heart, but I will remember this as she continues to grow older.

tubby3pug said...

What a great post, we have older dogs in our home and I try to do all these things. Right now everyone seems very young at heart

Pup Fan said...

Great tips!

KatBoxJanitor said...

Your tips to help stimulate senior pups' interests and mind are so helpful. I forwarded the link to my sister, who has a 13+ yr old Lab\German Wirehaired pointer mix who has gotten a bit creaky.

So glad I found the blog hop via a facebook friend.

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