Saturday, May 16, 2015

Inspire Your Dog's Instincts for Brain Work

by Carrie Boyko, CEB
Add Yourself or a Toy for Swimming "Work"
Just like my dogs, each of yours come from a rich history of jobs that they were once trained for and worked at daily. Even if your pup is a Heinz 57 mix, he has likely got a strong suit of instincts that can help you guide him through activities that will work his brain, helping to keep him young. Finding these interests will be key to working your senior dog as he ages and is less able to handle extensive, physical activity.

Not sure what your dog's instincts are? You may want to pick up a DNA test kit to see what your particular Fido's primary breed profile looks like. This should aid immensely in finding out what you can do to find Bowser's favorite activity.

Some of you may think your dog is not much more than a lap warmer. Dogs like Oliver, for
Dogs With Jobs Live Longer,
Happier Lives
example, started their breed development as attendants to queens, acting as daily companions. Oliver's breed history as a companion dog--despite his puppy mill breeding--has bode well in his new job as a Medical Alert service dog. He keeps tabs on me quite attentively, rarely losing focus except for the occasional social opportunity. I can't complain about that; a social life is healthy for us all.


Tanner, on the other hand, has a strong Retriever DNA thread. His instict for retrieving is so strong, in fact, that I have witnessed several episodes in which he cornered a live critter, only to sit and await my arrival and instructions. There's no killing instinct in him, which I am told is true to a pure Golden--the need to return the downed animal to his handler without damaging it. Who knew?!!! 

Retrieving is an activity that involves both mind and body, a good combination to keep your pup young and alert. Using his brain to solve problems and follow through on a job helps to keep him young.

All that said, I've been able to put my boys to work in ways that best suit them. To maintain the health of Tanner's hips, he is now spending a greater share of his exercise time swimming and fetching in water. These activities put little weight on his joints, while helping maintain the strength in his muscles. 
A photo posted by Carrie Boyko (@allthingsdogblog) on

Today's exercise involved retrieving 7 toys from the pool and returning them to a pile. This is an activity we have developed since he mastered the toss and return game at a young age. I wanted to keep him learning. 

Oliver's job requires his keen observation skills and attention to my scent. If there's a shift in this, he's up and in my face, letting me know it's time to take action. All seems to be well in his world as long as he is able to be near me. What's not to like about that?!!!

We hope you have enjoyed some of our other #SilverSlippers tips for enhancing the benefits of your senior's walks. These techniques can be used with any and all dogs, but are designed specifically to give your seniors some extra challenge, rather than extra physical work. 


Theming a Dog Walk
Putting Pet in Your Senior Dog's Step
Inspire Your Dog Walks

Happy tails,



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15 comments:



Cathy Armato said...

This is great advice! I've been thinking about how to put my Husky's instincts to pull & lead to good use and provide her w/ more (constructive) mental & physical stimulation. Great job with your dogs!
Love & Biscuits,
Dogs Luv Us and We Luv Them



Sam Ivy said...

This is a fun idea! Not only does it stimulate their brain, it also plays on their natural tendencies. I think water therapy is so good for older dogs, and his fetched pile is impressive. I love the anecdote about him cornering animals and waiting for your instructions. That is so cute.



Lazy wife and mom said...

Where do you find out what job would suite different dog breeds? I have a lab, that one is easy. What about my English bulldog? I'm not sure what job would be good for him. Any ideas?



Jordan said...

Wonderful ideas here! Keeping your dog engaged is so important, especially as they get older. Those puppies look like they're having a great time! Thanks for sharing!



Carrie, with Tanner and Oliver said...

@Lazy wife and mom: I would suggest doing a google search on the history of the English Bulldog. Same goes for all breeds that may not have an evident job. I was surprised to learn what my Papillon's history held. Good luck!



Shaun said...

Sound advice! I do find it tricky to keep a working dog's mind sharp and active.



Tim said...

My American Husky dog is pushing 10 years now and we've been able to keep him active with fetch and retrieve tasks too. You can definitely see it paying off in his later years as you'd normally expect a larger lack of energy in senior dogs.



said...

useful information.. Thanks for sharing.



K9 of Mine said...

So great seeing how you help Tanner keep his mind and body in great condition, even in his golden years ;) He's a lucky dog!



Sarah said...

Great ideas here. I'm glad I found your blog. Keep up the good work!



Raylin Sutter said...

Thank you so much for writing your blog. I have three dogs (german shephard, pitbull, and heeler) and my kids are always coming up with fun ways to exercise our dogs. Do you give your dogs pet meds or vitamins to help them be healthier?



Raylin Sutter said...

I absolutely love my three dogs! I keep them stimulated throughout the day with treats, a training regime, and outdoor play. We are about to take our newest dog to get his pet vaccinations soon and are nervous about that. He isn't too tame. What have you done to help keep your dog calm at the vets?



Carrie, with Tanner and Oliver said...

Thanks for your question, Raylin. I don't use any calming agents prior to visiting the vet. My approach is more proactive. As pups, I frequently visited the vet's office simply to allow the dogs to get a friendly head rub and a pleasant experience. Lots of praise and a treat followed. These techniques have aligned vet visits with pleasant experiences and therefore my dogs are totally fine with visiting the vet. Oliver was just there today with no issues and my vet often brags about Tanner's ease of exam work.



Sam said...

Great post! It makes me happy to see people giving attention to their dog's "natural" needs eg. leading, retrieving, etc. Most people never even consider them.



Mahee Ferlini said...

Thanks for all of the tips! I agree - your dog definitely gets better at every exercise and skill with practice and patience. Also, I guess it only makes sense for them to live longer with regular workouts!

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