If dog parents could have one wish granted to them, it would probably be for their pup to remain fur-ever young. It can be hard to accept that our fur babies are ageing, especially when we see the signs—increased lethargy and decreased interest in intense play matches, along with physical changes, like variations in weight, the onset of arthritis and the development of cloudy eyes and vision.
When we see these signs, it means our pooch has reached or is approaching their senior years, which is, in fact, a wag-nificent thing! Larger breeds, like great Danes and Newfoundland's, reach this milestone at about six years old; smaller dogs, like Yorkshire and Jack Russell terriers, enter this group when they’re about 10. Even though their steps are slowing down, your love for each other is ever-growing!
Whether you’ve known your furry companion since they were a puppy, an adolescent or already as a wise hound, it’s important to keep your pooch stimulated—mentally and physically—to ensure they’re living their waggiest life throughout those golden years. Read on to learn how to keep your elderly pup as sharp as a Shar Pei!
Take Shorter, More Frequent Walks
For senior pooches that are slowing down, try taking shorter walks throughout the day (as opposed to one long walk that can exhaust them). Allowing your dog to walk at their own pace as they smell their ‘pee mail’ will do wonders for their brain and leave you with a tired, content pooch when you return home.
- Keep an eye on how your dog is feeling; if they appear sluggish or unwell at any time during your walk, it’s time to turn back and head for home. If you haven’t left the house yet and your pooch doesn’t seem up to it, don’t force your dog for a walk!
- Know what the weather will be before heading out and bundle up your pooch or schedule your walk for a later time, as older mutts are more sensitive to the cold and heat.
- Have a comfortable, quiet place for your pooch to rest following their walk so they can be ready for the next one!
Take Them For A Doggie Paddle
For older pups suffering from sore joints and bones, swimming is an excellent enrichment activity to blow off their steam. This low-impact exercise can help reduce stress in your pooch while strengthening their muscles and joints, making for less painful steps when they’re out of the water. Swimming is also beneficial for pups who are in rehabilitation following an injury or need to lose a few pounds.
- Not all dogs are as thrilled by the idea of getting into water as an Irish water spaniel, so don’t force your dog if they’re initially hesitant. Try gradually introducing them to the water. If they still have their tail tucked between their legs after a few tries, swimming may just not be their sport!
- Not all pooches are natural born swimmers! Make sure you put a doggie life vest on your dog, especially if they are a brachycephalic (flat-faced) breed, like pugs and bulldogs, or have long bodies and short legs, like corgis and dachshunds, as these pups have a harder time staying afloat and get tired easily, especially in their senior years.
- Safety first! Avoid taking your dog to any warm, stagnant body of water that can be contaminated with bacteria. For senior pups, your best bet is taking them to a doggie swimming pool where the water is typically warmer than a traditional swimming pool, helping loosen those aching joints. Plus, there are no ruff riptides or unexpected underwater rocks and sticks that can end up doing more harm than good for your older pooch.
Put Their Mind And Nose To Work!
As the years creep up on our furry loved ones, it’s increasingly important to keep their brains active. Not only does mental stimulation feel rewarding for your pooch, but it helps keep their mind sharp, helping ward off depression, anxiety and dementia. With ruffly one-third of dogs over the age of 8 showing signs of losing some of their brain function, brain games are as essential to your pooch’s daily routine as their walkies.
- Invest in some interactive toys and puzzles that get your elderly pooch feeling as perked up as a puppy again! We suggest toys like the ‘Senior Kong’ (a softer version of the traditional Kong) that can be filled with dog-safe peanut butter or our drool-inducing oven-baked kibble. Dogs have incredible smelling abilities, which is why a treat-filled puzzle, like a snuffle mat, is wag-nificent for hours of sniffing and rooting.
- Play ‘hide and seek’ or ‘find it’ with your pooch—either with yourself participating (where your dog will have to sniff out where you are) or with treats hidden around the room, and you’ll instantly see your pooch turn into Sherlock Hound!
- Have a rotation of various mental stimulation toys, puzzles and games to keep your pup interested. If you stick to one toy or puzzle all the time, they lose their enriching effect.
- Don’t overexert your elderly pooch! If they seem frustrated and exhausted by a game, puzzle or toy, call it a day (though don’t forget to give them the goodies you had hiding for them—they still put in hard work!)
Give Them Extra Affection
Most dogs of all ages can’t resist a cuddle and praise from their pawrent. As dogs age, they slow down and are often more willing to accept an affectionate snuggle from you than at any other time in their life. Make these golden years truly special for your pooch by reminding them how much they’re loved.
- Don’t play ruff! Your pooch’s ageing body can be experiencing pain and soreness, so opt for gentle cuddles and pats.
- Give your dog a soft, soothing massage. Follow the instructions of a video tailored for massaging senior dogs, like this one here.
- Praise your dog often. Use any opportunity you have to remind them of what a good boy or girl they are. Studies have shown most dogs prefer praise over treats, so this is one of the best ways to stimulate them and get those happy hormones released!
Want in on a secret? The closest thing to a doggie fountain of youth may just be plant-based dog food, research from Dodd et al 2022 found dogs on a plant-based diet can live 1.5 YEARS longer than those on a meat-based diet...
So, what are you waiting for?
Join THE PACK!
If you want to discover more about raising a happy, healthy plant-based dog, download our FREE eBook.
If you are new to THE PACK you can get 20% off your first order using THEPACK20 at checkout.
Or 30% off your 1st subscription with code PACKSUB30.
Winner, winner, plant-based dinner!