Improvements in medical care and diet have given our canine senior citizens more energy and vitality than ever before. With a little extra attention you can keep your dog’s inner puppy alive for years.
First, forget the old adage "You can’t teach an old dog new tricks." Your dog’s innate desire to work, play, and receive praise assures that he not only can learn new skills, he’ll enjoy the process. Try to teach him new games and practice new tricks regularly. Mental stimulation is good for your older dog and will keep him young.
Diet and exercise: The "Inner Puppy" Pleaser
A diet rich in antioxidants, along with exercise, can be enormously beneficial in maintaining youthful qualities in senior dogs.
Obesity and inactivity are the enemy of older dogs and can lead to serious health problems and premature aging. Be sure to speak to your veterinarian about an enriched diet than can keep your older dog lean and healthy, as well as a daily exercise program that’s appropriate for his condition.
The benefits of good old fun
Nothing brings out the puppy in an older dog like playtime. Don’t let your senior get lazy. Here are some tips for keeping him up and running:
- "Fetch!" never fails to get a dog’s attention. But as he slows down, you’ll want to keep the ball closer, and if he has difficulty running or jumping, roll the ball on the ground instead of throwing it.
- When vigorous play is no longer possible, try a quieter “hide and seek” game. Show your dog his favorite rawhide chew or treat, then hide it nearby. He’ll love using his sense of smell to find the reward and win your praise.
- If your dog enjoys tugging games, be sure his older teeth can take it. Often, switching from a braided rope to a softer, squishier, more pliable toy can protect teeth and extend the fun of tugging games. But always be gentle and take a cue from your dog by letting him show you how comfortable he is with your tugging game.
While regular activity is excellent for older dogs, always keep a close eye on him for signs of pain or fatigue. With a little rest, he’ll be ready to play another day.