Next to fetch, eating used to be your dog's favorite activity. But lately you've noticed a gradual decrease in your dog's appetite. This can be fairly normal in older dogs - their sense of taste and smell decreases and food just isn't as appetizing.
The first thing you need to do is rule out the possibility of an underlying health problem. For one thing, your dog's loss of interest in food could be a result of dental pain or ulcers. Is your dog on any medications? Sometimes a loss of appetite can be a side effect of certain drugs.
Assuming that your dog has been checked out by your veterinarian and there are no underlying issues, there are a few ways you can renew your dog's interest in his food dish.
Start by gradually adding some variety to your dog's diet. Try adding salt-free chicken or beef broth and a few lightly cooked vegetables to your dog's kibble. This should help rekindle your dog's love with mealtime. Some older dogs also like their food on the watery side. You can achieve this by adding broth to his food. But remember, if you add variety, do it slowly to avoid any digestive upset.
Another great way to increase smell and taste appeal is to warm up the food (careful to check it's not too hot). It instantly becomes more enticing (we apologize for the drool). In fact, it is recommended that food always be brought up to room temperature.
A sudden loss of appetite could, however, signal a more serious illness. Check with your vet if your dog refuses to eat for a day or more. If his appetite gradually decrease but diminishes to a dangerously low level, this may also be a sign of something more serious. If you're concerned, check with your vet.
Playing and having fun helps to eliminate stress from your life—and the same holds true for your dog. In fact, incorporating various forms of play into your dog's daily routine is vital to helping him develop a healthy, loving personality.
The benefits of play
Here are some of the ways that playing and having fun is important:
Physical health. Active play helps keep your dog's heart healthy, keeps the joints lubricated, and improves his overall balance and coordination.
Mental health. Games with rules force your dog to use his brain, not just his body. This can help keep his mind sharp and focused.
Social skills. When your dog plays with other dogs and other people, it helps improve his overall social skills. He learns basic rules and how to play by them.
Bonding. Even if it's only for a few minutes a day, playing with your dog helps strengthen the bond between you.
Your health. What better way to alleviate the stress of a busy workday and get a bit of exercise than to come home and play with your dog? It's a win-win for both of you.
How to play with your dog
There are right ways—and wrong ways—to play. The most important thing to remember is that you're the boss. You decide what games should be played and you set the rules. This helps establish your credibility as the pack leader. It also helps keep your dog from getting overly excited and out of control while you play. If your dog does become difficult to manage, simply put a stop to the game until he calms down again.
When you're teaching your dog a new game, reward him when he does well. Remember, rewards don't have to be just treats. You can also reward him with his favorite toys or lots of hugs and praise.
When you start out teaching your dog a new game, keep it simple and go through the game slowly, until your dog fully grasps the rules. Also, wait until he fully understands one game before you teach him a new one, otherwise it will end up confusing him.
Avoid games like keep away, wrestling, or tug-of-war. Those games encourage biting or dominant, aggressive behavior.
Stay in control of the game at all times. Show your dog that you're the pack leader, not just another member of the pack. Retrieval games are good at teaching control.
Don't include your body or clothing as part of any game.
Incorporate the SIT or DOWN and STAY commands in every game.
You decide when it's time to end the game, not your dog. The best time to stop the game is when your dog is still eager to play.
If, for some reason, your dog doesn't seem to understand the game at some point, go back to the beginning, or simply leave it and try again a few days later. Don't get angry if you're dog isn't "getting it" right away. Remember it's supposed to be a fun experience for both of you!