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When Your Older Dog Gets Too Clingy

friendly dog being wiggly on his back

Your once-independent doggie is suddenly acting attention-starved and won't leave your side. What to do?

First, because your dog is older and this is new behavior, his 'clinginess' may be indicative of an underlying medical condition. Be sure to have your veterinarian give him a full physical. If he is losing his hearing or sight, which is common in older dogs, this could be making him feel much more dependent on you and anxious when you leave him.

Also, anxiety in older dogs can be indicative of Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome (CDS), a disease which functions much like Alzheimer's in humans. If your dog is diagnosed with CDS, your veterinarian may prescribe medication to help treat this illness. If your vet has ruled out medical causes for your dog's behavior, then you should start treating him behaviorally.

Making your older dog feel more independent

You'll find that simple exercises, coupled with lots of love and patience, can make your older dog feel more independent and less anxious. A good and simple exercise is to distribute your dog's meal/kibble around the house. If he wants to eat, he has to walk away from you. This reminds him that he can still have positive experiences even when you're not right beside him.

Other things to remember

  • Don't make a fuss when you leave or come home. This will only make him more anxious when you leave the house.
  • Review the 'sit' and 'stay' commands with your dog. Practice these commands while moving away from him a short distance, then slowly increase the time and distance. Reward him when he obeys.
  • Try not to reward clingy behavior. Ignore your dog if he follows you around or demands attention, and reward him when he lies quietly.
  • As an older fellow, he is likely experiencing more aches and pains. Provide him with a soft, easily washed bed located close to you, and teach him to use it.
  • If your dog is experiencing vision loss, don't rearrange the furniture. He will adapt much more easily to his environment if furniture remains in the same location.

And remember, older dogs do need extra attention. Make an effort to spend time with him when you can: Take him on car rides, play gentle games by tickling his paws, or sit on the floor just touching him. Small gestures can reassure him that you're still there for him in his Golden Years.

  • When Should You Switch Your Senior Dog to Soft Food?

    smiling lab sitting in front of brick wall

    As your dog ages, you’ll likely notice changes in your best pal’s energy levels, routine and even muzzle. Older pets may require adjustments to help them get around, exercise and live their best life as a senior. One important aspect of caring for a dog entering their golden years is diet.

    When it comes to diet, every dog has unique, individual needs, regardless of age. So, there's no one easy answer to the question of soft food versus hard food. Both types of food can provide your dog with the nutrition they need — as long as you feed your dog a high-quality dog food that’s nutritionally balanced and complete.

    two dogs eating from two bowls

    Signs Your Senior Dog May Benefit from Wet Food

    If your dog has very specific health concerns, such as aging joints or weight issues, consult with your vet for more information about what type of food best addresses your dog's needs. That being said, there are a few reasons why you may consider switching your senior dog to soft food.

    fluffy brown dog yawning showing teeth

    Teeth Sensitivity

    As your dog gets older, their teeth may become more sensitive, which can make chewing kibble more difficult and even uncomfortable. Switching to a soft food can help to alleviate your pet’s oral discomfort when eating.

    However, if your dog is experiencing serious pain at mealtime from a condition like tooth decay or gingivitis, switching to soft food won't remedy the problem. Make sure you talk to your vet about oral care and dental treatment.

    Digestion Aid

    Digestion begins in the mouth with saliva, so if your dog has a tendency to scarf down meals, they may not be adequately chewing the food or adding enough saliva to it. Soft food can aid with digestion because it's more easily chewed.

    Hydration Help

    It’s no surprise that wet food has a higher moisture content when compared to dry kibble. If your senior pup is prone to urinary-tract issues or simply needs a little help staying hydrated, canned dog food may be a good choice.

    girl kissing older dog on the head

    Slower Metabolism

    Aging dogs tend to have a slower metabolic rate compared to their younger years, which puts them at a higher risk of becoming overweight or obese. Many nutritionally balanced wet dog foods offer high protein content with fewer carbs than dry food, which can benefit older dogs with slower metabolism. Always talk to your vet if you have concerns about your pup’s weight.

    Picky Eaters

    While wet food may be less than appetizing to humans, the opposite is true for dogs! If your aging best friend has started turning their snout up to dry food, wet food tends to be more appealing to picky eaters. Mixing wet food and kibble offers your pup a variety of flavors and textures; try adding wet food as a topper on dry food for a real treat!

    Whether you choose dry food, soft food  or a mix of both, ask your vet before making any transition. And when it's time to switch your dog's food, remember to do it slowly — even if it's the same brand and flavor — to help prevent stomach upset and allow your dog time to adjust.

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