10 Simple Tips for Keeping Your Old Dog Young

Those of us who love and have dogs know that senior years always approach too fast. Sanchez, my 13 1/2 year old yellow Lab, has had his health challenges this year, but now that heís gained back his strength and has recovered from E. coli, heís acting younger than he has in years. Iíve noticed this not only in his energy level, but also in his cognitive abilities and in his engagement with dogs and people around him. I cherish his golden years and am always looking for ways to keep his mind active and alert, and keep him connected with life.

SanchezGinaInBed

1. Adopt a second, younger dog.

Admittedly, Iíve been a single dog person my entire life… up until five years ago. When it felt like I was agonizing on the decision to expand my canine household, my vet said to me, ďBringing a younger dog into your household will help keep Sanchez younger as he ages.Ē Sanchez was only seven at the time, and that perspective had never occurred to me. Itís shown itself to be true.

2. Give daily spoonfuls of coconut oil.

Iíve written about the benefits of coconut oil for pets, everything from fur conditioner to paw protection. But, I hadnít realized that coconut oil helps with canine cognition until I read this Cambridge study. I’ve been giving both Sanchez and Gina a tablespoon of coconut oil nightly for a couple of months. Not only do they love the taste, but I have definitely noticed an improvement in Sanchez’s cognitive abilities.

3. Train him often.†

An old dog not only can learn new tricks, but also loves the attention and benefits from the mental stimulation as much as any age dog. Dogs love to learn, no matter their age. I still spend time training every night with Sanchez. As you can see in the video above, I’ve come up with ways to make his training less physical. But, he still gets rewarded for being involved and staying still. If it gets late, he starts whining and begging for his training time with me. The bonding time is precious and it stimulates him to keep learning and being challenged. He has no complaints about his yummy rewards either.

Goldens, cat, Sanchez, Gina

4. Mix it up.

Although dogs love consistency and build confidence through their routines, it’s sometimes good to mix up that routine as well. I recently was staying with friends and their three Golden Retrievers. While there, Sanchez loved the new smells in their backyard, neglected all of his daily naps and really enjoyed their multi-pet household, including the cats.† Our routine completely changed as my friends generally rise much earlier than me and their dogs are fed right away. I decided to allow my dogs the same privilege while we were there. Of course, Sanchez just loved it. I was surprised how quickly he reverted back to our normal routine when we got home. While he’s making up for his missed naps now, he really enjoyed the change of scenery, people, pets, and general surroundings.

5. Add variety†to diet, and consider nutritional needs.

I also add variety to Sanchez’s dog food. While the base is the same (organic meat), the variety comes in the extras. Sometimes I add in canned sardines, other times it’s salmon oil. I alter between any of the following additions: sweet potatoes, carrots, pumpkin, green beans, spinach, kale, apples, and bananas. He’s a Lab and LOVES his food. Surprising him adds to his olfactory delight as well.

6. Add environmental enrichment.

Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine defines environmental or behavior enrichment as “the process of manipulating an animal’s environment to increase physical activity & normal species typical behavior that satisfies the animal’s physical and psychological needs.” Music created for senior dogs, with their hearing sensitivities in mind, is a great way to provide auditory stimulation that engages their senses.

7. Incorporate nose work.

Dogs often lose hearing and sight in their senior years. But, as long as they can still smell, they can still find their way around. I’ve honestly met blind and deaf dogs that were still retrieving balls, and I barely noticed any impairment to their sight or hearing. Engage a dog’s nose, and you’ll keep him stimulated.

K9 Nose Work defines this sport as “the fun search and scenting activity for virtually all dogs and people. This easy to learn activity and sport builds confidence and focus in many dogs, and provides a safe way to keep dogs fit and healthy through mental and physical exercise.” I enrolled Sanchez in classes a couple of years ago, and now we play “find” games at home. I hide pieces of liver in boxes spread throughout the living room. He searches for the piece of liver and is rewarded with more liver in the box when he finds it. He LOVES this search game.

8. Play often.

No matter the age, dogs enjoy and benefit from playtime. Even if they don’t have the same physical abilities as their younger canine friends, they can still engage in play. Try a game of hide and seek. Actually, all training and nose-work games should also feel like play to them. Pretend you’re a kid again, and they’ll pick up on your energy and thank you for it.

9. Walk them in new areas.

Again, engaging their nose helps keep them stimulated and interested in their surroundings. Bringing them to a new area for a walk is another way to do that. Sanchez is still often with me in the car. So, once a week, I try and stop in a new area for him to explore.

10. Take time to smell the roses.

Walks may no longer be about physical activity. Move at his pace. Allow him to use his nose as much as he chooses. I’ve learned that it’s not only good for Sanchez, but it’s good for me. He’s teaching me the importance of taking time to slow down and enjoy nature. Honestly, does it even get any better?

How do you engage with your senior dog? Thanks for adding any suggestions in the comments below.

 

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107 comments

Jerome S
Jerome S2 months ago

thanks

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Jim Ven
Jim V2 months ago

thanks for sharing.

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Melania Padilla
Melania Padilla3 months ago

Makes sense, sharing as well!

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Siyus C
Siyus C5 months ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Glennis Whitney
Glennis W5 months ago

The dogs are all so adorable Thank you for caring and sharing

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Glennis Whitney
Glennis W5 months ago

Interesting information Thank you for caring and sharing

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Glennis Whitney
Glennis W5 months ago

Great article. Thank you for caring and sharing

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Leo Custer
Leo C5 months ago

TYFS

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Janis K
Janis K5 months ago

Thanks for sharing.

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Janet B
Janet B5 months ago

Thanks.

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