7 Steps to Help Your Senior Dog Be Happy and Fulfilled

I can hardly believe that my yellow Labrador, Sanchez, is turning 13 next week. I count my blessings that he is in good health and still enjoys our twice daily walks. But, I’m also aware that he can’t keep up to his activity level from even a year ago, let alone in his prime. I’m always looking for ways to provide mental stimulation to his environment without physically taxing his body.

1. Alone Time Together Daily

It’s not always easy having a multi-dog household. But, it’s important to make a priority of having time alone with your pets daily. Since Sanchez was an only dog for the first seven years of his life, he particularly appreciates this. It means walks take longer (walking Gina separately), but it’s well worth the time when I see Sanchez’s smile of contentment.

2. Keep Training

Dogs love to learn, no matter their age. I still spend time training every night with Sanchez. 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.

3. Give Him Attention in Creative Ways

Gina is a high-drive dog. We spend a lot of time retrieving and tugging. While it helps alleviate her pent up energy, Sanchez used to look neglected when she was getting the extra attention. So, I started sneaking him small treats while tugging with her. At night time, I often play ball with her inside, having her run down and up the stairs, chasing and retrieving the ball. I include Sanchez in the game by discreetly tossing him small treats while she’s running back up to me to deliver the ball. It not only makes him feel included, but it also engages his senses as his nose has to search for the tossed treat.

4. Reward. Reward. Reward.

In the video above, I am training both of my dogs together. Even though Gina is doing all of the physical activity, Sanchez is getting equally paid for staying calm and still while she jumps over and goes under him. Good Boy, Sanchez!

5. Pay Attention to New Behaviors

It’s not unusual for senior dogs to develop anxiety issues later in life that seemingly come out of nowhere. They can include sound phobias, separation anxiety or resource guarding. There are some that I just accept, such as tearing tissue out of the bathroom waste basket. I call it his puppy behavior returned. I just make sure that I don’t put anything in the trash that could be harmful when chewed. Other behaviors will only get worse if ignored, such as separation anxiety or food resource guarding. Tips for Separation Anxiety are here. For all anxiety issues, consult with your veterinarian and/or a positive reinforcement dog trainer. Ignored, they will only escalate.

6. Keep The Safe Physical Activity

Sanchez and I used to enjoy musical freestyle classes. He would weave between my legs, spin and jump on my arm on cue. While that would be too taxing on his body now, we have kept in what is safe for him. He still loves to “go back,” lift his left and right paw on cue, and show off his “downward dog.”  Of course, he is well paid for his behavior.

7. Engage The Senses

National Association of Canine Scent Work (NACSW™) is the official sanctioning and organizing body for the sport of K9 Nose Work. It is a growing popular sport, and it’s great for dogs of all ages. K9 Nose Work is built on scent work where dogs use their nose to search for their prize. Sanchez loved his K9 Nose Work class. Now, at home, I put pieces of liver into a mixed variety of cardboard boxes. He is told to “find” the liver. Boy, does his tail ever wag when he is searching!

Dog training should always be fun for both 4- and 2-leggeds. Get creative with your senior pup. Because you can teach an old dog new tricks.

Mark Holtuhusen


Elisa F
Elisa F2 years ago

Thanks for the great tips!

Christine J
Christine J2 years ago

Lovely to see such a positive attitude. I've been wondering what, if anything, I can do with my current foster dog, senior, poor eyesight, bad arthritis, 11 teeth removed. This has given me a few gentle ideas.

Elisa F
Elisa F2 years ago

Thanks for sharing :)

Clare O'Beara
Clare O'Beara2 years ago

Thanks, a nice positive attitude.

Jim Ven
Jim Ven2 years ago

thanks for sharing.

Marie W.
Marie W2 years ago


Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus2 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

iveta NoFwdsPls cer
Iveta Cer2 years ago

Thank you

Margie FOURIE2 years ago

Thank you

Marija Mohoric
Marija Mohoric2 years ago