It is a well known fact that dogs just don't live long enough. They come into our lives bringing joy and love, and while it feels like they will be apart of our family forever, that isn't the case.
A lot of popular breeds like Labradors rarely live past 12 years old. For these breeds, they are technically classed as 'seniors' at about 8 years old.
This time can go quickly, and sometimes it is hard for owners to admit that their beloved furry family member is getting on in age.
We wanted to let you know about a few different things you can do to help keep your senior dog happy and healthy, and around as long as possible. We have broken these tips into our usual 3 headings to help you remember them, and look out for later posts that expands on these topics!
Bone: Health and Nutrition
The health of your dog is extremely important at all stages of his life, but never more so when they get into their senior years.
1) If your dog is on dry food, but they no longer seem to be eating much of it, this might be because of their deteriorating teeth and the crunch required for big kibble pieces. Try soaking their kibble in water for an hour or so before meals to soften it up. Alternatively you can consider switching them to a high quality canned food, or wet food like Butternut Box (visit www.butternutbox.com/BoneBallBark for 75% off your first box).
2) You may need to decrease the amount of food you used to give them as they slow down. They require less calories as they are less active. Senior dogs have a tendency to put on weight fairly quickly so keep an eye on their weight and how much food and treats they are given.
3) Consider joint support supplements like glucosamine and chondroitin to help relieve pain associated with arthritis. You can find glucosamine in tablet and liquid forms, as well as in natural food supplements like beef trachea's (a great chew), green tipped mussels, and shellfish shells. Turmeric is also a great anti-inflammatory too.
Ball: Play & Socialization
You still want to provide as much enrichment as possible for an elderly dog. They may want to sleep most of the day, and not up for long walks, but there are plenty of things you can do to keep their brain working and engaged.
1) Resist the urge to feed them their meals in regular plain dog bowls. Use slow feeders, puzzle toys, and Kongs to make them work for their food.
2) Use their nose! While their nose sensitivity decreases with age, it is still an extremely powerful tool! Hiding smelly treats around for them to sniff out and find is an easy, low impact game.
3) Bring home lots of different types of soft toys, boxes, and blankets that you can roll with treats inside for him to get out. Anything that has a different texture, smell, sound, and something he hasn't come across before provides enrichment and something new for him to explore.
4) Teach a good "settle" if they don't know it already and try to bring them with you to pubs, dog friendly brunch spots, or other outings that you are going on.
5) If they can no longer run around the park, just taking a blanket and hanging out in the park with them for a few hours enables them to get some fresh air, sniff the grass, and get some sunlight!
Bark: Training & Problem Solving
There is no such thing as not being able to teach an old dog new tricks!
Teaching an older dog something new helps to keep their brain sharp and have some fun at the same time. You probably want to avoid any high impact commands that involve running or jumping but there are plenty of other tricks you can teach that require brains but not body. It is all about what your dog will be able to achieve.
If he is hard of hearing then visual's using hand signals will be required, if he has arthritis then you may want to stick to some impulse control games, or things he can do lying down.
1) Use a clicker to mark certain behaviours that you can that put to a cue. For example, click and treat every time he yawns. Add a cue word, and over time he will learn to yawn on cue. Same with shaking his whole body, or stretching. This requires you to always have a clicker and treats close to hand but is a fairly simple and fun marker training exercise.
2) Teach him to differentiate between toys. Give each toy a name, and teach him to get each one by name.
3) Kiss and High-5 are also low impact tricks to train too!
Enjoy all the years you have your dog with you, and remember that each stage of their life requires constant adjusting of their routine, food, and lifestyle. Most of all, they require love and a safe, happy home to live out the rest of their years!