Sadly time catches up with our pets and sometimes it can seem that overnight a much loved family dog suddenly appears slower and stiffer than they were before. It can take owners by surprise because their once fun loving pooch is reluctant to go out for a morning walk and they are terrified by things that never scared them in the past. A lot of owners believe their pets are depressed but in truth, the reason why their dogs prefer to stay curled up in their dog beds, is simply because they feel safer there.
It's really important to understand that dogs as they get older, have different needs when it comes to both exercise and diet. Owners tend to think that taking an older dog out for a walk less frequently is the best thing to do. However, an older dog needs more mental stimulation and enrichment in their lives which includes learning new tricks and going out for walks, even if they are shorter ones. Dogs get lots of mental stimulation just by visiting a park where they can pick up on all the wonderful scents that other dogs and animals have left behind and this helps keep their minds active.
Your dog may be older, stiffer and slower on their feet but they still enjoy mooching around when they are in a park or somewhere else where they can be let off their leads. Taking the time to let them wander around at their own pace can be of tremendous value to an older dog especially if it's in an area they are familiar with. The reason being that their sight, hearing and other senses might not be as good as they used to be which means they may find new places a bit scary.
The importance of keeping an older dog mentally stimulated is tremendously important because it helps reduce the chances of them developing the canine form of Alzheimer's known as cognitive dysfunction. It also reduces the chance of changes in their behaviour which are typically associated with old age some of which are listed below:
Many older dogs become less social which owners can find worrying especially when their much loved pets don't seem interested in greeting them anymore, but the reverse can happen too where an older dog becomes a lot clingier than they were before. Many animal behaviourists and vets recommend that dog owners keep their pets mentally stretched in order to keep them alert and as a way of controlling some of the reactions associated with their pets getting old.
It's really important to recognise that your dog can no longer do certain things they used to and that they have new limits which you need to work to. This really helps an older dog because they remain stimulated without being put under any kind of pressure which they may find stressful. You need to choose interactive games your pet can still easily do and which they'll enjoy, showing the sort of eagerness they did when they were younger.
Teaching new tricks stimulates older dogs mentally and as a bonus, it can be a fun thing for dogs and owners. However, it's important to choose things which don't put your pet under any sort of pressure and which don't require lots of physical strength. You need to think of it as the next stage of your dog's life and one where you can continue to bond with your dog by accepting their needs have changed.
Grooming a dog no matter what age they happen to be, is a real treat for our canine friends, but as they get older grooming not only allows you to check them over for any new lumps and bumps, but it is a really great way of keeping ""in touch"" with your pet and them with you.
Making life easier for an older dog means ensuring they are comfortable, that they feel safe and warm in a quiet and loving environment. If you have wooden floors, consider putting runners or carpets down to avoid any unwanted slipping. It's also a good idea to turn on a night-light so your pet is never left in the dark. To make their beds more comfortable, consider investing in a memory foam mattress.
These days the choice of products and items available to make life more comfortable for the older dog is amazing, with thermoregulating cooling pads for dogs that don't handle heat very well to heated dog beds for those suffering from arthritis.
It goes without saying that an older dog's teeth tend to be more sensitive and their jaws not as strong as they once were, therefore it's important to invest in softer toys which they will find much easier to play with. The other thing that needs to be taken into consideration is your pet's olfactory sense would not be as good either and because a dog's sense of smell is so very important to them, choosing stronger smelling items will help them a great deal. Toys need to be brightly coloured too so that your pet can clearly see them.
It's really important for dogs to play even when they are in their senior years and you should never think they would not be interested in doing so. An older dog enjoys lying down and chewing on a favourite soft toy and this will help them stay relaxed and prevent boredom from setting in.
It's never a good idea to put every change in a dog's behaviour down to them getting old which means a check-up at the vet is an absolute must if you are at all worried about anything. You should never assume your dog is too old to enjoy playing a game or two, because quite the opposite is true, playing games, going out for walks even if they are shorter, helps keep your dog mentally stimulated which is a very positive thing. The bond you have forged with your pet is stronger than anything else and when they get old, this bond still needs to be built upon, but it needs to be done in different ways making life easier for your loyal best friend.