As your dog gets older, it can be hard to see them slowing down and still wanting to have fun! Keeping your dog mentally stimulated in their old age is an absolute essential.
This is especially important in working breeds, especially for larger dogs such as golden retrievers or golden retriever mixes, where their mind is still active, and they can’t necessarily keep up.
Playing games with your older dog, and training them, is a great way to keep them happy and healthy in their old age.
We have picked out five activities that are a great way to pass the time with your senior pup.
1. Find it!
This is my ultimate game for all dogs, but especially for senior dogs. Teaching your dog to find things, be it food or toys, is great for their mental stimulation. In addition, enrichment toys can provide both mental and physical stimulation, all while rewarding your dog with their favorite treats.
Dogs have a very strong seeking system which originates from their early days as a scavenger. As a result, when dogs sniff to find things it results in a rush of feel good chemicals. It is also as tiring as a long walk but with less stress on the joints! Getting your dog sniffing every day is an excellent outlet, especially for those older dogs who are still going strong.
To teach this, say “find it” and drop a treat in front of your dog. After a few repetitions of this, you can start to drop treats behind your dog and encourage them to get sniffing. When your dog finds the treat, have a party!
As you and your dog progress, you can eventually make the treats more and more hidden making the game more and more challenging!
2. Cardboard boxes
Similar to the game above, hiding items, such as toys or treats in cardboard boxes for your dog to find can be a great mental engagement activity.
Equally, giving your dog cardboard boxes to shred and destroy can be a great enrichment activity for your pup! If you like, you can fill the box with scrunched up newspaper, balls, or shredded paper for your dog to rummage through, or you can just give them the box to shred!
Remember to supervise your dog the first few times you provide them with new items to make sure they behave appropriately and don’t ingest anything that’s not dog safe! This is especially important for dogs that like to chew/eat cardboard!
3. Water games
If you have a dog that loves water, bringing this to them in their old age can be beneficial in multiple ways. Not only is it enriching your dog’s life and a great way to cool down on hot days, it also removes the pressure from your dog’s joints! Getting your dog swimming is an excellent way to keep your dogs muscle tone up in their later life.
If you are unsure about how your dog feels about water, you can fill a large tub with warm water in your home and encourage your dog to wander around or stand in it, depending on the size of your dog relative to the size of the tub!
Eventually, you can work up to a larger tub or even a pool, adding fun toys to the pool or ice cubes to further add variety to the pool. You could even add a sprinkler or hose pipe if your dog enjoys this!
If your dog is up to it, you could even take them to places in nature that are dog friendly. For example, taking your dog to a dog beach or to a lake and allowing to swim can be a great way to relax for both you and your pup.
4. Trick Training
They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, but this just isn’t true! Dog of all ages can still learn new tricks and many senior dogs love to learn.
If you are planning to teach your old dog new tricks, it is important that you consider their joint health and so don’t try to teach anything that involves lots of movement! For example, as cute as it would be to teach your dog a Sit Pretty cue, it is inadvisable to do so due to the pressure this would apply to their hips and spine.
Instead, try teaching low impact tricks, such as a touch target or fist bump. One of the best cues for older dogs is a Chin Rest or teaching the dog to put their face in your hand. To teach this, lure your dog’s nose over your hand with a yummy treat and reward them when they are in the right place. Once your dog is comfortable with this, you can start to fade the treat encourage them to put their nose onto your hand with the cue of just a presented hand. You can put this onto the cue “chin” or “rest” if you would like to, or just use the visual cue of a presented flat hand.
5. Hide and Seek!
In the same way you can hide treats and toys for your dog to find, you can also hide yourself! Hiding yourself in different places around the house and encouraging your pup to find you. To call them, you can either use their name or teach a specific cue that means “come and find me!”.
This game can be played both within the home but also on walks. If your dog is off lead, you can call them like you would at home. Try doing this in smaller places and enclosed parks at first to make it easy for your dog and gradually make the distance larger and larger.
It is important to note that this game should not be played with a dog who is blind, visually impaired or has severe mobility issues. We do not ever want to stress your pup out with them being unable or too uncomfortable to find you.
Do you have a senior pup at home? Do you often play games with them? Leave us a comment below telling us all about your senior dog!