This is a guest post on the Grey Matters Blog and not written by anyone affiliated with Grey Muzzle. We allow guest contributors from time to time in order to provide our supporters with a wide range of topics pertaining to senior dogs.
Do you have a dog joining the ranks of the senior citizen elite?
If you have a dog who's getting along in years, chances are you've seen some of the changes associated with old age. Like us humans, old dogs tend to suffer from age-related conditions such as arthritis and decreased stamina. There could also be a change in fur quality (and color), dental issues or even more severe health concerns.
But, this doesn't mean playtime should stop!
Older dogs can and still love to play. All you have to do is try to make it easier of your old dog's aching joints and slower reflexes. You also have to balance your expectations, because ol' Yeller won't be able to run as fast or as long now that he's a senior.
Here are a few low impact games you can play with your elder pooch that will test her senses and keep her mind sharp.
Are you ready, old timer? Let's go!
1. Play Some Backyard 52 Pick-Up
This is a classic game you can play with your aging dog outdoors but without actual cards!
Choose a favorite treat that you can cut into bite sized pieces. Aim to get 52 small pieces you can scatter all around your yard. There's no hard and fast rule on how to do this, so anything goes! Scatter the food while your dog is around, so he knows that it's a game. Try to cover a large enough space so your dog can get in some much-needed exercise as well.
Tip: Make a winding trail of treats old Rover can follow around to give his nose a workout. You can also leave a big reward at the end of the path, like some broiled chicken if you play the game during feeding time.
2. Get the Old Instincts Going with a Game of Tug
Dogs love a game of tug-of-war, no matter their age!
A game of tug will bring out the predatory nature of good old Fido, so make sure you keep it light. Skip this game if your dog has jaw or dental issues because biting and pulling on a tug toy may exacerbate her condition.
Another thing to consider is to keep the game short. Older dogs don't have the same stamina as younger pups. Avoid shaking the other end of the tug toy too hard, it’s easy to get carried away in the heat of the moment.
Finally, make sure you buy a toy that is designed for games of tug-of-war. You don’t want the toy to break mid-game, sending your dog (or you!) crashing to the ground. Researching online before buying will ensure you choose an appropriate toy.
Tip: Let old Fluffy win 99% of the time! Keeping your dog happy during her twilight years is the key to a longer life.
3. Take Your Old Dog Swimming
If your senior dog needs some low impact exercise, a swim is just what the doctor ordered!
Swimming is an excellent full body workout for your pooch that exercises his leg muscles and lungs. The water offers good resistance and is more comfortable on the joints and muscles. Swimming is good for dogs with arthritis, hip and elbow dysplasia. Keep sessions in the water short, because older dogs get cold quickly.
Tip: Be sure to be there in the water with your dog and get him a doggie life vest to avoid any accidents. If you don't have access to a pool and you have a small dog, you can let her swim in the tub.
4. Play Some Hide and Seek
Hide and seek is an excellent activity that lets your older dog use his nose and innate tracking skills.
Hide a handful of treats around the house. Choose places that your dog always frequents, such as next to his toys or water bowl. Avoid placing food in high places and hard to reach areas. You wouldn't want to frustrate Fido now, would you? Make sure you double check to see that your pup has found them all – nobody wants ants.
Tip: Hide and seek is a game you can play both indoors and out in the yard, making it an all-weather classic. If you're playing with a dog with arthritis or recovering from illness, keep the game short and do it indoors.
5. Take Your Dog out for a Walk
Walking is another low impact activity you can do with your aging pooch.
A simple stroll around the block would do for most senior dogs because, at this point in their lives, stamina becomes an issue. Make sure to hit most of the places you usually go to, to give Fluffy the assurance that she's still got what it takes to accompany you.
Tip: Try to walk a little slower than you're used to. Give your old Goldie as much time as she needs to sniff around and do her business.
6. Play Three Cups and a Treat
Three cups and a treat is a zero impact game you and ol' Pluto will enjoy playing together!
All you need to play are three plastic cups with small holes on the sides and some treats. Place the treat inside one of the cups and move them around. Make your dog guess where the reward is, and give it when he chooses the right cup.
Tip: The holes are there so your dog can smell the food inside the cup. Make sure your cup has holes!
7. Play a (short) Game of Fetch
Fetch is an all-time classic dog game that Fido will still play even in his twilight years.
There's only one caveat: playing fetch is hard on the joints, especially when your dog runs. Try to keep the games short and easy by playing on grass or any surface that isn't slippery and hard.Your dog's stamina and body aren't what it used to be, so take it easy.
Tip: When throwing the stick or toy, don't go all out and heave it long distances. The shorter the distance your dog has to travel, the better.
Enjoying the Sunset
There's a saying that age is just a number.
This holds true for both humans and dogs alike. If you have an older dog, you can still have tons of fun with him during his sunset years. Your dog's age shouldn't hold you back from playing with him! In fact, your old pooch will be still able to play with most of the same toys he did as a pup. It’s just that each toy needs to be played with in an age appropriate way – slow and steady.
The takeaway? Always spend time with your dog, especially if you have an old one. Always go easy and consider what age-related health issues your dog has before choosing a game to play with him.