Teaching an Old Dog New Tricks
Old dogs can (and should!) learn new tricks! As our pups slow physically with age, we may assume that their mental faculties follow suit- but this doesn’t have to be the case. Old dogs need continued mental stimulation, but the strategies for providing this may be different than what worked when they were younger. Here are some tips to help keep your dog sharp.
1. Buy toys that are specifically made for senior dogs. Kong, a popular dog toy company, makes a toy specifically for seniors which is made of softer rubber. Your pup’s aging teeth and jaws may not be able to handle the hard materials of toys made for younger dogs.
2. All dogs benefit from experiencing new sights and sounds. Letting your older dog sniff in a new place or play with a new dog will help keep his or her brain sharp. Going for walks in new parks or on new streets is a good way to do this.
3. Teach your dog to find his dinner in your yard. Many groups recommend this exercise because it taps into a dogs’ natural instinct to search for food. Start by putting a small amount of food in an obvious place in your yard. Then start spreading the food out into smaller piles spaced further apart. When your dog catches on, throw handfuls of kibble out into the yard and let him or her find the bounty. Note that this may not work if your dog has a decreased sense of smell, so test him out a few times before throwing kibble all over your yard!
4. Be patient. Your dog may not want to play or to walk as much as before- let your pup’s behavior guide your play. If he suddenly becomes lethargic or apathetic, though, it’s best to check with a vet and make sure everything is okay.
5. Make sure you speak loud enough that your dog can hear you! Many dogs experience decreased hearing with age, so if he seems to be ignoring you when you talk, make sure he is hearing what you say.