Whether your old dog is as energetic as ever, or he’s slowing down due to health challenges, they all need a happy and good quality life.
Here’s what you can do to make that happen, and be sure to read this article too!
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Make meal time fun
Instead of plopping down the food bowl as we all tend to do, turn it into a challenge. Cover it with a paper plate for example, and let him figure out how to move it off. Don’t make it too complicated or he may get frustrated…and that’s no fun.
Go on a walking tour…in your own city
What a great opportunity to explore all the dog friendly sites your city has to offer.
Fun in the water
Swimming is a great choice for older dogs because it’s:
- Low impact
- Supports your dog’s weight so there is no stress, strain or impact on joints
- Good for cardiovascular health
- Keeps him at a healthy weight
- Helps relieve pent up energy
- Something new and fun to do
Outdoor swimming should be limited to warm weather, and your dog dried off quickly to avoid a chill. Never force your dog to go in the water if he’s reluctant, but a hesitant dog may be more willing to give it a try if you go in too!
No pool or lake nearby? No problem, a kiddie paddle pool in the backyard can still be fun. His fun shouldn’t end when summer comes to a close, check for indoor doggy pools in your area.
Please supervise your dog at all times.
Teach your dog to bring his leash
It’s a great exercise in mental stimulation, and changes the pre-walk routine.
This step by step article is helpful – “How to Train Your Dog to Bring You His Leash.”
Obedience training…refresher course
When was the last time you asked your dog for his paw? How long has it been since you’ve waited before crossing the road? Try a quick 5 minute session a day.
Teach your old dog to chase bubbles
I saw a woman set up a bubble machine for her dog in my local dog park, and I watched him have the best time chasing those bubbles. He played for quite a while, but you may prefer shorter sessions for your old dog.
That’s right, do yoga with your dog. Join a class in your area, or follow along to a Youtube video.
Play the shell game
Take 3 cups that are easy enough to knock over, put a treat under one of them and say “find it” in an excited voice. Move the cups around for a bigger challenge.
Instead of one person practice recall with two. My husband and I take Jack to the park, stand quite far apart and take turns calling Jack. He gets treats when he responds but not every time. This ensures he listens because he’s not sure when he’ll get lucky. Stand closer together if you’re in a small space or your dog has mobility issues.
Get help around the house
Mental stimulation and entertainment that is not weather dependent!
Read this article ⇒ “Teach Your Dog to Help With Chores Around the House” for tips.
Name that toy
Choose a toy your dog likes, his duck for example. As he’s playing with it say the word “duck” several times. When he grabs it say the name again and give him a treat. In time (t’s impossible to say how long) he will associate that toy and name.
The next step would be to teach him to find it. Say something like “where’s your duck?” or “bring me the duck” and reward him when he does.
Keep sessions short, there’s no rush, and make them fun!
Change your route
If you’re creatures of habit and always follow the same walking route, take a different path. He’ll love the new smells and may even make some new doggie friends!
Take him on your morning coffee run
The next time you pop into Starbucks, bring your dog. Get a free Puppuccino from the barista. It’s whipped cream in a cup so only suitable as an occasional treat. Consult your vet first to be sure it’s safe, but I would assume the sugar content would make it dangerous for a diabetic dog.
Scatter dry food or treats in the snuffle mat and watch him forage.
They’re great for –
- Slowing down speedy eaters
- Distracting a dog recovering from surgery or illness who can’t go out
- Enticing a dog who isn’t enthusiastic about eating
- Re-directing anxiety
- Expending mental energy, especially when bad weather reduces walk time
Make your own snuffle mat
For a cheap DIY adaptation, grab a cardboard box (a shoe box will do), throw in crumpled newspaper and dry food or favourite treats and watch him forage.
Visit the dog park
If you don’t go often, or ever, now is a good time to start. So many new sights and smells and friends to play with. Check for separate areas for big and small dogs, and go at different times to see how busy it gets. The first time go when it’s relatively quiet.
Subscribe to DogTv
Pay for a subscription to DogTv (first 30 days free) or search Youtube for “tv for dogs.” There are lots of free videos to try.
Here’s an example –
Teach your dog a new trick
Another super fun way to entertain your old dog is to teach him new tricks. There are tons so choose the ones best suited for his activity level.
Get ideas here ⇒ “10 Fun, Impressive Tricks You Can Teach Any Dog”
Throw your dog a birthday party
It doesn’t matter if you know his exact date of birth, or you celebrate his “gotcha day” every year (the day you adopted him). have a party and invite his two legged and four legged friends.
Pinterest is a great resource for ideas.
Take him toy shopping
You probably buy most of his toys yourself, but it would be fun to let him choose. Not only that, but it’s a change of scenery, and somewhere new for him to explore.
Take your dog on a boat ride
An afternoon on a lake sounds like something fun for an old dog. Since you don’t know how he’ll react keep an eye on how he’s doing, and if he’s stressing you may have to cut it short. Keep him safe with a doggie life vest, and help him in and out if he’s unsteady. A non-slip ramp or other non -slip material may help.
Stuff a Kong
Kongs are such great boredom busters. They’re heavy duty and come in various sizes so you’ll find the perfect one for your dog. Stuff it with his meal, treats or peanut butter. Freeze it so the fun last longer.
Walk your dog
Sadly many senior dogs don’t get walked. All dogs need exercise, fresh air and a chance to smell the roses as it were. Adapt the length of time and intensity to your dog’s ability.
The information in this post “Top 7 Products for Dogs that Have Trouble Walking” can improve his quality of life.
Research shows dogs get bored with the same toys, so leave out 2 or 3 and rotate. It’s easier and cheaper to introduce new toys fairly regularly if you go the DIY route. You don’t even have to be crafty!
This video will show you how to make a rope toy out of an old t-shirt
Try Pinterest for more great ideas.
Massage, therapy, range of motion exercises
My dog Jack is in absolute bliss when I give him a massage. It’s really just a rub when he sits on my lap but his head lolls back, his eyes close and he’s loving it.
This post has great information and exercises you can do at home – “Anti-Aging Exercises to Keep Your Senior Pet Active.” A canine physiotherapist in your area can design a program for your dog at home, and make therapy fun.
Take him for a drive
An easy and fun way to break up the day. If weather permits stop at the park and have a stroll, he’ll love the new scenery.
Play hide and seek
Let your dog see you hide a treat, then tell him to “find it!” Do that several times and when he’s mastered that, try it when he’s not watching.
What about getting him to find you! If he won’t “stay,” enlist the help of a friend or family member to distract him until you’ve hidden.
Set up play dates
Invite one of your dog’s friends over to play, and catch up with his human. Hopefully they’ll reciprocate and give your dog a chance to play somewhere new.
Fetch and Frisbee
If your old dog can’t run like he used to, gently roll the ball along the ground without letting it get too far away. Throw the frisbee but gently so it doesn’t go far. You can even play fetch indoors now.
Visit a dog friendly café
Relax in a dog friendly café, or one that serves doggie and human food. Bring a friend for each of you and make it an even more enjoyable couple of hours.
Take your dog to work
If you work in a dog friendly environment bring him to work one day. He’d love hanging out with you, and getting spoiled by your co-workers. Not an option? Wait until the next annual “Take Your Dog to Work Day.”
Create an indoor obstacle course
Build a tunnel by lining up chairs back to back and throwing a blanket over them. Make sure there’s enough room between them for your dog to walk.
Create a zig zag course by putting household items on the floor in a line, and having your dog zig zag around them. Shoes, small boxes, anything you have lying around will do.
Use a footstool as a hurdle. If your dog can’t jump over, have him step onto it, then off the other side. Be mindful of mobility issues when choosing the height.
Play tug of war
A great way for dogs of all abilities to get exercise and mental stimulation, and it can be played anywhere.
Read this ⇒ “Playing Tug of War Without Encouraging Aggression in Dogs.”
Plan a getaway for two
Need a break? Pack up the dog and head to a pet friendly hotel or bed and breakfast. Depending on your budget the hotel may offer your pup a bed, treats, pamper sessions, even personalised menus.
Not an option for every dog, but it is for many. Ask if you can visit the facility, see the setup and if there is a quiet area where dogs can take a break if things get too playful. Send him every day or once in awhile as a treat.
Make an outdoor agility course
Buy the equipment or go the DIY route. It doesn’t have to be fancy, just something your dog will find fun.
Here are tips – “Create a Dog Agility Obstacle Course at Home”
Build a sandbox
What a fun thing for your senior dog to have a go at! Hide toys in the sand and let him dig for them. Does your dog have trouble standing up? He can lie down while looking!
Make frozen treats
Freeze treats, buy doggie ice cream or make your own, stuff them in a Kong and watch your dog have a blast. Search Pinterest for easy to make recipes.
Take your dog to class
Agility, scent work, fly ball, dancing with dogs or tricks are some of the fun classes you can find in your area.
Make your dog “earn” his meal
He doesn’t have to work for every meal, but once in a while ask him to do a trick or play a game before he can eat. It will challenge his mind and shake up a dull routine.
Play the muffin tin game
Grab a muffin tin, put a treat in a few of the cups, cover each cup with a tennis ball or other lightweight ball, and watch him figure out how to get the reward!
You, the dog, a blanket, snacks and Netflix
Is there a better way to relax after work or a long walk in the park? A comfy blanket for you and the dog, snacks for both of you and your next favourite series on Netflix. Does it get any better?
Play in a sprinkler, leaves or snow
Every season brings fun things to do outside. Your dog can:
- Jump in the pile of leaves you just raked
- Chase a snowball
- Run through a sprinkler on a hot day
Treat dispensing and puzzle toys
Whether it’s a ball that releases treats when rolled, or a puzzle he has to figure out, they will challenge your dog mentally, and help him get rid of pent up energy.
Make your own cheap treat dispensing toy by cutting a hole in the side of a plastic bottle and adding treats. As your pup rolls it across the floor it will make noise which is fun in itself, and leave a trail of treats for him as a bonus!
Take a bike ride together
Bring your best friend cycling. A small dog can fit into a basket on your handlebars, or hook a bike trailer on the back for dogs of all sizes. For extra security in a basket, check out this metal grille. I only found it on Amazon UK not US
Bring him on errands
Not every location will be dog friendly, but take him on those that are? My dog loves coming to the garden centre, pet supply store and dog friendly cafes.
Which hand is it in?
Similar to the shell game I mentioned but without the cups. Put a treat in one hand, close them both and hold them out in front of your dog. When he finds it praise him and give him the treat.
So there you have it. My very comprehensive list of ways you can safely entertain your old dog. What activities does your dog enjoy? Sharing helps others so let us know in the comments section below.