Older dog exercise and training
As your companion gets older he or she needs to be treated with extra patience and kindness. Your dog may need more time to sleep, to wake up in the morning, to finish a meal or get out to the toilet. Little things can make life easier for your dog: to reach its food, get outside when nature calls and have comfortable resting places.
Senior dogs are senior. As with all seniors you need to adjust the frequency and intensity of exercise. If your dog doesn't use its muscles it will lose mass and tone and moving about will become even harder. Shorter, more frequent walks or swims can help keep your dog in shape and its weight under control. Talk with your vet about the best exercise plan for your senior dog.
If your dog has arthritis or is stiff and sore there are many things you can do to make it more comfortable. These include:
- Giving it access to a ramp to get up and down to and from higher areas (furniture) or help to get up stairs or into the car to reduce pressure on the joints, while allowing it still to do its favourite activities.
- Protecting elbows and hips with well-padded bedding.
- Elevating food and water bowls to make eating and drinking more comfortable, particularly if there is stiffness in the neck or back.
- Sourcing the appropriate medications and food additives.
- Instead of collars, older dogs may benefit from harnesses that do not put pressure on the neck.
Training and obedience
In general, older dogs slow down and are well-behaved. It is often a very rewarding time of a dog’s life for an owner. And even though your dog is older, it still needs mental stimulation by spending time with you. Many dogs still enjoy gentle fetch games.
However, some dogs can suffer from brain-ageing conditions, resulting in cognitive and behaviour changes like memory loss, loss of training including toilet training and increased vocalisation. Don't get cross. This is part of the ageing process and your older dog needs your patience and understanding. Discuss these changes with your vet as there are medications and behavioural cues that can help to make your dog more comfortable.