Top 5 Ways to Keep a Senior Dog Mentally Sharp
Dogs grow old in the same way people do but at a faster rate. Depending on your dog’s breed, he may reach senior status as early as 5 or 6 years. Though you can’t prevent your dog from getting older, there are some simple things you can do to help him stay mentally sharp for as long as possible. Keep reading to find out what they are.
- Feed him a healthy diet.
The quality of your dog’s diet has a direct impact on his physical and mental health, so don’t skimp! Your dog’s diet should be rich in protein with moderate levels of fat and limited carbohydrates. Most of the protein and fat should come from animal sources like meat, poultry, and fish and it should include a balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.
- Keep him physically active.
Another aspect of maintaining your dog’s mental health in seniority is maintaining his physical health. Not only does a daily walk give your dog the exercise he needs to remain healthy, but it also gives him a chance to explore his world and to have new and mentally challenging experiences.
- Teach him a few new tricks.
They say that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth! Keeping up with training throughout the course of your dog’s life is important for maintaining his mental acuity. Some easy ways to teach your dog new tricks involve playing games together, using interactive toys, or teaching him to do new tricks. For example, try playing a game of hide-and-seek or teach your dog to associate a name with each of his toys.
- Make sure he has plenty of toys.
Playing with toys is about more than just alleviating boredom for a dog – it can also provide him with some mental stimulation. When choosing toys for your senior dog, select a variety of different options so your dog can pick out the ones he likes best. Be sure to include some puzzle toys and treat-dispensing toys as well as some chew toys that are gentle on the jaw.
- Consider training him for dog sports.
As your dog gets up in years he may slow down a bit physically but it is just as important to maintain his mental and physical health. One way to keep your dog’s mind engaged is to train him for dog sports. Your senior dog may not be in the best shape for a physically demanding sport like agility or flyball, but he might be able to do competition obedience or something similar.
As your dog gets older his risk for certain diseases increases, so keep an eye on his physical health as well as his mental health. It is your job as a dog owner to provide for your dog’s needs and that includes veterinary care, when it is needed. The more time you spend with your dog, the more you will get to know him and you’ll be better able to identify physical or behavioral changes that you may need to talk to your vet about. Your vet may also be able to give you some advice about keeping your dog’s mind sharp.
Kate Barrington is the loving owner of two cats (Bagel and Munchkin) and a noisy herd of guinea pigs. Having grown up with golden retrievers, Kate has a great deal of experience with dogs but labels herself a lover of all pets. Having received a Bachelor's degree in English, Kate has combined her love for pets and her passion for writing to create her own freelance writing business, specializing in the pet niche.
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