Written by Megan McCorkle LVT
Old dogs require not only physical stimulation but mental stimulation. Here are 4 fun ways to switch it up for your old dog's mental enrichment!
Do you ever notice your older dog sleeping more and showing more signs of confusion? Do you want to know a small secret to help your older pet's aging process? The secret is - Mental stimulation! This has been shown to slow the progression of doggie dementia. This can be done in a variety of simple ways that should be easy to incorporate into your daily routine.
Scheduling A 'Sniffari' for your Old dog
Walks are the easiest way to physically exercise your pet, but one simple change can also encourage mental exercise. What is a “sniffari”? This is an opportunity to let your dog’s nose lead the walk. Allow them to sniff and spend as much time as they want in one spot, do this with no agenda and no time frame so they can expend some of their mental energy in this natural way.
Incorporate Mental Stimulation Into Mealtimes for Older Dogs
Another simple change to an already daily task is to incorporate mental stimulation into their mealtimes. This can be done with a puzzle food bowl or a “hide and seek” variation to the traditional food bowl on a mat feeding method.
For example, the game of hide and seek is so simple yet so rewarding for our seniors. Take some food and spread it around for them to find. Start small and then work them up to bigger portion of their meal!
Food puzzles for senior dogs should be started in the easiest setting and slowly increased in progression to keep your pet interested but not frustrated. For example, if you use a ball for feeding or a closed bowl, allow some food to fall out at first. As they get the hang of it you can make it harder for the food to fall out.
They are working for the food without realizing it! One thing that works in my house is to have my toddler feed the dog by hand and it kills two birds with one stone- my toddler is engaged, and the dog is enjoying the attention! These small changes are great for mental stimulation for aging dogs.
Freeze or Elevate Their Favorite Treats
Another trick involving food can be to take simple treats to the next level. Freezing his treats can be an easy way to make treat time last longer and keep him engaged. You can crumble his normal treats and add yogurt, water, or soft food and make small ice cubes or you can stuff a kong toy and freeze it. Delivering this cold treat is sure to make any dog happy no matter the temperature outside!
Does your dog have several toys that never get played with? Try keeping the toys in groups and rotating them out every so often to keep things interesting for your dog. It’s like Christmas every 3 months! You can increase the excitement surrounding the exchange by putting the toys in a box and allowing the dog to sniff the box and open the flaps and pull out the toys. It can be fun to watch the excitement unfold.
The overall health benefits of mental stimulation have been shown to slow the progression of doggie dementia. If you want more information about this aging process, check out our podcast on doggie dementia- including signs of and other tips for slowing its progression in your senior.
If you enjoyed this blog then we hope you join other Dog Parents like you and transform from concerned to 'in-the-know' dog parent with our one-of-a-kind vet created courses. Learn more about creating a healthier life for your aging dog, by checking out our free resources and top-rated Longer Living Dog Mini Course for Pet Parents. Your dog will thank you.