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Playing With An Older Dog

December 7, 2023

Is your canine companion starting to slow down? Are you seeing grey around Fido’s muzzle, and perhaps noticing that he isn’t as playful or energetic as he once was? Dogs don’t all age at the same rate. Large breeds can reach their golden years at just six or seven, while smaller pooches may not be seniors until they are ten or even older. Your four-legged friend will still enjoy and benefit from play as he ages. However, you will need to make some adjustments. A local Orlando, FL vet offers some insight on this below.

Safety First

Older dogs don’t have the stamina of their younger counterparts. They tire out more easily, and may run out of steam after just a few minutes of playing. This is actually something to be aware of. Fido will push himself to the point of exhaustion to please his humans. Keep an eye out for any signs that your pet is getting tired. As soon as he starts slowing down, end the play session, offer water, and let your pup relax.

Choose Senior-Friendly Toys

As your canine buddy ages, his preferences for toys may change. Fido may become more interested in playing with a soft plushie than in chasing after that dot from a laser pointer. Older dogs also often like toys that light up or make noise, as these are a little easier for them to track. Keep these things in mind when shopping.

Opt For Mental Stimulation

Playing Fetch is great, but it’s by no means the only option. As your dog ages, you can start moving the focus from things that tire him out to activities that offer enrichment and stimulation. That may entail things like Hide And Seek, puzzle games, or the Three Cups game, only played with treats.

Pick A Safe Area

Slips and falls can be very dangerous for older dogs. Fido won’t have the strength or flexibility he once did, and he may not be able to right himself if he loses his balance. Choose safe spots for doggy playtime. These should be areas that offer good traction and are somewhat soft. A lawn or carpeted area is ideal.

Keep It Up

Even taking five minutes a day will benefit your pet both mentally and physically. Dogs tend to do best on steady routines. Fido will appreciate the fun, and enjoy spending time with you.

Our Advice on Playing With An Older Dog in 2024

How does a dog’s play needs change as they age?

As dogs age, their play needs shift towards activities that are less physically demanding and more focused on mental stimulation. Senior dogs may tire more easily and have a reduced stamina, so play sessions should be shorter and less intense. Preferences in toys might change, with older dogs often favoring softer, noise-making, or light-up toys that are easier to track. Incorporating puzzle games, hide and seek, and treat-based activities can provide enrichment without excessive strain, supporting their mental health while accommodating their physical limitations.

What factors should you consider when choosing a play area for your older dog?

When choosing a play area for your older dog, prioritize safety and comfort to prevent injuries. Select areas that offer good traction to avoid slips and falls, such as lawns or carpeted indoor spaces. Ensure the environment is free from obstacles that could pose a risk. Additionally, consider the temperature and accessibility of the area, avoiding places that are too hot, cold, or challenging to navigate for a senior dog. Choosing a suitable play area helps protect your aging pet while allowing them to enjoy playtime safely.

How can you recognize signs of pain or discomfort in your older dog during play?

Recognizing signs of pain or discomfort in your older dog during play involves observing changes in behavior or physical responses. Look for limping, reluctance to engage in previously enjoyed activities, or stopping play sooner than usual. Vocalizations such as whining or growling when moving or being touched, decreased appetite, and changes in sleeping patterns can also indicate discomfort. Watch for signs of fatigue like heavy panting, slowing down, or lying down abruptly. If you notice these signs, it’s essential to adjust play activities accordingly and consult your veterinarian for a thorough evaluation.

If your older dog has become much less interested in play, how can you re-engage them?

If your older dog has become less interested in play, try re-engaging them with new, senior-friendly toys that are soft or make noise, catering to their changing preferences and sensory capabilities. Introduce low-impact, mentally stimulating games like puzzle toys or scent-based hide and seek to spark their interest without demanding too much physical exertion. Keep play sessions short and gentle, respecting their energy levels. Sometimes, simply spending quality time together in a calm environment can rekindle their playfulness and strengthen your bond. Always observe their response and adjust activities to ensure they’re comfortable and engaged.

How might play benefit an older dog with cognitive decline?

Play can significantly benefit older dogs experiencing cognitive decline by providing mental stimulation that helps slow the progression of symptoms. Engaging in interactive games and puzzles encourages problem-solving and keeps their mind active, potentially enhancing cognitive functions. Regular, gentle play can also improve mood, reduce anxiety, and foster a sense of routine, offering comfort and security. Moreover, play helps maintain a level of physical activity beneficial for overall health, supporting brain function and physical well-being in aging dogs.

Is your canine buddy due for an exam? Contact us, your local Orlando, FL pet hospital, today! 

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