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When our dogs get older and prefer to stay on the sofa than walk in the rain then we must respect that. As they age, just like we do, dogs get aches and pains. The same dog that danced through snowy peaks a few years previous may now prefer a warm fire and a cosy bed.
We must keep our dogs active and happy though into old age. Keeping the older dog mobile has great benefits but it’s important that we cater the exercise to their needs and don’t expect them to do all of the vigorous activities that they once did.
Physically and mentally dogs naturally slow down when they get older. They may get stiff when getting up or even a little confused.
Keeping dogs’ joints moving and muscles strong is part of helping the older dog stay mobile. If walks become infrequent then the muscle around the dog’s joints will become less able to support the joint if it deteriorates.
The hip, shoulder and elbow joints can become less flexible in the older dog and this can lead to pain and reluctance to exercise. Strong muscle helps with this but it’s vital not to overdo it.
When walking an older dog, it is only fair to slow your own pace to theirs, within reason. Where they once raced along, they may find a new love of sniffing every blade of grass. We owe it to them to enable their new habits, they have after all been devoted to us over the years.
Shorter, more frequent walks are better than one long walk where the dog collapses and stiffens up at the end. Shorter walks on a more regular basis will keep the joints moving and will not put excess pressure on them.
Supplementation is a good idea, glucosamine, and chondroitin are well-known supplements that work to support cartilage in the latter years or in the case of arthritis and other degenerative bone and joint diseases. This type of supplement can be given to vulnerable dogs even before symptoms occur, as a preventative measure.
Keeping the dog’s mind busy is an integral part of keeping the dog mentally happy. Walking in new areas, where there are new and interesting things to sniff will chase away depression and even canine dementia.
The dog does not have to walk for miles to stay mentally active though, a short walk and some positive dog training is usually enough.
There are many tricks that can be taught by using a clicker where the dog can use his mind without putting excess strain on his joints. Teaching a dog to look left and right, up and down and even choose between toys, with the use of a clicker, will keep them mentally active right into their old age. This is something that the older dog owner can really be inventive with.
When you add a really good diet to careful exercise and mental stimulation, the older dog will age gracefully, healthily and be happy throughout their senior years.