Feeding a portion of your dog’s daily food intake from your hand during games is brilliant for mental stimulation. Not just with young dogs, but for older dogs to keep them bright, alert and happy too!
1. The Cup Game
As dogs get older, their eyesight and hearing may dim but their sense of smell remains strong. All you need is three empty cups with a couple of holes poked into them (to let scent out) and a healthy dog treat, such as Ziwipeak. Place a treat under a cup, slide the rest of the cups around on the floor and then ask your dog, “Where’s the treat?”
This is a great option for dogs who have a hard time moving around. You get to spend time together, engage his interest — and he gets treats! Yay! Win for the dog!
2. Finders Keepers
This is a thrilling game for older dogs who still remember the glory of the hunt. Hide some treats, such as pieces of carrot or some Ziwipeak treats, around your house in cups or easily accessible containers. Tell your dog to “Find it!” and let them sniff around.
Don’t make the treats or toys (or even yourself) too hard to find. Remember, your dog is a senior. Try it, they’ll love it, and so will you.
3. Tug- of- War
Fun games such as tug-of-war are great for mental stimulation, balance and strength. Don’t tug too hard and let them win the battle sometimes too!
4. Food Puzzle toys
Food puzzle toys are made to hide a portion of your dog’s food. Your dog has to work to get the food out, which motivates your dog to solve a problem. Food toys can help keep your dog moving around plus they keep your dog’s brain engaged too!
5. Adapted Agility
Low impact and low level obstacles can help keep your older dog mentally stimulated. They also help your dog maintain balance, strength and gently using his full range of joint motion.
A visit to your local hardware will give you all you need to set up a basic obstacle course! 30mm diameter plastic pipes are great for stepping over. You can make the trot poles a little more difficult by raising the ends of every second pole.
Weave poles are another good exercise that helps to gently encourage them to bend through their joints and body.
Tunnels are loads of fun and can usually be found at Kids’ play stores. Just make sure to secure each end with a tent peg. Once your dog is familiar with the exercises, you can then put them all together! Don’t forget, lots of praise and cuddles when he gives them a go!
6. Don’t forget a Massage!
We all love a massage and your dog is no different! Massage has enormous benefits for dogs as they age and lose muscle tone or function. Discomfort can cause muscle tension, affecting the way the dog moves and compounding the effects of arthritis. Start gently and focus on the areas that might be a bit stiff, such as the shoulders and along their back. Tension can be felt in the muscle from the feeling of a ‘tight rubber band’. Gentle rubbing will encourage blood flow to the muscle.
Next, begin lightly kneading the tight muscles. Then rub your hands against your dog’s skin to create light friction which will loosen the tight muscle fibres and encourage deeper circulation.
Continue to alternate light kneading with light hand friction. About every 10 seconds, use lighter strokes to assist drainage. Avoid putting any direct pressure on the dog’s painful joints but do work the area around the joints to stimulate circulation and drainage.
Give your dog a bit of a rub down when you’ve finished, and kiss on the schnoz to say you’re done.