Elderly canines can experience cognitive decline. Dog brains always need exercise to keep their brains working properly. Sometimes owners feel that an old dog does not need that daily walk, a romp in the back yard, or even much attention at all. Dog owners need to know that cognitive decline will progress if owners do not provide opportunities for dogs to exercise their brains. Just like humans, dogs can develop dementia too.
1. Learn Something New: Just because your dog is old does not mean he should stop learning new things. You want to keep the brain of your dog active by teaching a new trick or perhaps playing a new game or two. An old dog can certainly learn to add “roll over” to his already-learned commands. Instead of the old game of fetch, invent a new one the two of you can play together.
2. Take Daily Walks in New Places: My dog and I get so bored walking the same route in our neighborhood. To keep her brain sharp, I put her in the car several times each week, and we head to a different neighborhood in our community, or to one of the many parks in our area. Her brain really gets a workout when she is greeted with new sights, new smells, new wildlife creatures and even new people.
3. Foster the Prey Drive: All dogs love to go after something. Of course, owners cannot let any dog run loose after a squirrel, a cat or other wildlife creature. However, you can fill specially-made dog toys with treats that require your dog to work to get at those treats. Prey drive can also be fostered by having your dog romp free off the leash, where permitted, in a dog park or forest preserve. All the new sights, smells, sounds and scampering critters really do give a dog’s brain a workout.
4. A New Companion Perhaps: A dog’s brain is stimulated by other dogs. There are some elderly dogs who would never be happy with another dog brought into the home. If that is the case, then things should remain the same. However, if possible bring a new dog into the mix, on a trial basis of course, and see if an older dog perks up a bit and interacts with the new guy. A companion just may be what an older dog needs to keep his brain active. If a new dog in the family is not a possibility, then friends with dogs should be welcome to spend some time with your dog so that his brain gets some activity from his canine guests. Dog parks offer many dogs the brain stimulation they need too.