As the owner of a 15 year old deaf & partially sighted dog, it’s become clear that challenging my old lady mentally & physically may be resulting in a more alert, active & interactive oldie than would otherwise be the case. Plenty of research into elderly humans suggests stimulation & activity boosts their longevity & enjoyment of life. Equally it seems we can help keep our oldies happy for longer, if we implement a series of simple techniques to keep them interested in & interactive with the world around them.
Following on from three quite serious intermittent spells of Idiopathic Geriatric Vestibular, Old lady Misty was sleeping a lot, rarely leaving her den to interact with the family. She was turning back on local village walks, disinterested in exercise, keen to be home. For quite some time, we pandered to this routine, allowing her to choose inactivity rather than encourage activity because, well, because she’s old. Maybe sleeping or being fed was all she wanted to partake in?
By chance, we discovered several ways to have a more awake, energetic & willing-to-interact old dog. In recent months, we have changed the daily routine with amazing results in her activity level, interactions with the family & the world around her. Misty has quite literally woken up! As a result, we’d like to think we’re keeping her younger for longer.
- Treat ball feeding. Kong feeding to help settle & relax younger dogs is well known by trainers & behaviour experts. The opposite can be used to your advantage to help get your oldie out of bed & active. Using a treat ball to feed twice or even more times daily instead of a food bowl, encourages physical activity & mental concentration. Misty is positively ecstatic with the choice of Busy Buddy Kibble Nibble , Kong Wobbler or Treat Ball at meals times.
- Walk somewhere novel. The local village walks were simply too boring & it was too easy for her to turn for home. Most people, understandably, would have read this as an old dog not willing or able to walk anymore & given up walkies. For a short while, we pandered to this too & were at risk of aging our old girl faster due to lack of physical & mental stimulation. While Misty was occasionally getting a walk elsewhere, this was usually once or twice a week, rather than regularly. The lack of stimulus locally, in a small village where she knew all the smells & canine visitors, was not interesting enough for her to partake enthusiastically. Misty is now enjoying long, slow, sniffing-each-blade-of-grass-if-she-so-wishes walks, every other day in a different environment, away from home.
- Walk with a younger, sensible, active dog. It’s tempting when you have multiple dogs, to separate the younger dogs from the older ones when it comes to exercise. Of course Misty is no longer capable of hiking or cycling which we do with the youngsters. However, buddy-ing your old dog up with a younger, respectful, active dog is a great way to encourage activity & exercise. The younger dogs sniff, wee, greet other dogs, chase balls, search for hidden toys in long grass & Misty wants to join in too. We encourage ‘turns’ so that she gets a chance, despite her partial sight & lack of speed, to join in the games. The younger dogs are encouraged to tug with her-which she’s always loved. She meets & greets other dogs where appropriate & occasionally has a flirt with an un-castrated male. Even oldies can enjoy the opposite sex.
Within the past few months, as well as enjoying her meal times & walks more, our sleepy old lady has woken up. She has started voluntarily joining us in the kitchen while we prepare dinner, has rejoined the family in the sitting room to watch tv on the sofa, or by our feet. She regularly checks out the other dog beds to thieve momentarily forgotten bones or treats. As a result of a few simple changes in routine, our old lady’s life has been rejuvenated. Even if Misty only lasts for another short while, the quality of her time left will be so much better. This surely would be something we’d all want for our loved ones.