All dog-owners know that treating their animal companion to all the love and care it can handle is a top priority. We all want what’s best for our dogs, from when they’re a tiny fluffy puppy to when they’re old and grey. While there is a wealth of reading material out there for how to train your puppy, it’s not always easy to figure out the best ways to care for your dog as they get more advanced in years. This is a time when their needs may change, and may become more complicated, but they’re still the same pup at heart and with the right care, exercise and love, you’ll have many more adventures together yet.
Here are a few tips and things to look out for as your dog starts developing those distinguished grey muzzle hairs…
Keep Them Active
As your dog gets older, you may start to notice that they’re looking a little stiff when they get up in the morning. Well, we all get that if we’re being completely honest with ourselves, and the advice is the same for dogs and humans: keep moving. A regular exercise programme is going to be as important as ever, so don’t slack off on those walks around the park. However, one thing to keep in mind is that your dog may not always know when to call it quits on the exercise.
Remember that you shouldn’t push your elderly dog too hard, and make sure that they don’t run themselves ragged either. About 20 to 30 minutes of exercise two or three times a day is recommended, and if they’re struggling with stiffness or soreness it can wait for a day or two. A programme is helpful but you need to be paying attention to what they’re telling you.
Just as you want to make sure that you’re keeping their body moving, you need to keep your dog’s mind active as they get older. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with some much-needed chill-out time on the sofa (if they’re allowed on the sofa, obviously) but play time helps to keep them engaged and to reaffirm the bond that you share. While they might not be up to as much strenuous physical activity during playtime as they once were, a puzzle game is just as fun and will keep their brain sharp.
Keep Them Comfy
All dogs deserve to be warm and comfy but as they get older they are going to need a little more care and attention to make sure they stay that way. For example, a comfier, warmer bed is an important purchase as their joints don’t work quite as well as they used to. The days when you would just find them fast asleep in the most ridiculous positions on the most improbable surfaces are gone, and it’s important to get them a bed that provides the right support.
It’s also going to be much more important to make sure that they stay warm in cold weather. Your dog might have happily plunged into a cold lake in winter without a care in the world, or even dived into a snow drift in pursuit of a mysterious smell, but aging and stiffness means that they’re going to need more help from you staying warm as they get older. You’re going to want to invest in a nice winter coat, and potentially some boots if you live in an area that has a lot of snow and ice in the winter.
In the summer, make sure they stay in the shade and have plenty of fresh water to stay hydrated. As we mentioned before, dogs are sometimes prone to forgetting that they’re not the same pup they used to be so if you’re walking them in hot weather, don’t let them get carried away and keep an eye out for any shortness of breath.
Keep Them On A Healthy Diet
Some dogs are very good about sticking to what you feed them, while others seem to have a bottomless dustbin for a stomach and an unstoppable desire to chow down on everything they can find. As their owner, it’s your responsibility to make sure that they’re eating properly and getting the nutrients they need without any of the problem foods and ingredients. It can be tempting to treat your dog more and more as they get older, but there’s a big difference between the occasional treat and slipping into bad habits.
Your dog may well have specific dietary requirements as they get older depending on their individual needs, but generally speaking the parts of most processed dog foods that a lot of pets struggle to digest will cause more problems for your pet as they age. This dog research shows why raw feeding helps tackle issues like obesity, cancer, skin conditions and dental health, cutting out processed fats and replacing them with a more natural source of the proteins, vitamins and minerals they need. If you want to learn more about the benefits of raw feeding and see some options, Bella & Duke has a selection of raw dog food for pets of all ages including a range specifically for older dogs.
Keep Your Dog Social
We all know how important it is to introduce a puppy to other dogs to get them used to being around others, but it’s just as important to keep your dog social if they’ve always enjoyed a lot of company. Making sure they’re still catching up with their old friends is a great way to keep them young at heart, but do be sure to pay attention to how they react to the dogs around them. A lot of older dogs can find it wearying or even irritating to be around energetic younger dogs so make a note of which play pals your pet is having fun with and which they’re retreating from.
Make Sure To Keep On Top Of Vet Visits
As your dog gets older you will need to take them to the vet more frequently. Don’t wait around for a problem or a warning sign, you should be going for a check-up at least twice a year. It’s not just for emergencies, your vet will be able to help with any concerns or queries, and will be able to suggest ways in which you can help your dog stay healthy and comfortable on the road ahead. Depending on the breed, your dog may also have more tests and exam needs than others so don’t lose track of your schedule.
Give Them All The Love They Can Handle
This last point shouldn’t be an issue for any dog owner, but it is one of the most important tips on this list. As your dog gets older they will start to enjoy the more familiar pleasures that come from a routine, but most importantly they’ll want the comfort and security of time with their owner. Make sure that you make the time to play, exercise and just relax with your dog and spend some quality time with that special pet in your life. After all, who doesn’t like falling asleep in front of the TV with their dog curled up next to them?