I think our dogs’ senior years give us so many opportunities to bond deeply and I firmly believe in living an active lifestyle with your dog no matter their age. The challenges that come along with dog aging, like arthritis, having accidents or dealing with health conditions, don’t mean the adventures have to stop. You know your pooch best and by tailoring activities to meet their needs and keep them safe, you can both take advantage of the warm weather months and spend quality time together. Here are ideas for senior dog summer activities that will give your furry family member the stimulation, exercise, and excitement they need for their physical and mental health.
Go for a Swim
Swimming is awesome for all dogs but it’s especially great for older ones. The benefits of swimming for senior dogs are much the same as they are for humans. It’s a low-impact activity that’s easy on aging joints and ligaments. It strengthens their muscles, is good for overall conditioning and it’s fun. Many dogs find comfort in the water and you don’t have to worry as much about them overheating when it’s hot out. Just be sure they’re not overdoing it, avoid strong currents and keep an eye on them. It’s also super important that they wear a life jacket! Not every dog can swim well and some, not at all. For example, Frenchies tend to sink more than swim. Plus, for seniors with limited mobility, a life jacket gives them the support they need but still allows them to be active in the water. As for where to swim, a kiddie pool could work for a small dog, while a regular pool or local lake that allows swimming will be better for a large pooch. There are even centers that offer hydrotherapy for dogs.
Keep up With Your Regular Walks
Walking your senior dog is a must and it will always be one of the best activities to do with an older dog. They get exercise and excitement and it wards off boredom and depression. During the summer, keep walks on the shorter side, bring water for them and watch for signs of overheating since older dogs are more sensitive to temperature. If your dog has mobility problems, consider a dog stroller. With our Dogger, your furry family member can take a rest whenever they need to and then get down when they want to walk, allowing you to tackle all of your favorite routes.
Enjoy a Beach Day
If you have dog-friendly beaches nearby, go frolic with your pooch. Visit during the early morning hours or the evening when it’s cooler since the sand can burn their paws and the heat can be too much for an older dog. Throw around a ball, stroll along where the water meets the sand (it’s a nice, soft surface for arthritic dogs) or let them take a dip. Pack a picnic and a water bowl.
If your dog is a ball or fetch addict, don’t stop enjoying this activity just because they may have mobility or health challenges. Instead, adjust to what they can and cannot do. For example, you may have to throw the ball or Frisbee closer to them or lower to ensure they don’t overdo it. Take breaks and if it’s really hot out, opt for a brief game. I have had two dogs (Churchill and Paige) who were obsessed with chasing balls and no matter where we were or how they felt, they would always perk up when a ball came into the picture. Knowing the joy it brought them, I found ways to allow them to enjoy these times, even if it meant tiny tosses right near them so they didn’t have to run or strain themselves. If they showed me they were ready for more, I would extend the distance. Like I always try and tell people, the fun doesn’t have to stop just because your dog is a senior; we just need to be creative in how we enjoy activities to ensure they don’t overexert themselves.
Take a Walk Somewhere New
Exposing your senior dog to new sights, smells and sounds can have a positive impact on their brain. While you’ll want to be careful of the terrain, hiking is one of my favorite senior dog summer activities. I bring along plenty of water and my Dogger so my dogs can rest and get all of the benefits of a nature walk without overdoing it. I also put them in the stroller when we’re going through troublesome areas that could lead to injured paws. You can use our Grippers traction socks to give their paws a little extra protection too.
Go for a Car Ride
When the weather’s nice, there’s no better activity for older dogs than a car ride. Pups of any age love feeling the wind in their fur and the excitement of hitting the road. You don’t need a specific destination. Prevent accidents by laying down a Washable Wonders dog blanket pad on your seat and let the fun begin!
Use that Sense of Smell
Even when a dog’s vision or hearing begin to decline, their sense of smell tends to remain strong. Play games that allow them to use their sniffer. Puzzle games where they have to find a treat are among my favorite activities for senior dogs because they exercise their brain and it helps prevent cognitive decline. When it’s too hot to be outside, have a game day indoors. There are tons of dog puzzle toys on the market. Or, make your own by putting treats inside empty shoe boxes and hiding them around the house for your pooch to find. To up the difficulty level and encourage problem solving, keep the lids on. Another option? Cut a hole in a tennis ball and stuff treats inside. Make the hole large enough that your dog can eventually get the treats but not so huge, they just fall out. ErinsAnimals has a tutorial for a DIY ball treat toy for dogs.
Head to the Dog Park
If your dog is the social type, visit the dog park. Going to a large dog park is a great idea so your older dog won’t get cornered by more exuberant pups. As an added bonus, you can hang out with your fellow pet parents.
I’ve never met a dog who didn’t like treat training and obedience training can get them moving, help them feel engaged and allow them to show off their skills. It’s a good bonding activity too since you’re involved, communicating with your dog and praising them. Eliminate any exercises that your dog won’t be able to do anymore and focus on the commands they’re still great at following. I always recommend using hand signals. As your dog ages, they’ll likely lose some or all of their hearing just like humans do. If the training is all verbal, then they might not be able to follow your instructions. Incorporating hand signals means that even if they can’t hear you, they’ll still know what it is you’re asking them to do.
Try these senior dog summer activities to bring out your pooch’s inner-puppy. By adapting the things they love to do, you can make the most of your dog’s older years. Shop Dog Quality to find assistance products for senior dogs to help you do just that. Happy summer!