Common Behavior Problems in Senior Dogs

Senior dog

Older dogs, like older people, may experience sensory or cognitive losses. Fortunately, dogs deal well with these changes — better, in fact, than most people do. The most common sensory loss is loss of hearing. The ability to hear high-pitched sounds usually goes first, so try to call out in a lower tone voice. Dogs can easily learn hand signals, and they can also learn to come to a flashing porch light when out in the yard. Be sure to pet your deaf dog a lot; otherwise, he must wonder why you quit talking to him.

How to Keep Your Old Dog Young at Heart

Dogs, like many animals, naturally show age-related declines in mental function starting at about 6 years of age, but it's usually not noticeable until older age. However, studies have shown that you may be able to counteract this decline somewhat by providing an enriched environment (consisting of social interaction, physical exercise, novel toys, and learning tasks). Each thing helps, but all of them together helps the most. The longer you provide these, the better your older dog might be compared to other old dogs of a similar age. Just because your old dog is not as active as he once was is no reason to think he doesn’t still need stimulation.

Older dogs may not be able to run and jump and do the physical things they could when younger, but they still need low-impact exercise like walking, and they need mental stimulation. If he enjoys the same games he did when he was younger, great! Just be sure not to overdo them, and talk to your veterinarian about joint supplements or other strategies for helping your dog stay active. Your dog may prefer less strenuous activities though. Hide treats around the room and challenge him to find them. Take him for rides in the car; just because he might not be as demanding as he used to be doesn’t mean he doesn’t want to go.

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