Senior dogs often get the short end of the stick when it comes to our attention, exercise, training and bonding activities. Since they are usually easier-going and less problem-causing than our younger dogs, it's easy to pass up activities with them because they are “fine” hanging out by themselves. Dogs are generally considered “senior” starting around 7 years of age.
Just as we stay healthier, more physically fit and mentally sharper by staying active, so do our dogs as they age. Even though they might not cause trouble if not exercised enough, it's still important for their health and well-being to be kept active.
The same things that I advocate for young active dogs I also advocate for older dogs. While they might not need as long or strenuous of a walk or as much training time or as much activity to keep them out of trouble, it still is good for them to receive some of these things.
I met with a client the other day whose dog is around 9 years old. They have been experiencing issues with barking, which has gradually increased since their first child was born a few years ago. As dogs get older, they are often not as focused on meeting new dogs and social activities as younger dogs. However, in this case, I believe this dog really does yearn for more social activity. He's still very dog- and people-friendly and wants to play any chance he gets. While part of his issue is boredom, I think a big part of his particular barking issue has to do with a lack of social activity.
Our Greyhound, Jahzara, turns 9 this Saturday (April 2011). She's still in great shape and I really don't think of her as a senior dog, but she is. She goes for two walks per day and receives some training or mentally active time with interactive toys most days. Plus, she has to deal with Romeo on a daily basis. Who has time to slow down when you have to keep up with him? Although she certainly doesn't need anywhere near the activity level that Romeo does, she actually gets quite a bit. In fact, since she is well-behaved enough to be off leash on our walks, she might actually get more exercise on walks than he does. She would probably be fine with one walk per day and less mental activity, but it will help keep her feeling younger and in better shape longer. And I want to make sure I am helping her living the longest, healthiest life that she can.
What are you doing for your senior dog?