Ginger loves walks! I mean, she lurves them!
When we first brought her home to foster, the vet cautioned us to limit her exercise to short walks because of her hip dysplasia and arthritis issues. This was hard to hear because we are used to 2-4 mile walks with Turk and Rufus. But we took the vet’s advice and started slow, just going around the block, then a couple of blocks before moving up to half a mile, then a mile, and now Ginger is a champ on our two-mile walk/jogs! Her hip issues that were very prevalent in those first few weeks we had her barely make an appearance anymore. I attribute much of that to her exercise regiment – it keeps her muscles engaged and her weight down (which keeps extra pressure off her hips).
She used to come home after our half-mile or mile walks and collapse dramatically onto the kitchen floor as if she was completely exhausted – but not anymore! Here she is after one of her first walks…total drama queen…
Another way to get exercise in is by taking your elderdog swimming, as Kate explains here. Whatever exercise you choose, just make sure you ease into an exercise routine if your elderdog hasn’t been very active in awhile. Even a 15 minute walk around the neighborhood is beneficial! Here is Ginger stretching out after one of her longer walks … that girl is a yoga queen with that downward dog down!
It is also extremely important to keep your elderdog’s mind engaged on a daily basis. This can be accomplished in a variety of ways. First, you can introduce your dogs to problem-solving puzzles, like the Kong Wobbler. Here is a typical encounter with Ginger and the Wobbler…
Hey Kong, why is there treats in you?
If food is involved, Ginger will spend a fair amount of time working on a puzzle just for the promise of a treat, which is wonderful because these puzzles stimulate her brain and keep her mind active!
Teaching your elderdog a new trick or working towards specific behavior goals are also great ways to keep your elderdog’s mind stimulated. You know how they say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks? Well, it’s just not true! For example, Two Pitties in the City taught Ms. M how to “put her toys away” and many bloggers I follow work with their dogs to pass the Canine Good Citizen test. It doesn’t really matter what the trick or behavior is – making elderdogs “work” to learn a new behavior keeps their minds active.
We have a rule in our house: “No treats without tricks,” which means that we will not give out any treats between mealtimes unless we are working on teaching a specific behavior. This is great for us because we get a relatively quick result out of a training session – Ginger learned how to “shake” in about 15 minutes of training! Here she is during a recent training session … you better believe she is excited about practicing “shake,” “sit,” “down,” and “wait” just for the possibility of treats or a belly rub!
What other things to do you do to keep your elderdog fit and mentally active?