5 Ways To Keep Your Senior Dog’s Brain Sharp

An older dog wears a pair of reading glasses and is holding a book titled "New Tricks."

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As a part of “Adopt A Less Adoptable Pet Week,” we’re highlighting types of animals that fall into this “less adoptable” category and showing why they can make the best pets ever. If you have adopted a senior animal into your life, it is important to keep their mind stimulated and sharp. Here are a five ways to do so.

1. Name Their Toys

An older, black dog plays with a puzzle toy on a rug.

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The old adage “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks,” is misleading. Not only can you teach older dogs a few new moves, but it will help them stay sharp. A fun way to keep your senior dog’s mind in shape–or your younger pup, for that matter–is to name his toys. Start with just one toy until he recognizes the name and brings it when you say to do so. Then keep adding a few until he knows them all by name.

2. Feed Them Right

An old German Shepherd eats from a blue food bowl.

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Many vets and professional dog trainers agree that a proper diet will help a senior dog have an optimal life. Be sure that the food you are giving him has plenty of vitamins C and E, along with selenium, beta carotene, and omega-3 fatty acids. To find out which senior dog food is best for your aging pup, be sure to consult your vet.

3. Stay As Physically Active As Possible

An older Retriever lies on the grass next to a ball. A couple is in the background.

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Just like with humans, exercise not only benefits dogs physically, but mentally, as well. Your senior dog may move slower than he did at a younger age, but there are still plenty of activities you can partake in with him. Try taking short walks in less crowded areas, playing fetch, or other activities your senior dog normally enjoys. Be sure to keep in mind that your senior dog is most likely more sensitive to extreme temperatures and crowds when taking him outdoors.

4. Play Hide and Seek

An older Beagle waits as his owner holds a treat in one hand and makes a "stay" command with the other.

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Getting your dog to use his nose to find hidden treasure, like his favorite toy or treat, will stimulate all of his senses and build a positive bond between the two of you. To teach your senior pup how to play hide and seek, first command him to sit and hide the prize in an obvious area so he can watch to see where you’re putting it. Then give him a release signal to go find the toy. Once he finds the toy, reward him big time. Once your dog is familiar with the rules, ramp up the difficulty of the exercise by hiding the toy or treat in a different room or underneath something. Get creative and hide the treats in cardboard boxes, in between couch cushions, or in different parts of your home.

5. Get A Toy That’s Easy On The Jaw

An old German Shepherd lies on the grass with a Kong toy between his front legs.

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Your senior dog may have liked to rip even the toughest toys to shreds in his youth, but he may be discouraged from play with such rough toys now. Grab your dog a Kong or another toy with soft rubber that will be easy on their jaw and last a lifetime. To encourage play, feel free to stuff the Kong with a killer filling as a bonus.

Having a senior dog can be an incredibly rewarding experience. If you have a senior dog, what do you do to make sure they are mentally stimulated? Let us know in the comments below.