Ten is the New Five: Keeping Senior Dogs Young

March 25, 2013 | By Carol Bryant via Pet360

How often have we been told that 40 is the new 20 or that 60 is the new 40? With all of the advances in nutrition, supplementation, veterinary medicine and, of course, the human-canine bond—10 certainly has become the new 5 in the canine world.

Hearing

Do you hear what I hear? As with his human counterparts, a dog’s sense of hearing is one that threatens to diminish with aging. Solution? Turn back the hands of time—by using hand signals, that is. Teaching your dog to “come” in association with a hand signal, reinforcing “sit” with a finger point and asking him if he needs to “go potty” with another hand signal will be invaluable should a hearing deficit develop. Hand signals can be taught and reinforced in conjunction with verbal commands while a dog’s hearing is intact and throughout his life.

I did this with my senior Cocker Spaniel, Brandy. Ironically, though her hearing diminished as time marched on, she was at my feet the moment I opened the refrigerator door. It's amazing how astute a dog's senses are and which ones take over when another diminishes.

Sniffing

Who says an old dog can’t learn new tricks? Hide-and-seek is a perfect year-round game for dogs of all ages. Not only does this game work perfectly on rainy and snowy days, but it heightens a dog's sense of smell in a fun and rewarding manner. This game requires two people initially. One person stays with the dog in a room while the other hides. When ready to be sought, the “hidee” lets out a sound to initiate the game. As your pooch scours room to room, occasionally let out a verbal signal. Once found, praise him like he just won an Olympic medal and reward with a treat. Repeat. One caveat: be sure to remove any glass or breakables out of the way: this game stirs up a dog's inner puppy!Dog Running

Smiling

Say cheese! Your canine’s canines need not lose their sparkle. It only takes a few minutes a few times a week, yet proper canine dental hygiene is pivotal. Many kidney, cardiac and liver diseases are directly related to gum and tooth disease. Be certain to use a pet-friendly toothpaste along with a dog-comfy toothbrush (i.e. toddler-size). Long-term results mean no more doggone bad breath as well as disease prevention: it’s a win-win.

In all of the years I've been a pet parent, my dogs have never needed a professional cleaning. I brush a minimum of once a day and I also get regular dental checks at the veterinarian for Dexter.

Breathing

Breathe in, breathe out, repeat. Canine CPR and first aid classes are available throughout the country, both in person and online. Check with a local chapter of the American Red Cross for more information or do a simple Internet search for canine first aid classes. Knowing what to do if a dog is choking, in shock or is injured can mean the difference between life and death, as precious seconds count. Classes often feature canine replica models to learn CPR and the Heimlich maneuver.

Playing

I've heard pet parents say, "I can't play with my dog any longer, he has arthritis" or "I want to play with my dog, but he's old and can't last long." My advice? Make do with what you have! Ease a dog into swimming, do slow walks around the neighborhood, join a dog lovers group where fellow seniors can mingle. Whatever the case, growing old is a mindset. Yes, we should always take precautions when a dog is older but never should we simply "give up" or "stop playing." Modify the methods but keep the dog moving in some way, shape, or do-able form. A bored dog will get used to a boring lifestyle, after all.

Dog lovers, unite. We can’t stop the hands of time from ticking forward, but we can play some magic tricks on the motion they take. Abracadabra—these techniques do work. It’s up to us to tap the magic wand and set the stage for a lifetime of canine happiness.

Do you have a favorite tip for keeping your dog feeling young? Bark at us in the comments below.

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