Guest blogger Florence Scarinci has trained service dogs, worked as a veterinary assistant and run a pet-sitting service. For 18 years, she’s volunteered at the Bideawee shelter in New York, for which she writes the monthly online column Bideawee Tails from a Volunteer. Today, she shares suggestions for enjoying time with your senior dog this holiday season.
Making your list, checking it twice? Of course your senior dog is on the list.
She already has so many things to make her golden years comfortable: a bed, a jacket, maybe even pet stairs and elevated food and water bowls. So what can you get her to let her know she’s the champion of your heart?
For any dog, but for seniors especially, time — your time — is the best gift you can give. Consider these cost-free presents that are gifts of time and of yourself.
- Take a leisurely stroll together. The fresh air and the gentle exercise will keep her muscles toned, her joints moving and her heart and blood pumping. Just remember that seniors are sensitive to extremes of heat and cold, so plan your walks for the mildest part of the day.
- Take her to an unfamiliar area where all the smells are new. Let her take as long as she wants to sniff. Routine may be comforting, but novelty is invigorating.
- Revisit some old tricks. In her youth, did she love to play fetch? Continue to practice — but only toss the ball a short distance. What commands does she know? Sits and downs are marvelous physical therapy.
- Teach her something new. Yes, you can teach an old dog new tricks. Scientists tell us humans that if we stop learning, we deteriorate — and the same is true for dogs. The tricks don’t have to be very physical: You can teach her to yawn or wave. (Editor’s note: Find out how to teach your dog to wave in this video.)
- Give her puzzles to solve. Hide a dog biscuit under a towel or behind a piece of furniture. Studies of people with dementia suggest that solving puzzles keeps the brain synapses working.
- Play hide and seek. Like puzzles, this game encourages your dog to use her brain to solve a problem. You can play it indoors in familiar, comfortable surroundings any season of the year.
- Groom her. Brushing stimulates the circulation and helps spread natural oils throughout the coat. Your dog will feel great, look shiny and love having your undivided attention.
- Give her a massage. What better gift for tired limbs? You don’t have to become a reiki expert. Watch the video above, or read a book such as The Healing Touch for Dogs by Dr. Michael W. Fox. Touch releases the so-called “love hormone,” oxytocin, in both humans and dogs, so you’ll enjoy the massage as much as your dog.
- Make her some special treats. Try out some of these healthy, easy dog treat recipes. Your dog will appreciate these mouth-watering rewards when she solves a puzzle or does a trick.
- Schedule some cuddle time. Let your dog keep your feet warm during your afternoon nap on the couch, or turn on your favorite TV show and just be together. Sometimes the best thing to do with your best friends is nothing at all!
How do you spend quality time with your senior dog? Tell us below.
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