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Humans, dogs, cats, rodents, and horses all share similar ageing processes, with arthritis, loss of hearing or sight and organs becoming less efficient. Ageing can also affect our pets mentally as the structure of the nerve cells in the brain start to break down and connections from one cell to another may start to break, making the flow of information less efficient. For us, this is where you go upstairs but forget why you went up there! So, it can become harder for ‘an old dog to learn new tricks’ but it is not impossible.
Often behaviours that frustrate a dog owner such as pulling on the lead, poor recall, increased vocalisations and other reactive behaviours, as well as general non-compliance such as not getting up to go for a walk when prompted, or going off food are all associated with the aging process. That is because cognitive impairment, increased anxieties, deafness, pain, and discomfort can creep in as the years pass.
When an animal is provided with a healthy diet and a good balance of physical and mental activity, he is likely to have fewer or slow-progressing senile changes to the body and brain compared to an overweight, inactive dog.
Although your pet may not be as agile as he once was, utilising his sense of smell and touch are senses that are least likely to be affected with aging. Hence, using scent work games and being inventive with toys and tricks such as a bow that can gently stretch the body and the mind, can help go a long way in promoting longevity; my book Playing With Your Dog includes a section on four-legged pensioners with age-appropriate game and trick ideas.
There are some other great resources available to help owners with older dogs and one I recommend is trainer Eileen Anderson’s website at https://dogdementia.com/about
Ensuring your dog’s brain and body remains flexible and fit can help ensure there’s still plenty of life in the old dog. 🙂