Our canine companions undergo a variety of changes mentally and physically, and these are especially acute when they hit their older years. According to Dr Paul Mitchell, a veterinarian at Animal Recovery Veterinary Referral Centre, losing liver and kidney functions, experiencing eye cataract and muscle atrophy, as well as heightened dental problems are just some of the health issues that are common among older canines.

In addition to this, a senior pooch’s mental health may also deteriorate. Some dogs have been observed to be unable to interact with their surroundings as they age—a sign of canine senility.

With these health concerns in mind, it is vital that we do our best to ensure that our furry friends enter this seemingly dark period of their lives gracefully. To slow down the effects of ageing and keep Fido content in his twilight years, you can keep your furkid mentally and physically active with the help of age-appropriate activities.

At what age would Fido be considered an aged pooch? According to Poh Wee Boon, a trainer at The Positive Academy, larger dog breeds like Retrievers and Mastiffs are considered old at around seven years, while medium breeds like Border Collies are senior at nine years old.

Smaller dogs like Toy Poodles are considered senior when they hit 11 years.

3-card-monte For Fido

In this game, your dog will be forced to work on his sense of smell. First, cut some holes in three plastic cups. Hide your furkid’s favourite treat under one of the cups and shuffle them around face-down before asking Fido to sniff out the cup that hides the treat.

According to Barbara, teaching your pooch to sniff out the location of his food will keep his brain active. It’s also a motivational tactic for older dogs. “A senior dog has a lower inclination to work, so always encourage your dog as much as possible,” Wee Boon says, emphasising the importance of providing rewards for older pooches.

You can increase the difficulty of this game for your doggy by adding more cups to the game and you can work with your furkid to help him find his hidden reward!

Forage For The Snack

This game once again makes use of Fido’s impeccable sense of smell, as well as his love for treats. Fill a large box with crumpled newspaper and hide some food in between the sheets of paper and under the folds of the crumpled sheets of newspaper. Your pooch is bound to go to town sifting through the layers of paper to get to the hidden treats.

If your doggy seems to be getting the hang of the game, up the difficulty level by hiding the food in small open containers in the box instead. Since this game involves the use of multiple treats at one go, opt for healthier snacks instead of tastier treats that have a higher fat or sugar content.

This article first appeared in Pets Magazine,  Jun/Jul 2017 issue