It is important to care for our dogs as they get older, they still require our love and patience, although at a much slower pace than when they were a puppy.
Older dogs still require mental stimulation and can learn new tricks, the saying you can't teach an old dog new tricks is not so true as there is always something new to learn, the advantage is older dogs tend to be more house trained, have better manners and are less destructive than puppies.
As owners we need to take extra care for our older dogs, here are a few tips:
Your older dog is likely to be less active and sleep more. To make life happier for your pal, try to avoid long walks/hikes as this will cause exhaustion, instead take shorter more frequent walks, this will not only provide exercise but will keep them mentally alert. Allow your dog to set the walking pace so they are not under stress. If your dog has mobility problems you can use ramps to access stairs, or maybe drive to the park so they don't need to walk so far. After any exercise it is important your dog is provided with fresh drinking water and a comfy bed to sleep in to ensure they can rest.
As dogs become older they are less active and as a result put on more weight. We can monitor this by ensuring they are on a diet of low protein or fat. You may also feed your dog smaller meals 2-3 times a day. If your dog suffers from joint problems you can raise the feeding bowl higher up, say on a sturdy bench/table so there is less strain on the dog's neck and back muscles when accessing food and water. Always speak to your vet when making changes to diet to ensure you are providing a balanced nutritious diet.
As an owner you must still make time to play games, interact with your dog, although they may not be physically fit, mental stimulation can have a massive impact on your dog's welfare.
As your dog gets older they may change their behaviour such as barking, becoming less tolerant to changes; if this happens it is important to seek advice from your vet as this may be caused by issues such as deafness or blindness which can affect older dogs.
Just like humans, dogs suffer from eyesight and hearing problems in old age, which can be distressing and confusing, you must be vigilant of these changes. Eyes may appear cloudy, they may not react to sounds when taking them for walks or when calling their name, this is when you need to seek guidance from your vet. You can make life more comfortable for your dog by not moving furniture and settings in your house, by keeping your dog on the lead when going on walks so that they are not at risk. Most dogs with eyesight and hearing problems continue to live their lives but as owners we need to adjust and find new ways to interact with them.
It is important to groom your dog's hair regularly and to check them over for any lumps or bumps. You should also check their ears, teeth, tail and nails which may grow longer as a result of not being so active.
An older dog is like an old friend, treat them as you would a human friend/relative. Take time, be patient and the results will be happy paws and happy human!