Help Keep Your Senior Dog Mentally and Physically Sharp

Senior dog in grass

I have a special place in my heart for elderly canines. I serve on the board of The Grey Muzzle Organization, a group devoted to assisting senior shelter dogs; as a trainer, I work with elderly dogs both in shelters and in their forever homes.

As dogs age, both their mental and physical health are affected, and it is important for pet owners to know how to handle these changes.

Changes in Behavior

As your dog gets older, his behavior may change. These changes can be as minor as a decreased desire to play, or they may be more dramatic, such as increased anxiety about unfamiliar noises or a sudden fear of being left alone. Behavioral changes never happen in a vacuum; they are always a response to something your dog has encountered or experienced. Some signs of illness can be misinterpreted as age-related behavioral changes, so contact your veterinarian first if you notice any behavior changes in your pet.

Changes in your dog’s behavior may be caused by previous learning and experience, or they may be related to changes in his physical or mental health. In many cases, changes result from a combination of factors. Because of this, any noticeable shift in a canine’s behavior requires help from a professional. Once possible medical issues have been ruled out, your veterinarian may be able to furtherhelp with your pet's behavior problems or recommend a trainer or behaviorist; these specialists can work as a team to address your pet’s difficulties.

Changes in Mental Health

A second major area that may be affected as a dog ages is his mental health. Your dog’s brain is always changing, and it needs constant exercise to stay healthy. Simple measures, such as providing consistent physical activity and mental challenges, and encouraging positive interactions with people and other dogs, can boost your dog’s mental health. These healthy lifestyle habits are an important part of your dog’s daily routine.


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