Rather than taking it easy and slowing down, keeping your senior dog active is essential for his mental and physical health.
Understandably, a senior dog faces more challenges than a young pup when it comes to exercise. Health conditions, such as weight gain, arthritis, and failing eyesight, can limit a dog’s mobility, but it’s still possible to provide your dog with some age-appropriate, fun, and stimulating activities.
Read this guide to discover fun games and stimulating activities for older dogs!
Before You Start
Some dogs begin slowing down earlier than others, and you must remember that when devising new activities for your senior dog.
For example, smaller breeds tend to have a longer lifespan and remain active for longer than larger ones. That said, my German Shepherd, Border Collie crossbreed, still loved her daily walks and gentle games right up until the age of 18!
Don’t Overexert Your Dog!
Dogs follow their owner’s lead as best they can, which can cause problems if you force your dog to overdo things.
So, it’s essential for dog owners to be aware of their dog’s limits and watch out for signs of overexertion. If your pup seems to be struggling with the exercise routine you’ve planned for them, stop immediately and reassess how much your pet can cope with.
Fun Activities for Senior Dogs
Here are some excellent activities and games your senior or older dog might enjoy while spending quality time with you!
Your dog still needs daily exercise to stay fit, toned, and healthy. However, an older pup’s exercise tolerance might be somewhat limited, so be sure to walk slowly so that your dog can easily keep pace with you and don’t go quite so far.
Dogs are naturally curious creatures that love puzzles, especially if there’s a food reward to be had once the puzzle is solved!
Puppy puzzle toys are generally simple to solve and are not too taxing for an older dog that’s not as physically dextrous as he once was.
Gentle Fetch With Soft Toys
Most dogs enjoy a game of fetch, and older pups can join in the fun, too!
Toss a ball or your dog’s favorite soft toy a short distance and allow him to retrieve it for some gentle, satisfying fun.
Not all dogs enjoy getting wet, but some breeds, such as Goldendoodles, simply love water, and if you have a water baby, swimming is an excellent exercise form your pet can enjoy.
Swimming in a shallow, calm water body is ideal for providing your dog with all-around exercise without placing undue stress on his joints, helping to keep your pet fit and toned.
Nose Work or Sniffing Games
Did you know that your dog’s sense of smell is around 40 times better than yours? That’s because your dog has up to 300 million olfactory receptors in his nose, compared to around just 6 million in yours! In addition, your dog has something referred to as neophilia, meaning they are attracted to interesting and new smells.
Take three plastic dishes and hide a treat underneath one of them. Now ask your dog to find his reward!
Short Training Sessions
If you haven’t spent time training your dog in a while, introduce some short training sessions into your senior dog’s day.
Try spending five minutes daily revising basic training, such as walking to heel, giving you a paw, or sit-and-stay.
My elderly dog loved a massage and would fall asleep while I was gently rubbing her back! To find out how to do it, check out this YouTube video.
Provided your older dog still has enough teeth to hang onto a tug toy, a good old-fashioned game of tug-of-war always goes down well.
Keep it gentle, though; remember, your dog might not be as strong as he once was!
“Doga” is big right now! That’s right, join a dog yoga class in your area to make new canine and human friends, as well as get toned and supple.
Can you do the “Downward Dog” pose just like Fido?
Interactive Treat Dispensers
Most dogs are motivated by the prospect of getting a treat, and interactive treat dispensers are a simple way of stimulating and entertaining an older dog while providing him with some gentle exercise.
You’ll need a willing volunteer for this game! Most dogs want to be around their owners, and a game of hide-and-seek is a brilliant, fun way of gently exercising your dog and mentally stimulating him, too.
Ask your volunteer to hold your dog while you disappear to hide. The volunteer counts down and then releases your pup. We don’t think it’ll take long for your furry friend to track you down!
Dog agility is a hugely popular sport for dogs, both big and small, but it’s not just for youngsters!
Try making a short, easy agility course for your senior dog to negotiate, using poles on the ground rather than jumps.
One day when I was cleaning my car, I discovered by accident that my elderly dog loved to try to catch bubbles! She would hop up off the ground a few inches and snap at the soap bubbles as they floated down.
So, I bought a dog-safe bubble kit and brought it out on sunny days for fun bubble-chasing games in the back garden!
Try hiding a high-value treat somewhere around your home, and let your dog hunt it down. That’s a simple game that most dogs love!
This game provides invaluable mental exercise for senior pups and suits dogs with health challenges that preclude too much physical exercise.
Pick one of your dog’s favorite toys, his ball, for example. When your pup is playing with the ball, say the word “ball” a few times. Each time your dog grabs the toy, say the word again and give your dog a treat.
Eventually, your dog will learn the toy’s name. Now, you can ask your furry friend to bring you the ball, rewarding him each time he does! Keep sessions short and fun.
Ice Cubes in Water
Try freezing some beef stock in an ice cube tray and then place a cube in a dish of water. Now, present your dog with the tasty treat for a game of doggy duck apple!
My cats love this game, and my puppy enjoys it too! You can buy a laser pointer from your local pet store for a few dollars, which is well worth the hours of fun this toy provides!
You’ll need a group of dog owners and their pups to play this interactive game, making it ideal for a doggy playdate.
Arrange a line of chairs with alternate chairs facing opposite directions in the center of a rectangular room or space. Have a volunteer in charge of the music.
Play the music and have the handlers walk around the chair with the dogs by their sides. When the music stops, the handlers instruct their dogs to sit either verbally or using a hand signal. The handlers then rush to sit on an empty chair in the center of the rectangle.
Set up a simple obstacle course in your backyard and walk your dog around it, rewarding him with treats each time he negotiates an obstacle.
Lots of dogs love playing with water, especially on a hot summer’s day. Turn on a garden hose under low pressure and spray a jet of water for your dog to try to grab.
This is an excellent fun game for both of you, but you must be prepared to get soaked and dress accordingly!
Sensory toys for dogs are designed to encourage your pet to use his senses of sight, hearing, touch, taste, and smell. These toys are ideal for dogs whose mobility and eyesight are not as good as they once were and are perfect for gentle indoor fun.
A flirt pole is a piece of dog exercise equipment that features a plastic or fabric lure attached to the end. Basically, you encourage your dog to chase the lure!
Since the flirt stick is under the control of the dog’s handler, you can make the game as fast or as gentle as required, making this an excellent piece of kit for an older dog.
Ball pits are usually associated with little kids’ games. However, you can use the same principle to create an interactive, fun game for your senior dog.
You can use a small kiddie pool filled with plastic balls for this game. Toss in a few treats, and watch your dog snuffle around to find them!
Kong toys are excellent interactive toys that can keep dogs amused for hours. Simply stuff the toy with peanut butter and freeze it or put a few treats inside the Kong and allow your pup to work out the puzzle and retrieve his reward.
If your dog loves to chase a ball around, he’s sure to enjoy a game of soccer with you. Why not get the kids involved, too, for some after-school fun?
Although playing frisbee is perhaps more suited to a younger dog, many active oldies still enjoy chasing after these things in the park. Just be careful that you don’t throw the frisbee too far or too high for your old dog, especially if he’s arthritic or has mobility issues.
Along similar lines to the frisbee game, you can play ring toss with your older pup. Use heavier-weight rubber rings rather than flimsy, lightweight ones if you have a big dog like a German Shepherd, and vice versa if you have a small pooch such as a Bichon Frise.
Fetch With Soft Discs
If your elderly dog has missing teeth, he might prefer to play fetch with something gentler on his gums than hard rings, such as soft disc toys.
These toys are perfect for dogs with dental issues or gum disease, and you’ll find them at your local pet store.
Some elderly dogs don’t need much more to entertain them than a snuggly, cuddly stuffed animal. Curling up and snoozing with a soft fluffy toy in a secure, comfortable crate is the perfect way to while away a few hours when your canine companion is in the autumn years of his life.
Here’s another game that employs your senior dog’s extraordinary sense of smell. With your dog out of the room, hide a few treats.
Bring the dog back into the room, present him with a treat, and then instruct your pet to “find it!” Help your dog out by showing him where a treat is hidden so that he gets the idea, and then repeat, this time letting your dog do the searching.
A snuffle mat is an excellent toy for senior dogs that prefer indoor play during poor weather. Simply hide a few treats inside the folds of the mat, and watch as your dog has fun trying to locate them.
“Bubble Wrap” Toy
Dogs love the popping sound made by bubble wrap, although there is a danger that your pup might eat the punctured plastic. Instead, buy your dog a plushy bubble wrap toy that sounds exactly like the real thing but is much safer and more dog-friendly.
Many dogs of all ages love digging in your backyard if they can get away with it. You can protect your herbaceous borders and lawn by providing your dog with a small sand pit to dig in.
Hide a few of your elderly dog’s favorite toys in the sand pit and encourage him to find them. This game is perfect for an older pup that doesn’t need as much walking as he once did and still provides plenty of exercise and healthy outdoor time.
Now, you might be wondering how on earth your dog is expected to hold a golf club, albeit a mini one! Well, you’ll be relieved to learn that it’s you who’ll be playing the game while your pet watches on.
There are lots of indoor mini-golf courses that welcome well-behaved dogs these days, so you’re pup can enjoy socializing and spectating while you hit the greens!
Now, we answer a few of the most commonly asked questions about exercising an older dog.
How do you keep a senior dog entertained?
A: That largely depends on your dog’s physical health. If your dog is reasonably fit, he’ll still benefit from regular daily walks that will help to maintain his mobility and muscle strength. However, if your pup isn’t as mobile as he once was, he might still enjoy a car ride.
If your dog likes the water, some gentle swimming can be a good way of keeping his muscles toned and exercising him without putting undue strain on stiff joints, making this activity ideal for dogs with arthritis.
There are plenty of fun games you can play with a senior dog, and to keep him mentally sharp, you could even try teaching your old dog some new tricks!
How do you stimulate an older dog?
A: In addition to the ideas mentioned above, you could try switching your dog’s toys around or buying him a few new ones. Nose work and enrichment puzzles are excellent ways of providing stimulation for older pups.
What do senior dogs do all day?
A: When your dog gets older, it’s perfectly normal for him to spend more time sleeping and lazing around during the day. Old arthritic dogs might not be quite so keen to go for walks, although there are exceptions to that.
Of course, if your dog is very reluctant to go out and seems to spend most of the day asleep, we recommend that you speak to your vet and get your dog checked out in case health problems are brewing.
What makes a senior dog happy?
A: Senior dogs love walks, car rides, playing games, solving puzzles, and spending time with their owners just as they did when they were young! Just bear in mind your dog’s reduced physical capabilities, and tailor his activities and exercise accordingly.
How do I know if my old dog is bored?
A: Old dogs need mental and physical stimulation just like younger pups! If your dog gets bored, he might become destructive and begin showing attention-seeking behaviors like barking.
When a dog is really bored, he might spend all day sulking or sleeping in his bed, showing little interest in his surroundings.
Should senior dogs be walked every day?
A: Unless your dog is severely disabled, he should still have around 30 minutes of daily exercise. Exercise keeps the dog’s joints from seizing up, maintains muscle tone, and helps to stimulate your pet’s digestive system.
However, keep the walks short and low-impact, and always stop when you can see that your dog has had enough.
What should you expect from a 15-year-old dog?
A: In dog years, a 15-year-old dog is roughly equivalent to a 76 or 114-year-old person, depending on the size of the dog.
As your dog ages, it becomes harder for him to learn new things, and he might be resistant to changes in his routine and surroundings. A 15-year-old dog might not be as mobile as he once was and could be less secure on his feet, so you’ll need to make a few changes around your home for your dog’s safety.
At this age, it’s normal for dogs to sleep more and respond slower when roused. Be aware of changes in your dog’s behavior. Anything unusual should be mentioned to your vet in case health problems are brewing.
For example, chattering teeth and bad breath are both indicators of canine periodontal disease and should be checked out by your vet as a matter of urgency.
Did you enjoy our guide to some fun and stimulating activities for your older pup? If you found inspiration in our article, please share it!
Senior dogs still need exercise and mental stimulation, despite their advancing years. Always bear in mind your dog’s physical capabilities when devising a new exercise regimen for him, and never try to force your dog to do more than he can comfortably manage.
How old is your dog? What activities does he enjoy? Tell us in the comments box below.