Socializing Your Senior Dog

Pet Health and Safety  •  Pam Karkow  •  Wednesday, May 20, 2020

“Old dogs, like old shoes, are comfortable. They might be a bit out of shape and a little worn around the edges, but they fit well.”

--Bennie Wilcox

So, your senior dog is slowing down. That can be quite a hard pill to swallow. I will never forget dragging my old golden to a lake near our house, certain she’d still be able to swim as she did in her youth. Somehow, I was overlooking the part where her back legs just didn’t work as they used to, and my oldest son ended up having to help me haul her out of the water. It was such a sad day for all of us. While we still enjoyed her sweet personality and the exuberant greetings she offered when we arrived home at the end of the day, we had to come to grips with the fact that she was no longer able to go for a swim or fetch a tennis ball. And though we were “comfortable” with the new role she’d play as more of an affectionate foot warmer and less of a hiking partner, we knew we had to find some ways to encourage socialization with other people and dogs so she’d still get the most out of life.

Keep Your Senior Dog Feeling Young!

Here are a few tips for socializing your senior dog. Keep in mind that if your dog has behaved in an aggressive manner around other dogs in the past, you may need the help of a trainer or professional before you attempt socialization on your own. But, with the well-mannered dog, these ideas can channel your senior’s inner party animal!

1. Host a Party

With the holidays right around the corner, consider a “dog-centric” Fall Fling or a Thanksgiving feast. Check out our blog, Holiday Cooking with Your Pet, and whip up some yummy treats to hand out to your doggie guests. Encourage your human friends to toss a treat or two to your dog so he starts to associate goodies and head pats with guests.

2. Take a Dog Training Class

Your senior may have passed his puppy classes with flying colors but, hey--that was a long time ago. Brush up on some simple commands (your dog won’t want to skip school when there are delicious treats involved) or take a tricks training or nose work class. Who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks? If nothing else, it’ll be time spent together when you can further bond with your senior dog. Taking a class would be especially beneficial to a newly adopted senior dog, ensuring time spent together at least once a week, without the distractions of being at home.

3. Walk with Another Pup

Sometimes all your senior needs is the positive peer pressure of a younger friend. Find a dog with a similar temperament to yours and scope out a new place to walk or hike. Your “seasoned” dog will revel in the thrill of new smells and sounds, and his younger buddy may even encourage him to walk a little farther or faster than he’s used to. Just be careful not to overdo it with your dog. Senior dogs still need to take it easy. Be sure to pack some goodies, and if your dog becomes unsettled by anything, toss him a treat. Help him to realize the unknown can be fun instead of scary.

Celebrate National Senior Dog Month

November is National Senior Dog month and there is so much to celebrate about our seniors. They’re comfortable, worn-in, and seasoned, but they’re not done yet! They still have lots of life to live, and we can make sure it’s the best life possible by loving them and taking the time and energy to continue to socialize them. Remember, caring for a senior dog means more than veterinary check-ups and nutrition, keeping them mentally and emotionally engaged can keep them living long into their golden years!


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