(by Brianne Statz, CPDT-KA)
Training classes aren’t just for puppies and new dogs! When we first get a new dog, whether it’s a new puppy, or a newly adopted dog, we spend quite a bit of time training all the necessary behaviors for our dog to be a great companion. Leash manners, housetraining, sit, stay, etc. – we want our dog to know all these skills to be able to be a well-mannered part of our family. However, once we’ve successfully trained these manners, sometimes it’s easy to think we’re done with training, especially if we have an older dog who has started to slow down, and is content to just chill on the couch all day.
While older dogs may not be able to handle as much physical exercise as they used to, mental exercise is still very important. Giving your older dog’s brain a workout with a new mental challenge can help her preserve cognitive abilities.
One great way to challenge a dog mentally is teaching a new trick. If you do have an older dog, keep physical limitations in mind (maybe don’t try to teach her to jump rope), but you can teach simple tasks like the names for new toys, targeting, shake your head yes or no, and many other physically simple, but mental stimulating tricks.
Another easy way to provide more enrichment is by simply taking a different walking route. Even if your walk isn’t long, if it has new smells, sights and sounds, it will provide more mental stimulation than the same old trip around the block.
Food dispensing toys are another great option for older dogs. Dogs don’t mind working for their food. There are numerous food dispensing toys on the market, or you can simply hide treats around the house (under a chair, on a low shelf, in a corner, etc.). Just be sure to exercise your dog’s brain!