Low-Stress Ways To Play With Your Senior Dog

Lindsay Pevny for Wiggleless

As your beloved dog enters her senior years, a wise old glow will slowly replace her youthful spark. Her naps will get longer, and your adventure walks will be cut short. Still, she needs exercise and mental stimulation to keep her healthy.

Gentle exercise prevents weight gain, which could put stress on her already-achy joints.  Stimulating, yet calm activities keep her mind sharp. Best of all, the time you spend with her reminds her that she’s still your number one pup.   

Here are some low-stress ways to play with your senior dog while accommodating her needs.


Remember when you first got your pup, and you couldn’t get her to walk in a straight line? The world was so new to her. Now that she’s no longer pulling and straining to explore, you can take relaxed, slow walks. Let her sniff wherever she pleases. The diverse scents will keep her mind stimulated. Avoid crowded, busy parks – peaceful strolls near home can be the highlight of your old dog’s day.


You can bring some sturdy outdoor toys and treats to hide on your walks. Also be sure to practice recall and play hide-and-seek when you take your dog off-leash in a safe, enclosed space.


While senior dogs can suffer from canine dementia, your dog can still enjoy mental puzzles, which can slow the aging of brain. There are many ready-made dog puzzle toys on the market, just search for “interactive dog toys.” You can also make these games yourself. Hide food for your dog to find in blankets, cardboard tubes and boxes to keep her guessing. A popular homemade game uses a muffin tin covered with tennis balls to hide treats.

Many of these puzzles rely on food to keep your dog interested. With her lower activity levels and slower metabolism, this means snacks can make your dog gain too much weight. Replace unhealthy packaged treats with unseasoned chicken or beef, or dog-safe fruits and veggies like carrots and apples. You can even use your dog’s kibble as rewards instead of feeding her meals out of her bowl.


If your dog is still driven by treats and praise, you can still teach her new tricks. Teach tricks that use more mental power than physical endurance. Try teaching your dog to identify toys by name, to do an army crawl, or to find a treat under a cup.


Your dear ol’ dog loves to snuggle up with you as often as possible. There’s nothing a senior loves more than quiet time spent with you!


Not all exercise is good for older dogs, especially those who have chronic health conditions. Fetch is a strenuous exercise, though some dogs love it so much, they’ll run after the ball even if they’re in pain. Tug-o-war is a full body workout, and can injure an older dog’s teeth and jaws.


Lindsay Pevny is a freelance blogger for startups and dog-related businesses, and the writer of LittleDogTips.com – a modern dog training blog that combats the “spoiled little dog” stereotype by teaching chihuahua and small dog owners to raise a happy, healthy pup with good manners.


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