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Enrich Your Senior Dog’s Life with Treats

As our dogs age, keeping their brains active is crucial to helping them feel happier in their golden years. In this article, we share how to enrich a senior dog’s life by providing activities to exercise their brains. We’ve put together seven of our favourite games that will challenge their dexterity, continue to motivate their inquisitive natures and help them to feel calm and engaged. 





Enrich Your Senior Dog’s Life with Treats

A dog’s nose is their window to the world. As such, games and activities that utilise their dominant sense (smell) are highly rewarding, especially for dogs whose hearing and eyesight are failing. 

Setting up activities for your older dog to discover tasty treats is the ideal way to enrich a senior dog’s life, whether on their walks or at home when walks are not an option (due to health, the weather, or simply need a rest day). Either way, games that involve finding delicious rewards will undoubtedly get their brains ticking and their tails wagging.



Forage on walks

Dogs love exploring the outdoors and taking in the scents of nature at any age. Many enjoy just watching the world go by, taking in the views, sights and sounds. Some older dogs will appreciate just laying next to you, sniffing in the undergrowth for the scents of nature, whilst others may prefer a ‘sniffari’— moving and snuffling in the undergrowth as they go.

Supercharge their enjoyment by scattering healthy treats in the longer grasses for them to seek out. The ideal foraging rewards for your senior dog are small-sized training treats, such as Fish Skins Cubes, Sprats or Black Pudding Training Treats. Alternatively, our Kangaroo Jerky can easily be broken into smaller-sized treats on the move.



Picnic time

During the warmer months, many of us love to venture out for a picnic, and of course, your senior dog will likely love to tag along. Once you’ve found your spot to unwind and delve into your picnic, share the moment with your canine companion by giving them a longer-lasting chew. Select a healthy chew suitable to your dog’s needs. Tripe Bone or Venison Skins may be perfect for power chewers with strong teeth, and if your senior dog has poor dental condition or missing teeth, then a softer chew, such as Goat Jerky or Rabbit Ear, may be better suited. 

A cup of bone broth is a super-tasty, hydrating treat for dogs. Packed with nourishing vitamins, minerals, and electrolytes, bone broth is the ideal way to encourage them to drink on warmer days while boosting their nutritional intake. 



Scent work at home

If your dog has had a busy or stressful day, sniffing reduces anxieties and causes the heart rate to slow and cortisol levels to drop. Studies have been carried out on breath work for humans, providing compelling evidence that specific breathing techniques can reduce heart rate and cortisol levels. The same applies to dogs. Nose work offers many benefits to dogs. Problem-solving (using their dominant sense) enriches their lives, builds confidence, gives our fur-friends a positive outlook and ultimately supports their overall wellbeing.[1]

To incorporate scent work to enrich your senior dog’s life, try placing treats in snuffle mats, under cups and cones for them to seek in their own time. To be more involved in the fun, hide treats under a selection of cups and ask your dog to ‘go find’; once they touch the right cup, lift it up for them, let them grab their reward and give them an extra treat for their excellent scent skills.



Scent games for dogs using healthy treats

Long-lasting chews

Dogs love to chew, so giving longer-lasting healthy treats is a highly enriching activity for most dogs, including seniors. Of course, as dogs age, their dental condition can deteriorate, so choosing a suitable longer-lasting chew to meet their needs is important.

Studies have explored chewing as an activity for dogs, and the reported benefits (besides being extremely enjoyable for most dogs) include maintaining tooth and gum health, helping to calm, build jaw strength and promoting positive emotions; healthy chews are the ultimate good mood food for dogs [2]. 

Offer a longer-lasting healthy chew for a happier, more contended senior dog. Our Ostrich Bone, Cows Hooves and Yak Bars provide hours of gnawing time for dogs with strong jaws and healthy gnashers. Whereas our Duck Neck, Duck Feet and Lamb Strips provide softer chews for dogs with smaller, more delicate or missing teeth. 



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Bob for treats in bone broth

Bone broth is an excellent dietary addition to your older dog’s diet, packed full of nourishing nutrients and electrolytes for hydration; bone broth promotes a healthy gut environment whilst being super-tasty to our fur friends.

To add the fun factor and enrich your senior dog’s life using bone broth, try floating some treats in a bowl of broth and let them bob to win their rewards. Sprats are ideal for this activity as they are super-light and easily float.



Egg box or bun tin treat discovery game

If your dog hasn’t been given many puzzles throughout their lifetime, or they are finding them too much of a challenge now, this is a nice, easy puzzle for them to solve, giving them a good chance of success.

Grab a bun tin or egg box (choose the option appropriate to the size of your dog). Pop a few treats in some indents and cover them with suitable-sized balls. Encourage your dog to use their nose to seek out the treats. If they have to remove all the balls to find all the goodies, then so be it; the game will encourage them to be inquisitive and use their brains, as under some balls, they’ll find a treat, and others will be empty. 

You could use this activity as part of a bigger discovery game by leading onto hiding treats in other locations as your dog gets more skilled. 



Track a treat enrichment games for senior dogs

Track a treat

Have you ever taught your dog to track? It’s never too late to have a go. Lay a trail of a scent by dragging a treat across the ground and then show your dog the start point, encouraging them to follow the direction. Once they find the treat, reward them again by giving them extra treats for a well-done tracking job. Make it easy by starting with short distances in quiet, low-distraction areas with minimal competing scents. 

The key with this game is to offer encouragement and always ensure your dog finishes on a positive note by finding their well-earned prize.

Adding enrichment games and activities to your senior dog’s life supports their cognition and motivation. It will help build and reaffirm your bond with your dog while supporting their health and happiness.

As your dog gets older, please take note of their physical and mental limitations, and be sure to adjust activities to ensure they are winning and not being challenged too much. Being supported to succeed will contribute to their confidence and enjoyment of any game or activity.

Choosing to incorporate ProDog Raw’s healthy dog treats into enrichment games means that you can provide dog-friendly rewards that are guaranteed to set tails wagging and give you peace of mind you’re nurturing your senior dog’s health by offering delicious and beneficial treats.




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References

  1. C. Duranton, A. Horowitz. Feb 2019. Let me sniff! Nosework induces positive judgment bias in pet dogs. Applied Animal Behaviour Science.Vol 211(61-66). Doi: 10.1016/j.applanim.2018.12.009
  2. Flint, H.E.; Atkinson, M.; Lush, J.; Hunt, A.B.G.; King, T. Feb 2023. Long-Lasting Chews Elicit Positive Emotional States in Dogs during Short Periods of Social Isolation. Animals 13 (4), 552. Doi:10.3390/ani13040552

 

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