Conway Area Humane Society

3 Ways to Bond with a Senior Dog

Bonding with your dog takes dedication, and as they age, building a strong bond can take a little extra work!


Senior dogs pull at our heart strings. We take one look at their salt and peppered faces and our hearts melt! They are sweet, caring and inquisitive – just with a little less energy as they had in their prime.


Owners want to provide an active, healthy lifestyle for their dogs regardless of their age, however overexertion in a senior pet can happen and sometimes it can be difficult to discern when to draw the line. And what happens when you need to go to the veterinarian for more than your dog’s yearly check-up?


A life with a senior dog is different than one with a puppy, but that doesn’t mean our hearts aren’t just as full.


Read on for some ways to bond with your dog that are suitable for older dogs with any activity level!


Ways to Bond


  1. Be a Good Owner First


A healthy dog is a happy dog, and in order for your older pup to feel well enough to bond YOU need to stay on top of their health and preventative care.


Endless cuddles, snuggles, butt-scratches, and treats are necessary, but having an established relationship with a veterinarian will ensure that if your pup is ever feeling down, you can take care of them right away. 


Senior dogs have different physical, mental, and nutritional needs than younger dogs. Age itself is not a disease, but as your dog ages, their body will change and they have an increased risk of developing certain medical issues. A few age-related problems senior dogs may encounter are renal issues, diabetes, arthritis, and cancer. 


Your veterinarian is the only individual with the diagnostic capability to determine exactly what your pet needs as they age! The American Animal Hospital Association currently recommends that senior dogs have routine check-ups every 6 months, this is especially true for smaller teacup dog breeds


Veterinary visits for senior dogs consist of a physical exam with the possibility of routine bloodwork, and urinalysis testing. These tests provide your veterinarian a comprehensive view of the inter-workings of your dogs body, and you can modify their diet, lifestyle and activity level accordingly.


By developing a quality relationship with a primary care veterinarian, you are not only being the best owner your dog could have, you’re ensuring that if at any point they need care you cannot provide them, they’ll be taken care of. 


Bonding is more than just spending time with your dog. It is learning exactly what their body needs, and providing the opportunity for them to age gracefully and feel their best. 


  1. Routine is Key


Older dogs often function better with an established, daily routine!


Much like people, when dogs age, their senses aren’t as sharp as when they were a pup. If your pup is losing their hearing or eyesight, they may be easily upset but unfamiliar changes and long periods of separation. 


Rather than being frustrated if your senior dog develops separation anxiety, or seems more confused than normal, help them out instead! Use this as an opportunity to strengthen your bond with them! Establishing a routine for your dog can provide a sense of comfort and familiarity as they learn to adapt to their changing body. 


Our pets depend on us for everything including comfort and safety. By feeding, exercising and/or crating your dog on a schedule, you are reinforcing that food, water and happiness will be available every day, even if they cannot see or hear it. A routine can help take the stress out of their lives because they will learn that they can count on you.


No person’s life is free from change, so work on setting up a routine that is as consistent as possible for both you and your dog. You will be amazed how much more comfortable your senior pup will seem!


  1. Endless TLC

Tender loving care. 


All dogs love attention, but senior dogs need a little extra. A dog that’s had a few more trips around the sun will want less laps around the block, and more sweet moments with you on the couch.


Many owners excel at this because loving on your dog comes so naturally. A few examples of showing TLC to your senior pup include the following:

  • Car rides
  • Short walks
  • Snuggling
  • Grooming
  • Petting
  • Praise
  • Positive reinforcement 


Many seniors enjoy low energy activities such as going for short walks or car rides, because it gets them out of the house without being too physically taxing. At the end of the day, or after an outing, most of them just want to snuggle and take a good snooze!


Physical touch is another extremely important way owners can show their love and bond with their senior dog. Petting and grooming are great ways to help strengthen the bond  you have with your senior dog. Regular brushing will help keep your pup’s coat clean, free from knots and smelling fresh. Brushing their teeth and caring for their oral health will not only help you bond, but will also reduce their risk of dental disease. And like dogs of any other age, senior dogs love to cuddle.


It is also important to continue to positively reinforce and praise your senior dog, even if they’ve already mastered their tricks and routines. Dogs thrive on pleasing their owners, and by continuing to positively reinforce desired behaviors your bond will be even stronger!


Wrapping Up


The bonding process with senior pups is truly no different than bonding with a younger dog, it just has a little less activity and a whole lot more cuddling!


Being a good owner to a senior dog means establishing a quality relationship with a primary care veterinarian. The needs of an older dog are drastically different from those of a puppy, and annual check-ups and testing are imperative to stay on top age-related disease processes and changes. 


Bonding also comes in the form of routines and TLC. Routines are very important for seniors because they have diminishing senses, making them more and more depend on their owners. TLC is what all owners love to give their senior pups and it comes in many forms: walks, grooming, napping, or training. 


Without a doubt, senior pups with their soulful eyes and salt and pepper muzzles fill our hearts more than we could ever imagine. 


We would love to hear how you bond with your senior dog! Feel free to reach out to us and leave a comment below.

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