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Senior Dog Brain Support: 6 tips for mental stimulation

Enrichment is an essential part of good heath for dogs. We should start early with this and keep at it for the rest of their lives. (See more about what we mean by enrichment here.)

But as dogs get older, and less physically capable, how can we help keep our senior dog's brain healthy and delay mental decline?

There are several simple ways to provide mental stimulation to senior dogs, which can help keep their minds active and engaged:

  1. Puzzle toys: Puzzle toys are a great way to stimulate a senior dog's mind. These toys can be filled with treats or food, and require the dog to figure out how to get to the reward inside. Examples of puzzle toys include the Kong, the Buster Cube, and the Tug-a-Jug.

  2. Hide-and-seek: Hide-and-seek is a fun game for dogs of all ages. Hide treats around the house or in the yard, and encourage your senior dog to find them.

  3. Scent work: Dogs have an amazing sense of smell, and scent work can be a great way to provide mental stimulation. Hide treats or toys around the house or yard and encourage your senior dog to find them using their nose.

  4. Training: Even senior dogs can learn new tricks! Teach your dog some new commands or behaviors, or work on refining existing ones.

  5. Interactive games: Games like tug-of-war, fetch, and chase can provide mental and physical stimulation for senior dogs.

  6. Short walks: Short walks can be a great way to provide mental stimulation for senior dogs, as they get to experience new sights, sounds, and smells.

Here's Alfy (21) with a snuffle mat.


When it comes to training exercises specifically, here are some ideas.

  1. Basic obedience: Even if your old dog already knows basic obedience commands, practicing them regularly can help keep their mind sharp. Practice commands like "sit," "stay," "come," and "down" in short training sessions.

  2. Trick training: Teaching your old dog new tricks can be a fun way to provide mental stimulation. Tricks like "shake," "roll over," and "play dead" are great for older dogs because they don't require a lot of physical exertion.

  3. Recall training: Recall training is important for all dogs, but it can be particularly important for older dogs who may have a harder time hearing or seeing. Practice calling your dog to you from different rooms or areas of the house, and reward them with a treat when they come to you.

  4. Target training: Target training involves teaching your dog to touch a specific object, such as a target stick or your hand, with their nose or paw. This can be a great exercise for older dogs because it doesn't require a lot of physical exertion.

 Keep sessions short and positive and adjust to your dog's own needs and abilities. If in doubt, check in with your vet, first.

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