In today’s episode, Lori Stevens and I talk about preparing our dog’s physical body to age gracefully. This topic is near and dear to me as many of you know that my Sully is 12 years old. He has been aging very well so far, and I am always looking for ways to improve his quality of life and mobility.
Lori is a professional dog trainer, an animal behavior consultant, a canine fitness trainer, an animal massage practitioner, and a senior Tellington TTouch® Training practitioner. Lori specializes in supporting the aging dog; however, this podcast is for dogs of all ages!
When should pet parents start supporting their dog’s physical body?
Day one! This is something that most of us, including myself, take for granted. We assume if the puppy wants to run around to release the “zoomies” then that’s okay! We notice how cute the dog’s behavior is when they hop on and off the couch onto the hardwood floor, so we let it continue. We ask the dog to load up into the car for a hike and they fly into the car with great enthusiasm. These are all things I did with Sully and wonder now if I could have supported his body in a better way when he was younger.
One benefit of paying attention to our dog’s physical body is that we become great observers. Instead of waiting for an obvious limp, we notice that our dog’s gait is slightly off. This skill is so helpful for us as pet parents in a variety of ways. There is so much information in the subtleties that if we can increase our ability to see them, then we hear a lot more of what our dog is communicating. Check out the podcast episode #6: Your Dog’s Emotional Threshold with Sarah Stremming to learn more.
What are some everyday things people can do now to help their dog’s physical body?
- Teach their dog to use accordion steps when getting into the car – this is the ramp I love and use!!
- Make sure the surface they jump onto (if they have to) is soft and padded.
- Place (yoga) mats on the hardwood floor to prevent slipping, in main thoroughfares, stairs, and where they eat their meals.
- Purchase a raised water and food bowl stand.
How to make the environment/house more comfortable for our aging dogs?
In addition to the suggestions above, you might want to also try:
- Make sure your lighting is sufficient for the dog to see in hallways, stairwells and other darker parts of the house.
- Take note of any slippery surface and make adjustments.
- Purchase orthopedic beds for additional comfort.
- Make sure getting to the yard (or the potty spot) is easily accessible. This could include building non-slip ramps.
- Place steps to help the dog get into bed.
Lori invites us to look at the world from our dog’s perspective using all 5 senses. As dogs age, they lose some ability to hear, and see and so we need to also make adjustments for those changes.
What are some exercises or behaviors that you teach pet parents to help support the aging process?
Since all dogs are individuals and it would be irresponsible for Lori to suggest a handful of physical therapy exercises, she suggests we let our dogs use their superpower: the nose! Sniffing is so important, mentally enriching, and species-specific enrichment. It’s a great opportunity to give the dog what he or she needs at any age, especially as they age.
Engaging with your dog keeps them more engaged. The more we assume the dog needs to sleep because they are sleeping, the more they sleep. Incorporating enrichment, physical activity (a few shorter walks), training, and play into an older dog’s day is super important for their mental, physical, and emotional health. Just like us!
Lori’s goal is to empower pet parents to support their dog’s body at any age. In her experience, she has found this process not only enriching for the dog from a physical perspective but also, a great opportunity to deepen the relationship between the dog and the pet parent. You can find her online classes here!