6 Loving Ways To Comfort Your Senior Dog

BWP_SanchezOnSofaLisaHeadDownPhotoCredit

I have to admit, now that Sanchez is 12-years-old and showing signs of slowing down, I think often about ways to comfort him. While I’m very blessed that he is in good health, it’s not unusual for senior dogs to lose memory, eyesight and experience hearing loss. Dogs also can experience some changes in behavior as they mature.

Some of Sanchez’s new behaviors remind me of his puppy years, such as chewing tissues from the bathroom waste basket. But, more serious behavior changes like resource guarding and separation anxiety developed later in life. I have heard from many people with senior dogs that get restless and agitated at night-time, yet they calmly sleep all day. It’s easy to feel helpless watching their discomfort, yet there are many simple things we can do to help.

TimeForDogsSanchez

1. Time

Spend time with them doing what they enjoy, whether that’s cuddling on the sofa or long, slow walks in nature. They may not need the amount of exercise they had as a youngster, but they still need quality time shared together. Sadly, they may not have an abundance of time left. Make every moment count.

Sanchez Smiling at Blufftops

2. Nature

Sanchez can’t manage the long hikes of his youth. But, he still really enjoys walks in nature, taking in all the sights and smells. We live near the Pacific Ocean and walks by the beach are the highlight of his days.

Sanchez flowers

3. Patience

Dogs, like people, move slower with age. Don’t rush them. They like to take more time to stop and smell the roses, and everything else in their path. Allow them this time. It’s a good reminder for you too that every moment is precious.

BWP_SanchezLookingAtLisaAtPianoPhotoCredit

4. Train

Dogs love to learn, and you actually can teach an old dog new tricks. I still spend time clicker training every night with Sanchez. If it gets late, he starts whining and begging for this time with me. The bonding time is precious, and it stimulates him to keep learning and being challenged. He has no complaints about his rewards either.

Sanchez Tade jacket

5. Work

Sanchez has been our loyal Through a Dog’s Ear mascot since 2008. Truth be told, he’s retired all of his previous careers ~ guide dog puppy, agility competitor, canine musical freestyler, and actor (playing Helen Keller’s dog in The Miracle Worker). But, he still really enjoys being in the limelight and posing for the camera. So, his work still continues as long as he is enjoying it.

Sanchez Car Ramp

5. Physical Assistance

Sanchez still goes almost everywhere with me. But, now I carry a ramp to help him get in and out of the car. I’ve been doing this since he had a slipped disc in his neck at age nine. I’d recommend a ramp for most senior dogs that are too large to be lifted out of the car. Their joints will thank you for it.

BWP_SteinwayWithKitchenSanchezPhotoCredit

6. Sound Therapy

Most senior dogs don’t have the same tolerance for noise they used to in their youth. The immune system of a senior dog is often heavily taxed. A natural reaction is to self-limit the amount of auditory or visual stimulation coming into the system. That is why senior dogs will often shut down in overstimulating sound environments. Sound therapy can often  help facilitate the nutrients of sound needed for maximum sound intake while conserving energy output. Music to Comfort Your Elderly Canine has also been helpful for pain management with senior dogs and night-time restlessness.

What has brought comfort to your senior dogs in their later years? Thanks for adding your stories in a comment below.

 

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Related:
5 Surprising Ways to Protect Your Dog’s Hearing
How Could My Puppy Be 12-Years-Old Already?

31 Responses to 6 Loving Ways To Comfort Your Senior Dog

  1. Patricia Moore says:

    Shadow my 15 yr old schnauzer is loosing his hearing. I’m having trouble finding the right pitch so he can hear me. Any suggestions?

    • Lisa Spector says:

      Patricia – Has Shadow been losing his hearing gradually. Most dogs lose their lower frequencies first, while their higher frequency range is still present. Try speaking in higher tones. Also, many seniors who have lost some hearing have benefited from Music to Comfort Your Elderly Canine. The Elderly Canine Sound Card for iCalmDog has been beneficial as the dogs curl right up to it so that they hear the vibrations from it.

      Let me know if you have any other questions.

  2. John T says:

    Wonderful article Lisa, thank you.

    I have noticed my 11yr old more concerned about noises and I feel for her. Her iCalmDog has become a more regular part of the routine to keep her calm.

    Thank you for the reminder about aging. When I take a few minutes to be present with her I can tell how she doesn’t want it to end.

    • Lisa Spector says:

      Glad you enjoyed the article Johna. And, I’m so happy to hear how much iCalmDog is helping your 11 year old. She is one lucky dog!

  3. Michael Henderson says:

    Light classical music has been shown in studies to be very calming to dogs, which can be helpful when there are disturbing noises outside, like fireworks.
    My girl Cali liked music, particularly jazz. When I would play Nora Jones or Buena Vista Social Club she would lay next to one of the speakers and doze off. Girl had great musical taste to go with her gazillion other amazing qualities.

    • Lisa Spector says:

      Michael – It sounds like Cali had great taste in music and was lucky to have a sound aware person who observed her reaction to music.

      Yes, classical music has been proven to have a calming effect on dogs, as compared to other music. Further research shows that classical music with psychoacoustic re-arrangements is twice as effective at relieving canine anxiety issues.

      More here:
      http://throughadogsear.com/research/

      And sound samples here:
      http://throughadogsear.com/samples/

      Enjoy, it’s beneficial to 2-leggeds also!

      • My 8-year-old Shih Tzu, Ling Ling, will bark frantically when we leave her at places like the groomers. The dog groomer turns the radio on to a music station, and “the Princess” will calm down right away. That’s how I found out that music doth indeed have charms, at least for my little girl.

        When we have to leave her alone at home, we have found that leaving the TV on to the weather station (a good mixture of talk and music), lessens her separation anxiety considerably.

        Thanks for this helpful article.

  4. Christy M says:

    Hi Lisa, Thanks for the article. I agree with all you shared. I have a 14 y/o GR that can barely walk and is deaf. Car rides are pretty much out of the question because of her hips and she no longer has any desire to walk. I’ve gotten her to swim a few times (couldn’t keep her out of the pool before) and she never was much of a cuddler. I feel kind of helpless in her aging. She is on anti-inflammatory and several natural boosters, sees a chiropractor twice monthly but that’s about it. Any suggestions?

    • Lisa Spector says:

      Christy – It sounds like you are taking great care of her. Two additions I’d suggest:
      Are you playing music for her. Even I am amazed by some of the comments I hear from fans on how helpful Music to Comfort Your Elderly Canine has been for their seniors.

      Also, there is a wonderful product called Neutricks that helps with cognitive support. Much info on that here: http://www.neutricks.com/

      Also, sound samples of Elderly Canine here:
      http://throughadogsear.com/samples/
      Scroll down for the Elderly Canine series.

      Let me know if you have questions. Thanks and kisses to your 14 year old. What is her name?

  5. Jan Ellis says:

    My retired CCI service dog, Michael, died at age 15-1/2 yrs. During the last few months of his life, he experienced nighttime anxiety. I discovered singing to him at bedtime relaxed him until he fell asleep. He always slept through the night with no problem. My voice is less than average but I found it fun to make up lyrics that applied to him to songs like “You Are My Sunshine”, 4-leaf clover, Rock-a-bye Baby, etc. And for some reason he liked gypsy music!!!

    • Lisa Spector says:

      Jan – It sounds like Michael had a long, wonderful life. That was very smart of you to sing to him. It sounds like it was very healing for both of you.

  6. Linde says:

    Thanks for your comforting article about calming senior dogs. Sufi-Xiu, my tiny 13-year-old and very active schnaultese has recently become quite deaf. However, apart from slowing slightly on walks (sniffing more) she is still delighted to train every day with exercises (often flat-out tempted by occasional treats) based on previous agility activities. Since I always used hand signals as well as voice, she has transitioned easily and learned more as well. When I leave her alone, I make sure to play soft classical music for her but I look forward to playing your Music to Comfort Your Elderly Canine. I hope we can look forward to lots more time together. Every moment counts!

    • Lisa Spector says:

      Linde – Keep up your great work wtih Sufi-Xiu. I’m not surprised that she still looks forward to training daily. I also am an active agility handler with my younger dog, Gina.

      Great idea to use hand signals early on. I did that with my Golden, but I haven’t with Sanchez. Fortunately, he still appears to have his full range of hearing.

      Let us know how Sufi-Xiu enjoys Music to Comfort Your Elderly Canine.

  7. Margaret says:

    What brand of ramp do you have? I have a four door passenger car. Do you think it will work for that type of car? Wasn’t sure by the photo what kind of car you have (i.e. van, SUV, etc.)

    Our senior dog loves his iCalmDog. It really helps in thunderstorms.

    Thank you.

    • Lisa Spector says:

      Thanks for your wonderful feedback Margaret. So glad to hear that your senior is enjoying his iCalmDog.

      The ramp in the picture is actually my agility contact board. I just use it also as a ramp.

      I have a Toyota Matrix. I would suggest looking for a ramp for a 4-door. There are many smaller ones on the market that can fold up easier for travel. Let me know what you find.

  8. Margaret says:

    Thank for getting back with me. I greatly appreciate it.

    In the past I have looked for ones for a 4 door car, but had no luck finding one. I will have to keep looking. 🙂

    Thank you,

    Margaret

  9. Barb says:

    When my second sheltie was very elderly, he lost most of his hearing and couldn’t see as well as he did when younger. We started playing scenting games based on K-9 Nose Work. There was nothing wrong with his nose and he LOVED the games. I’d use 6-8 boxes and I just kept hiding food treats in various boxes. Since he couldn’t hear, didn’t move fast or see well, making the game just challenging enough for him was easy. Nose Work got his mind and his body moving 🙂

    • Lisa Spector says:

      Fabulous suggestions Barb! Thanks for posting. I’ve done some Nose Work with both of my dogs, and they love it! Time for me to get out my boxes again and start having him search for the liver. Thanks for the reminder.

  10. Ros says:

    Our 2 benefitted seniors hugely with iCalm during thunderstorms, calming immediately from a shaking, panting mess to docile sleepers! One died early this year & remaining one likes his music which he listens to when we are away and if he is in the car & cuddles up to it – have just got the seniors chip for his “music box” – it is great – thank you for providing the means for his comfort, & tranquility!

    • Lisa Spector says:

      I’m so sorry for your loss Ros. And, I’m so touched that iCalmDog with the Elderly Canine Sound Card helped him so much during thunderstorms. Kisses to your senior who cuddles up to his iCalmDog. So sweet. Thanks for letting me know.

      • Ros, I too am so sorry for your loss. I lost one of my three beloved Shih Tzus last October and another one in February of this year. It just rips the heart out of you.

        One of the things that really helped me was ordering two grave markers from Kelegant company in Canada. There are many companies in the States that do this, too.

        Now, I have a focus for sending my loving thoughts and a peaceful, beautiful place to sit and heal and meditate.

  11. Kathleen says:

    Much like singing to one’s anxious dog friend, I’ve found reading aloud to be calming for my 10yr old Spoo, Jetta, when thunder and/or fireworks happen. She’s not a cuddler but lies beside me when she’s scared. So hard to witness. She’s the best!

  12. Michele Olson says:

    My husband and I appreciate your articles Lisa, thank you. We have had several senior dogs over the years and three months ago our 12 year old Sheltie, Missy, passed away. We still have Teddy, a nine year old Sheltie and aside from a little arthritis in his right leg he is in good health. All of our Shelties lost their hearing as they aged. I know some American Sign Language (ASL) and have used that (when they could still hear) to tell them “eat”, “outside”, “potty”. I feel it’s a comfort to them to be able to still have some communication, even it they aren’t able to hear. Those ASL signs are very easy to learn and there are sites on-line for assistance.

    • Lisa Spector says:

      Michele – I’m so sorry for your loss. She sounds like she was one lucky dog to be part of your canine household.

      What a great idea to teach ASL to your dogs! So glad that works so well.

  13. S Grentz says:

    Our wonderful Callie recently left across the rainbow bridge and the loss is so very deeply felt still.
    After kenneling her for the first time ever she was not the same dog. No one could determine what was wrong with her and we spared no expense with Vets.
    So we spent the last two years watching her go downhill before our eyes. So hard! When
    she was ready to go she let us know. We gave her everything we could and if possible more love, and cuddling too. Even when it was
    so hard to get her in and out of the car we
    tried to take her out when we could until she could no longer sit on the backseat.
    Got to stop now because I’m crying and can’t see the keys.

    • Lisa Spector says:

      S Grentz – I’m so deeply sorry for your loss. You took such wonderful care of Callie and she was fortunate to be part of your family. I know how hard it is to watch them go downhill. Sending you calm and comfort during your time of loss.

  14. Sandi Alcantara says:

    I enjoyed reading your blog. My dog Corey is 11 yrs. He is an 85 pound golden, huskey and collie mix. We have been walking two miles daily, however I have notice him slowing down. I brought water with us and offered him some during the walks. Seems to help him. We walk in the am before the heat.

  15. cheryl romanowski says:

    Hi, Lisa: I lost my two elderly yorkies at ages 13 and 15. I still feel guilty I didn’t do enough or do the right things for them in their senior years. I guess the one thing I know I tried to do is spend quality time with them and I have great comfort with those memories. However, I feel I could have done more. I feel bad I was working and not spending time with them, not patient at times, and felt selfish with my own needs. I now have adopted a shelter dog, a silky terrier, Oliver, who fills the voids in my life and my heart, but I still wish I could go back and relive the last years of my yorkies lives with more attention, love, and caring. I wish I knew of your “Comfort Your Elderly Dog” series at that time. I suppose you can’t ever give our pups enough LOVE!!

    • Lisa Spector says:

      Cheryl – My heart goes out to you. I’m so sorry for your loss. You sound like such a loving pet parent. I’m sure your Yorkies were blessed to be a part of your canine household. Best to you and Oliver. He’s a lucky guy!

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