Photo of Golden Retriever dog playing in the creek.

Keeping an old dog young.

by Kris Phillips

Old dogs reserve a special place in our hearts. Perhaps it’s because they have been there for us the longest, perhaps it’s because we appreciate the wisdom in those old eyes, or perhaps it’s because they remind us that time is precious. Whatever the reason, everyone who’s given their heart to an old pup has days or moments of wishing they could stop the clock, just press pause for a moment. While you can’t change the laws of physics you can help your old dog feel younger longer.

Keep ’em active The best way to keep bones & muscles strong and joints mobile is to keep ’em moving. The trick is finding the activity that your dog likes the best, and mix it up from time to time. Take your pup for at least a 15 minute walk every day. Play some fetch, go for a jog, or a hike. To keep 12 year old Yukon active we jog about 3 miles a few times a week, take him for evening walks, and try to go for a hike most weekends. Yukon had a great time at last Decembers Ugly Sweater 5k, and even won Best Dog in a Sweater! Keeping him active also keeps us active.


Keep ’em thinking In addition to physical activity, it’s super important to keep your old dog mentally active. There are lots of ways to keep your old pup thinking. You can teach an old dog lots of new tricks, check out 10 Fun, Impressive Tricks for ideas and techniques. You can also pick up puzzle toys to keep your pup thinking. If you have an adventurous pup like I do, keep their brains engaged in new locations. After a couple weeks of lagging behind on our daily walks I started to worry that he was slowing down, and then we went up to the mountains. A little fresh air and abundance of new sights and smells perked him right up.

Take time to be still You’ll be glad you did. There’s no doubt that life gets crazy and it’s easy to let time get away without enjoying the little things. Take the time to slow down, sit in the grass and watch the sun set. Let ’em sit on your lap every once in a while even if you don’t have a lap dog. Share the bed before bedtime. Even with lots of other pulls for your time, kids, and spouses, and other pets, take some time to spend with your senior, just you and them.

Regular Vet Checks Dogs are living longer healthier lives, and that is no doubt due to improvements in medical care and preventative measures. Your vet can guide you to make sure Fido’s on the right diet for his breed and age. And help keep the excess weight off Fluffy’s aging joints. Your doctor can recommend what supplements and activities are best. And educate you on how to tell if you might be pushing too hard or if your pup needs to take it easy. They can also help you distinguish between the natural changes that come with aging and changes that could indicate something else is going on.

Make a Doggie Bucket List What better way to ensure your pup gets the most out of life than a bucket list. There are lots of great experiences you can plan for your pup at any age, and it’s best to start long before you get a troubling diagnosis. Start checking off your Dogs bucket list while she’s still healthy enough to enjoy the adventures. A quick Google search will yield lots of great ideas but here are just a few of Yukon’s favorites.

  • Walk on the beach
  • Swim in the ocean
  • Swim in a mountain creek
  • Play in the snow
  • Hike to the top of a mountain
  • Go camping
  • Eat a gourmet meal
  • See the Grand Canyon (Only the South Rim allows dogs)
  • Do Doga (Doggie Yoga)
  • Get a crazy hairstyle
  • Have a doggie birthday party
  • Get pictures with Santa
  • Tear open presents on Christmas morning
  • Take a road trip
  • And of course, star in a photo shoot!


What’s on your pups bucket list?


Client Sessions

Dog Info - Helpful tips & tricks