When Is a Dog Considered a Senior?
Being the pet parent of a senior dog is like living with an old friend. Even as their fur turns gray or pace slows down, a senior dog is wise, loving, and loyal to their household.
The exact age of when a dog is considered a senior is size-dependent. Typically, small dog breeds have longer life spans and age at a slower rate than larger-sized breeds. To determine if your dog is a senior, use the following chart:
|Dog Weight||Breed Examples||Age Dog is Considered Senior|
|15 pounds and under||Chihuahua, Maltese, Yorkshire Terrier||11|
|16 to 50 pounds||Beagle, Corgi, Cocker Spaniel||9|
|51 to 80 pounds||Boxer, Greyhound, Golden Retriever||8|
|80 pounds and over||Great Dane, Mastiff, Newfoundland||6|
While the above guidelines are useful for estimating your dog's "senior status," it's important to note that each dog ages at their own speed. Some are full of energy and enthusiasm well into their golden years while others show noticeable changes in their behavior and physical appearance. Many dogs thrive far beyond what charts indicate when provided quality care.
Signs Your Dog is Becoming a Senior
Though the saying "life gets better with age" may hold true for your furry friend, you might notice a few key differences in your pup as they grow older. Most senior dogs experience sensory, system, or psychological changes, or a combination of the three.
The most distinguishable of changes, sensory changes include the decline of a dog's senses. Senior dogs often experience hearing loss, and they may start walking a bit shaky due to balance issues that stem from the inner ear. Their eyesight may also diminish, with their eyes becoming cloudy over time—often due to regular ultraviolet light exposure or cataracts. An older dog's sense of taste and smell can lessen as well.
As their age increases, dogs also become prone to senior health issues such as glaucoma, heart disease, and arthritis. Several of their bodily systems slow down and the connective tissue surrounding their muscles stiffens. These system changes, in addition to psychological changes that cause dogs to act a bit "senile," are common yet more difficult to identify.
Always contact your veterinarian with any specific questions about your dog's health.
How to Make an Old Dog Happy
Although a senior dog may not be as active and energetic as they once were, there are still many ways to bring out the lovable personality you've known for so long. If you're wondering how to make an old dog happy, we have a few tips—and they involve chew toys and treats, of course!
Senior Dog Toys
Bringing home a new toy is a surefire way to help your dog feel happy and excited. Even older dogs can enjoy countless hours of entertainment with brand-new senior dog toys that match their chewing or playing style.
A terrific form of mental stimulation, chewing can help keep your dog's mind in tip-top shape. Chew toys are occupying and engaging, and often include enticing flavor throughout.
You can even find a variety of chew toys that were specially designed with older dogs in mind. From the shape and color to the material and texture, these toys are thoughtfully made to entice older chewers and keep them busy. Items such as our Silver Collection Fill & Treat chew toy even give you the option to incorporate your dog's favorite soft chews or spreads to really pique their interest!
Playtime is a great way for your senior dog to exercise! It doesn't have to be a strenuous, high-energy activity, but rather a joyful bonding session that keeps your furry friend on their paws.
Interactive dog toys are an exciting, accessible way to invite your dog to participate in some fun. We offer options made with easy-pickup shapes and high-visibility colors that are easy for dogs to see.
Senior Dog Activities
Activities for older dogs don't require high levels of exertion, but they can still be tons of fun! Take a look at some of our best-loved pastimes for senior dogs.
Short walks are great for getting your dog moving and out of the house, but have you ever thought about taking your dog swimming? As a low-impact form of exercise, swimming is one of the best senior dog activities.
Swimming is beneficial for pooches with arthritis and other mobility issues because it is easy on the joints. It helps reduce impact while building up muscle strength, endurance, and range of motion. A warm-water swim can be especially therapeutic to older furry friends. If it's been a while since your dog has splashed around, be sure to brush up with these dog swimming safety tips.
It is possible to teach an old dog new tricks! Since senior dogs are more tranquil and not as easily distracted, teaching them new commands can be surprisingly less challenging than training a puppy. Your older dog may not be able to jump through hoops, but there are many simple tricks you can teach them such as "wipe your paws" and "put your toys away"!
Playing games with your senior dog is another fantastic method for enriching their aging mind. While there are countless dog games to choose from, puzzle games that involve hiding treats are a favorite among dogs of all ages. One simple, brain-boosting game to play is Find the Treat.
For this game, you'll need 3 plastic cups and a few dog treats. Turn the cups upside down and place a single treat under one of them. Like a magician, rearrange the cups and let your dog sniff out which cup the treat is under. Reward them with the treat once they succeed! Hopefully, your dog will learn to choose the correct cup each time you play.
Senior Dog Treats
Reward your older-and-wiser furry friend for being on their best behavior with wholesome, delicious treats! A no-brainer when it comes to getting your dog's tail wagging, soft dog treats are ideal for senior dogs because of their texture.
Our Healthy Edibles® Chewy Bites, for instance, are a nutritious, low-fat option made without any corn, wheat, or artificial preservatives. Their chewy texture means they're easy on the teeth.
Many dog treats for older dogs can be broken apart for quick rewarding. From teaching your dog a new command using tasty treats to simply offering them a smaller-sized snack, breakable senior dog treats are a convenient choice that will leave both of you smiling. Plus, they are the perfect size and texture for pressing into fillable toys.
As time goes by, the loving bond between pet parents and senior dogs only grows stronger. We hope our helpful information on when a dog is considered a senior, along with guidance on how to make an old dog happy, allows you to form a closer connection with your furry friend—making them as joyful as they make you!
Diane Morgan, The Living Well Guide for Senior Dogs: Everything You Need to Know for a Happy & Healthy Companion, edited by Wayne Hunthausen, D.V.M. (Neptune City: T.F.H. Publications, 2007), 8-16.