Activities For Seniors With Large Dogs

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Introduction

 Senior citizens get many physical, emotional, and mental benefits from having a pet. They provide companionship, ease depression, and even the action of petting dogs can sometimes help to reduce the inflammation from arthritis in the hands and wrists. While many seniors may choose a fairly small and portable animal for convenience, other senior citizens may choose a larger dog, either to help assist them, as a protection animal, or just because they happen to prefer a larger dog. It is just as important for the dog of a senior citizen to get enough exercise as the dog of a younger person, and a large, restless animal that has not been offered enough exercise may become more hyperactive around the house increasing the likelihood of tripping or knocking over their owner in their exuberance. 

Scent Work

Popular
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Any Day
Moderate
Normal
15 - 60 min
Items needed
High Value Reward
Target Scent
Activity description

Dogs have an incredible sense of smell compared to humans, with approximately two hundred and twenty million scent receptors in their noses in comparison to the measly five million found in human physiology. The world of dogs is filled with smells, and those smells can be used to enhance your dog's happiness and their mental acuity. Scent work, although most popular among hounds and hunting dogs, can be enjoyed by any canine and provides an opportunity to get your pup's mind working with a relatively small amount of physical energy required by the trainer. This particular activity can also improve the communication and bond between owner and pet, an important component in any good human/canine partnership.

Step
1
Pick a place
There are many places that you can do scent work with your dog in a controlled or even competitive environment. Many dog sports academies and training facilities include scent work classes to help teach you and your dog the ins and outs of scent work. One of the nice things about scent work, however, is that it can just as easily be practiced in your own backyard or even in your home itself. Many people when first starting out with scent work will utilize a combination of casual at home training and more professional instruction.
Step
2
Choose a scent
Although high-value food treats are often used initially or in casual scent work training, most trainers will choose a specific scent for the dog to look for that is non-food related, then reward the dog with a food treat. Scents can be either stronger odors, like lemon or pine, or they can be more subtle scents, like the smell of your socks. Enthusiasts can even purchase specific kits with smells like anise or birch included in the kit.
Step
3
Intensify
Once your dog has the basic idea of the scent work down, you can either keep it as a casual activity that you do at home just to keep your dog busy and stimulated, or you can choose to utilize their new skills in more challenging ways. Many dogs enjoy competing in scent work competitions, and the social interaction is often quite beneficial for both the animal and their owner, and some dogs may even extend their skills by becoming search and rescue animals.
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Rally

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Any Day
Cheap
Normal
30 - 90 min
Items needed
Leash
Activity description

Rally for dogs is a dog sport that has been increasing in popularity of the last little bit. This sport involves navigating a training course at a brisk continuous pace while performing between ten to twenty specific tricks or commands. This activity is not only beneficial in that it provides both mental and physical stimulation for your canine companion, but it also can also improve your dog’s overall obedience level as well as improving effective communication between you and your dog. Better communication and obedience, especially between larger dogs and smaller, older, or weaker individuals, can increase safety and security for both you and your dog. 

Step
1
Take a look
Go to a rally dog competition to see what is involved. This will help you to become familiar with what rally looks like with dogs and get a first-hand taste of how much fun it can be. This is an activity open to people and canines of all ages and physical conditions, so you are likely to see a variety of people and animals there to compete and watch.
Step
2
Find a group
Once you have decided that this looks like a good activity for you and your dog, you can start looking for a trainer or training group in your area. Both the American Kennel Club website and World Cynosport Rally Limited, organized in 2012, have searchable lists of rally obedience groups and training centers that can help to find the right fit for you.
Step
3
Learn and compete
Once you have chosen a group to join, you will start by teaching your dog the cues that are used in Rally Sport such as heel, halt, right turn, left turn, slow pace, and fast pace. Once your dog is following your instructions on a fairly consistent basis, it’s time to hit the ring and compete. You will generally start out in Novice competitions, but with time may be able to move up to the Advanced or Excellent class competitions.
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Therapy Dog

Popular
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Any Day
Cheap
Hard
30 - 120 min
Items needed
Leash
Certification
Activity description

 Many able-bodied senior citizens retire only to find that they have exchanged the stress of too much to do and too little time to do it in, for boredom and loneliness. Whether this is you, or you just want to help alleviate someone else’s boredom and loneliness, training your dog to be a therapy dog will not only help others, but it will give you an opportunity to interact with people who you may not have met otherwise. If your dog is a relatively calm dog who truly enjoys human contact, they are likely to make a good candidate to become a therapy dog and give comfort to those who need it.

Step
1
Socialization
The first step in preparing your canine companion for the job of a therapy dog is to get them used to as many new situations and stimuli as possible so that they can remain calm and comfortable under nearly any circumstance. In order to achieve this, your dog should be introduced to as many safe sounds, textures, and sights as possible, as well as being introduced to a wide variety of people.
Step
2
Training
Therapy dogs often enter places like schools and hospitals as well as sometimes providing emotional support during natural disasters. It is important that dogs working in this capacity are able to behave properly. In order to ensure that this is the case for all official therapy dogs, they must all be certified as AKC Canine Good Citizens first, indicating that they reliably respond to commands such as sit, leave it, or look. Once your dog has been certified as a Good Citizen, they will then typically attend a class designed specifically for dogs that are aspiring to do therapy work. At the end of this training, your trainer may be able to evaluate your dog to ensure that they are well-suited to the task.
Step
3
Register and visit
Once your dog has received all the training that is required, you will need to register them with one of several National Therapy Dog organizations. These organizations can help you get started by providing access to information, insurance, and support for getting started with this rewarding activity. The organization that you choose to work with will be able to provide you with the locations and times that you and your canine companion will be needed.
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More Fun Ideas...

Go to the Beach

Take your canine companion to a dog-friendly beach nearby and relax by the waves while they play in the sand. Make sure you are close enough to prevent any encounters with wildlife, such as crabs or jellyfish, and to ensure that your dog doesn’t eat anything that they shouldn’t.  

Watch Television

Dogs may not understand the plot of your favorite murder mystery or laugh with your favorite comedian, but they are able to perceive that there are pictures on the television as well as smart enough to recognize images of other animals. Stick to newer televisions with a higher refresh rate if you want your dog to see the screen clearly though, as their eyes register images much more quickly than human eyes.

Taking a Walk

While it is important that your large dog be well trained for loose lead walking in order to protect yourself from being pulled off balance, but a nice stroll in the neighborhood or at a nearby park is beneficial for the mental and physical health of both the dog and their owner.

Conclusion

While many people consider small dogs to be more appropriate for senior citizens, in some circumstances larger dogs may be able to provide some measure of physical stability and personal security that smaller dogs cannot provide. There are many wonderful activities that senior citizens can safely share with their canine companions, regardless of the size of the animal.