Great Games to Play with Older Dogs

Learn some low-key games to play with a dog who’s too creaky for long hikes or fetch games.

Jolanta Benal, CPDT-KA, CBCC-KA
4-minute read
Episode #55

My dog Izzy is about 15. Her general health is good, but a walk around the block is about as much as she’s got stamina for. Her sight and hearing aren’t the greatest, either. I’ve found some low-key games that we can play at home to keep her mind active and add fun and interest to that quiet old-lady lifestyle. You might also enjoy these games if you’re hiding out from bad weather, or if your dog is recovering from surgery but is well enough to move freely around the house.

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How to Play with Older Dogs

Food is Number 1 on most dogs’ Top 10 list. As we all know, meals usually involve snarfing up the food as fast as possible and then licking the bowl into a condition of complete sliminess. Do not waste this valuable opportunity! Some of the easiest, most reliable dog games do nothing more than set your dog up to forage. As always, be cautious about such games with dogs who guard their food, their bowls, or places food has been.

Great Games to Play with Older Dogs

The most ridiculously easy game of all to play with older dogs is just to scatter dry dog food on the floor or in the backyard. That is so simple and obvious that it almost never occurs to humans to do, mainly, I suspect, because we’d be bored by it. Dogs, not so much. Most dogs will happily pick food up off the floor for what feels like hours.

Believe it or not, though, your dog may need a bit of training. A dog who’s not used to hunting up her food may give up if she can’t find it all right away, especially if you’re starting outdoors. Make it easy for her at first by tossing a few pieces of food at a time, right in front of her. As she develops skill and confidence, you can scatter the pieces more widely. I know trainers who deliver all of their dog’s dry food by tossing handfuls into the backyard.

Play “Three-Card Monte” with Yogurt Cups and Food

Collect three empty, clean yogurt cups and you’re ready for the canine version of three-card monte, in which the player never loses.


About the Author

Jolanta Benal, CPDT-KA, CBCC-KA

Jolanta holds professional certifications in both training and behavior counseling and belongs to the Association of Professional Dog Trainers and the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants. She also volunteered with Pet Help Partners, a program of the Humane Society of the United States that works to prevent pet relinquishment. Her approach is generally behaviorist (Pavlovian, Skinnerian and post-Skinnerian learning theory) with a big helping of ethology (animal behavior as observed in non-experimental settings).