In my massage practice, I see quite a few special needs dogs. These can be senior dogs who are slowing down for a variety of reasons, dogs who have been injured, and dogs who are terminally ill. Some also have behavioral difficulties which exacerbate any physical limitations they may have.
One of the things I address with my clients is enrichment.
The dog may be physically limited in its abilities but is not impaired cognitively. Like older people who have entered rest homes/nursing homes, or who are being cared for at home, these dogs need stimulation and variety.
Visitors, including other dogs, is just one example of an enrichment activity.
Another issue for owners in this situation is introducing variety by getting their dog out of the house. If a dog enjoys car rides, for example, they may be happy just to take a drive to a new location with the windows down to experience new scenery and smells.
I know some owners who take their dogs for a take-out meal so they can sit in the car and enjoy it together – with snacks included.
Once owners have tried enrichment activities with their dog, they have universally reported to me an improvement in the dog’s disposition and general engagement.
Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, Canine Catering Ltd, Christchurch, New Zealand