Train a Healthy Mind

Continuing your dog’s training throughout its life not only ensures it is well behaved, but also keeps the dog’s mind active and healthy.

Recent research into Canine Cognitive Dysfunction (CCD) was conducted at the University of Sydney’s Faculty of Veterinary Science in collaboration with the School of Psychiatry at the University of New South Wales. The researchers found that up to 14 per cent of dogs over the age of eight may be affected, but only two per cent have been diagnosed.

Signs of CCD

The low diagnosis rate is because CCD is not always obvious to owners.“Disorientation is a common sign,” says Dr Peter Higgins. “I have seen older dogs literally get stuck in the corners of a room and not be able to navigate out. Some dogs just stare into the distance and look as though they have ‘tuned out’.”

Engage the brain

Continuing to engage your dog’s brain and keep it active with play and training can benefit its long-term mental health and minimise the effects of CCD. Even simple interaction with their owners can improve the quality of life of dogs with CCD.

“Talking to your dog more and touching it more can delay the onset of CCD and can also help manage it,” Dr Higgins explains – this means more pats and more cuddles, as well as more playtime.

Paws for thought

Dr Higgins has seen improvements in dogs diagnosed with CCD within weeks of their owners making a concerted effort to increase interaction. “These activities stimulate the brain,” he explains.“It’s the same way we talk to older people about doing crosswords and sudoku puzzles, or going for a walk. “Just as these things get people thinking, interaction with you gets your dog thinking.”