My senior mutt, Roxy, has always been leash-reactive. We grew up together on a farm, so neither one of us ever really learned how to properly walk on city streets. Recently, I decided that enough was enough; I would try to teach an old dog a new trick. We set out with some boiled chicken breast. Upon seeing another dog, I would tap on her twice to redirect her attention to me. I’d make a fist as a visual cue and say “sit”, despite knowing her old ears can barely hear me anymore. It was a bit of a struggle at first, but in only a few sessions, we started making progress. It made me realize how much of a disservice I had been doing to my best friend by not keeping up with her needs for mental stimulation. Together, Roxy and I created this list of ways to enrich a dog’s life!

  • Keep Training – Not only does Roxy love the challenge, but I now cherish the bonding time we spend together during our sessions.
  • Engage the Senses – Most dogs love to sniff and explore. By slowing the pace of our walks, we can give them time to engage in their favourite hobby.
  • Lifestage-Specific Food – A proper diet can make all the difference. Growing puppies have different needs than adult dogs, and some senior diets can even help to improve cognitive function!
  • Quality Time – Roxy and I spend a lot of time in the same house, but not together. We both benefit when we take time to connect with extra snuggles, a massage, or even just lying on the floor together.
  • Treat Puzzles – A hollow toy stuffed with low calories snacks makes the perfect food puzzle, but egg cartons and paper towel tubes make fun DIY challenges too!
  • Pay Attention to the Little Things – Dogs age much faster than humans. By monitoring their eating, drinking, urine, bowel movements, and even their breath, we can help to identify small changes before they become big problems.

Like any pet parent, I want Roxy to live the best life possible, and addressing her leash reactivity made me realize how much we could both improve. It’s taking work, but we’re getting there. It turns out we both just needed a little bit of training!

Dr. I. Wonder is here to answer your questions regarding your furry family members. If you have a question, email it to us at  Our team at Neighbourhood Pet Clinic will tap into their collective experience to answer your various questions.