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The Chew: My Pet Won’t Play

The following bi-weekly column is written and sponsored by Bark + Boarding, which provides a heart-centered and safe environment for your pets. Conveniently located at 5818-C Seminary Road in Bailey’s Crossroads, Bark & Boarding offers doggy daycare, boarding, grooming, walking and training services, plus in-home pet care.

Rae Patterson, Writer and Animal Enthusiast

Does your dog just stare at you while you eagerly shake a toy in front of her? Does your cat reject every feathered mouse you bring home? Your pet probably isn’t lazy. Animals are hunters and workers by instinct. You may just need to try something new.

It’s possible that your pet has grown “lazy” by habit. If left home and inside alone all day, a dog may very well lapse into napping even more than their needed 14 hours per day. “Animal behaviorists agree that dogs need environmental stimulation, just as humans do.” You might try to break your dog out her habits by offering day-time stimulation through a dog park or a doggy daycare program.

Bark & Boarding offers a top-of-the-line doggy daycare where your dog can socialize with a pack while you are away. It’s a great way to give them an outlet for their natural “energy and drive,” and you will likely see positive changes in your dog’s personality and mood.

Cats, likewise, are often viewed as “lazy” because they can sleep and snooze as much as 20 hours per day. However, both house cats and wild cats sleep in order to conserve energy for the hunt. That means when your cat does wake up, he’s ready to go. Cats need to be mentally and physically challenged, just like dogs. If your cat isn’t accustomed to playtime with you, it’s not likely he’s going to leap up when you throw a mouse at him. Try engaging your cat with interactive toys like a cat dancer or a crinkling feather wand.

Each animal is unique. Just like humans, each dog and cat will likely prefer different toys. You might be surprised at the variety in the types of toys available for your pet. The best place to start is by trying something new.

Bark + Boarding offers a wide range of toys that will engage your dog in different types of play. From Kong and Nylabone chews to occupy your dog’s downtime to rope toys for tug-of-war and Griggles squeaker toys for romping chase and fetch, there’s something for every dog’s taste. Bark + Boarding has toys for your cat too, including toys that will help you play interactively with your feline friend.

Another option for reluctant players is a puzzle feeding bowl. This clever invention is available for both dogs and cats and engages their minds in a daily challenge whether for dinner or for treats.

“But,” you say, “My pet used to play! She just isn’t anymore.” This may be because of an illness or new stressor in the environment. Most likely, your pet’s reduced activity is a sign of aging. You may not think of your pet as “old,” but animals age much more quickly than humans. And even if your pet has many more wonderful years ahead, it might still be time to be aware of your pet’s age and how it’s affecting them, so that you can continue to provide the best quality of life for your furry best friend.

Although the rate of aging does vary among different breeds, especially different sizes of dogs, generally age 7 begins time of significant change in your pet’s body. It’s like a human reaching “middle age.” This can bring changes in activity and in health needs.

It’s normal to see reduced activity in your aging pet, but it could also be a sign of arthritis or another ailment. When your pet becomes a senior, it’s important to start taking them to the vet every 6 months, as opposed to just once per year, so that you can catch health problems early.

It’s important to recognize when your pet’s decreased activity is due to aging, because this means the solution is not to get a puppy or kitten to liven them up. On the contrary, an energetic young animal will likely increase your older pet’s stress.

While aging is unavoidable, being aware of your pet’s needs can help to smooth the process. Changes in diet, such as adding glucosamine and chondroitin to aid in joint health, can ease your pet’s pain and sometimes even reverse your pet’s behavior changes for a time.

For example, if joint pain is the cause of your dog not wanting to fetch, easing that pain will likely encourage your dog to play again. If it’s time for you to start thinking about feeding your pet an age-sensitive food, come on in to Bark + Boarding so we can help you find the best fit for your best friend.

Even your pet isn’t up for the same old games that doesn’t mean she doesn’t still need your attention and affection. Try something new and a little less strenuous. Go for an easy walk with your dog on a new trail with lots of exciting smells. Talk to your cat and give him extra petting. Maybe set up a new window perch or screen in your porch, so your cat can watch the birds in the sun.

It can be frustrating trying to encourage a reluctant pet to play, but don’t give up. Your pet will thank you for it. Bark & Boarding is always just a call away if you need some advice or want to stock up on new toys.

Mention this article for a FREE evaluation and click here to sign up for one today!

If you have a question about your pet, feel free to come in, or email [email protected].

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