Combat Cognitive Decline In Dogs: Use Food Puzzles, Snuffle Mats

Wednesday, April 6, 2022

Cognitive decline is a reality in dogs. Having 4 senior dogs myself (lost my 5th one 1 day before he turned 17), I try to find ways to encourage mental stimulation daily. Because a dog's life is so short, symptoms can feel overwhelming and with a rapid onset of symptoms. Yes, dogs can develop dementia or canine cognitive dysfunction syndrome (CCDS).

Dachshund 12 years old

Using the acronym DISHAL can help us identify symptoms:

Disorientation: Staring at walls, getting trapped behind furniture or corners. My Willy was getting trapped behind my toilet and tables. This was very hard for me to witness.

Interactions: Changes in interactions with pets or people. These changes include aggression, changes in frequency of interaction or irritability. Willy became socially withdrawn during the last couple years of his life.

Sleep-wake cycle changes: Increased sleep during the day and less sleep during the night. This was especially challenging for me. Willy would pace at night.

House soiling: Increased accidents inside the house. 

Activity changes: Pacing, anxiety, wandering, walking in circles.

Learning difficulties/memory loss: Inability to learn new tasks or forgetting previously learned skills.

Dog experts advice the use of food puzzles, snuffle mats, making a scent trail (drag something smelly on the floor with a nice treat at the end), train and re-train (sit, leave it, place, tug, fetch), chew toys, massage and acupuncture.

I would love to hear your experiences with your senior dog!

Willy at 16 years old

Even with advancing age, I try to take my pack on our daily hikes. I bring a baby sling just in case one of the little ones tire out. Here's a picture of my 11 year old girl after a hike up steep terrain. She naps for a while after such hikes:

11 year old Terrier Mix

Here at Fur Ever Yours Dog Rescue, we are trying to focus on rescuing senior dogs. Sadly, they are often overlooked in shelters. Senior dogs may withdraw or show signs of aggression in a shelter environment. Help us rescue senior dogs by donating to our Seniors for Seniors Program. Donate link available here.


“Cognitive Decline In Aging Dogs: What To Know - CVMBS News.” CVMBS News,, 15 Apr. 2021,

London, Karen. “Help! My Senior Dog Is Bored! | The Bark.” The Bark, Accessed 6 Apr. 2022.

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