I read a lot of posts from members of my FB group asking about bucket lists. So many are interested in creating one for their senior dogs as a way to make their last weeks or months as special and memorable as possible.
Visiting favorite places and giving them foods they love are just two of the many suggestions. Keep reading for a much more extensive list!
What is a Bucket List?
According to Oxford Languages, a bucket list is “a number of experiences or achievements that a person hopes to have or accomplish during their lifetime.”
Turns out it’s not only people who can have these experiences!
Although this post is about senior dogs, don’t wait until your dog has reached old age to start creating incredible memories together.
2 Steps to Creating the Perfect Bucket List for Your Dog
Step 1: Be Realistic
You may think it would be such fun to go on a long hike on a summer day to enjoy the view from on high, but is that an item for your dog’s bucket list…or yours!
Cooking your pup a delicious meal with all the trimmings has your mouth watering, but can his sensitive stomach handle such rich food?
When figuring out what you want to do, be sure to consider your dog’s current health and abilities.
Step 2: Make a “top 5” list
What 5 things does your dog love more than anything, and work your way through the list. Does he have a favorite doggy or human friend he hasn’t seen in a while? Arrange for them to spend quality time together. Does he love a ride in the car? Fantastic. Pack up his dog bed, extra water and snacks and off you go.
An important thing to consider: Make sure the top 5 are things he’s able to do and enjoy now.
Ideas to Add to Your Dog’s Bucket List
NOTE: I realise I’m stating the obvious, but I’m going to do it anyway. When choosing items, be sure they’re right for your dog. For example, he loves steak and it’s been such a long time since he last had a taste. That’s all well and good, but has he developed a more sensitive stomach and is there a risk he’ll develop pancreatitis? Stick to what you know is safe and don’t worry…all your dog really wants is to spend quality time with you.
A trip to the beach. Even if he can’t run along the beach or only wants to wade into the water for a moment, you can still have a wonderful day out. My dog doesn’t like the water but he’s more than happy to sit on a bench with us and relax. All the compliments he gets from passersby don’t hurt either!
Be sure to bring an umbrella or other form of shade, a blanket, snacks and plenty of water. Oh, and don’t forget to take lots of pics!!
Extra cuddles. Of course you do this anyway, but sometimes things get hectic and we may not pay as much attention to our dogs as we would like. Whether it’s snuggling on the couch together while you read or watch your favorite Netflix series, a cool night in front of the fire or a gentle brush, make time each day for some one on one bonding.
Go toy shopping. If your dog loves his toys, is there anything more fun then visiting a pet supply store and having him choose his new favs!!
Be sure to include some interactive toys and games to keep his mind active. It could help stave off dementia, or at least reduce the effect.
Give him 1 or 2 at a time, then every few days rotate so he doesn’t lose interest.
Family photo shoot. Since your dog is a much loved member of your family, it makes sense to include him (or her) in a family photo. While you’re at it, why not have a few professional shots taken just of him! A quick search of pet photographers should bring up some in your area.
Buy a stroller. The best thing I ever bought for my heart dog Red was a stroller. She was able to walk at a very leisurely pace which was absolutely fine, but having the stroller meant we could easily include her in longer walks with our other dog. It also made it so much easier to include her in day trips and other outings. Although she weighed just under 10lbs, after about 10 minutes of carrying her she felt more like 50! I just ordered another one for my current dog Jack since he’s started to slow down slightly as well. We’re actually planning a nice hike for this weekend, and instead of getting a pet sitter and leaving him at home, he can now join in on the fun!
There are a wide variety of styles and prices, so whether you’re taking a quiet walk on a paved path or tackling rougher terrain, you’ll find one to suit your needs and budget. Amazon has a large selection, or check out FB Marketplace for deals.
Let your dog sleep with you. If you’ve never allowed your dog on the bed before, maybe it’s time to start. Keep in mind you may not be able to get away with a “one off” slumber party. He may enjoy it so much you’ll have a new bed mate nightly.
If your dog is blind, drinks a lot due to kidney or other issues or has dementia and needs to wander, it’s probably not a good idea to try this. The last thing you want is for him to fall off and get hurt.
Book a doggy massage. I’m no professional, but even my feeble attempts make Jack so happy. He plops at my feet, back to me and that’s my signal. He absolutely loves it and I’m happy to oblige.
Watch a Youtube video, find a professional to give you some tips or take him to someone with experience…the choice is yours.
Here’s what the American Kennel Club has to say about the benefits.
Visit a doggy bakery. If your dog is as food motivated as mine is, then what could make him happier than visiting a bakery filled with dog treats!
Not up for a visit, or nothing in your area? No problem, I’m sure you can find one that delivers.
Splurge on a new or another dog bed. I have a few dog beds scattered throughout the house. I do that so wherever my dogs are, they have a place to rest. It also gives me the chance to try different types and styles so they can choose the one they find most comfortable.
If your dog is having mobility issues for example, an orthopedic bed or mattress may help. Another option is one that is lower in the front with raised sides. This allows your dog to walk right in rather than having to lift his leg and climb into it. The raised sides provide support should he choose to rest/lean against them.
Schedule a playdate. Now that the world (at least some parts of it!) are starting to open up, what about scheduling a play date with a furry friend he hasn’t seen in a long time? Even if your dog can’t run in the park like he used to, it’s still important for him to socialise.
Cook for your dog. How about some meatballs made with lean beef? What about a chicken stew? The great thing is you can freeze it in small portions and use it as a topper on his regular food. Just be sure it’s safe for him to eat (sorry for stating the obvious again).
I mix lean ground beef, one egg with the shell, some green beans, squash and carrots, spread it in a pan and bake When it’s ready I cut it into small squares and freeze. I used to make meatballs but it was very time consuming so I got smart and now bake it this way. I rotate with other human foods to keep him interested.
Treat your dog to a Puppucino from Starbucks. It’s basically just a cup of whipped cream, but dogs go crazy over it. I’d love to see pictures of your dog enjoying one, so feel free to send them over and I’ll publish a few in this article or on social media.
Plan a road trip. Staycations are what it’s all about these days, so while summer is still here why not plan a couple of days away. Pack up the car and see where the road takes you.
Not to put a damper on this plan, but make sure you have enough medication, food if he’s on a special diet, and keep the name of a local emergency hospital handy just in case.
Make frequent stops for pee and water breaks and, since you know your dog best, don’t let him overdo it.
Host a celebration of life party. What a great way to have friends and family over who would love a chance to spend some time with your pup. If it’s not too much, why not invite some of their dogs as well. Some snacks for the two legged and four legged attendees and maybe some games in the yard will create great memories for everyone.
Dine at a dog friendly café, dog cafe or restaurant. This is a great way to get your dog out and about, even if he has mobility issues. Enjoy a drink or a meal and watch the world go by together. It’s even more fun if they have a doggy menu!
Create a dog calendar. If you have kids, you’ve probably created a calendar chock full of family photos. You may have also noticed shelters put out pet calendars as a way to raise much needed funds. Whether you create one for yourself, to hand out to friends and family, or as a way to raise money for a favorite charity, this is one item that should be on every dog’s bucket list.
A romp in the snow. One of the members of my FB group mentioned how much her dog loves snow, and finding a way to have him enjoy it again was top on her bucket list. Someone suggested giving him a bowl of shaved ice to eat, while another mentioned bringing her dog to the ice rink. When they cleared the ice they would dump the “snow” outside and her dog would roll around in it.
Keep some fur. Not so much an item on your dog’s bucket list as on yours, it’s still a wonderful keepsake.
Make prints of your dog’s paws. Just like the previous item, it’s another wonderful memorial to your dog. I’m terrible at buying birthday presents for my husband, so one year I took my dog to one of those ceramic places where you paint your own piece. I decided to make a coaster for him with our dog’s paw as the central design. My husband absolutely loved it!
Go on a camping trip. If you’ve been wanting to go camping for awhile, now’s the perfect time to head out. We could all use a change of scenery, and what’s more relaxing for you and your dog then setting up in a beauty spot and enjoying being in nature.
Share an ice cream cone. I’ve never had a dog that didn’t love ice cream, so if yours is the same why not indulge! I only bought doggy ice cream but lots of dog parents I know treat their dogs to a lick or three of the human variety.
Have a spa day. Whatever sounds relaxing to you and enjoyable to your dog. A gentle brush, special treats, a massage and a nap in the yard.
Just spend time together. By all means, work your way through some of the ideas listed and create amazing memories, but don’t forget to just spend quality time together.
What Senior Dog Parents Had to Say
I thought it would be nice for you to read some of the recommendations from senior dog parents I know, written in their own words.
“Photography? I’ve seen some beautiful pics in the golden years for memories. Paw prints in plaster casting. Honestly when it’s my girls time, we just want to spend time together.”
“I always recommend just time with her. Petting her with a favored blanket or towel, a heating element if she can handle it like a heating pad, and so many kisses and telling her how much you love her. That on top of everything you already have planned I think she’ll carry your love with her no matter where she goes.”
“I saw a thing on Facebook where a man put his printer/scanner on the floor, put his dog’s feet in the center and his hands next to his dog’s feet and scanned it. Brings tears to my eyes. I slept with my dog on the floor because he wasn’t comfortable in the bed anymore.”
“Make a mold of her 2 front paws … you can decide later when your head is more clear what to do with them later. Maybe a garden ornament for example.”
“Go see Santa if possible. I took my Dot to see Santa and we cherish those pictures. I would carry her to bed each night the week we knew she was going to be leaving us, kiss the top of her head, and tell how much we loved her and how wonderful she was and how thankful we were for her. My plan for my current babies is to let them have a piece of bacon wrapped chocolate as part of their last meal. Just a small one before we head to the vet. We do “bucket” list items all the time, but they are young and we want the memories.”
“If you can, take a day or two off from work and other obligations just to spend with her. My husband and I chose to take our little man to a state park. He was so happy to have us both for a day of little adventures. I also told him every day that he was wanted and loved.”
What’s on your dog’s bucket list? Share your thoughts here and help other senior dog parents create their perfect list.