How to Exercise Senior Dogs
As your dog gets older, they will naturally slow down. Where a puppy or younger dog will want to gambol about the park, your senior dog will more likely want a quiet walk. With age comes increased chances of health issues that will affect your dog’s ability to exercise.
- Arthritis, joint issues
- Loss of sight
- Loss of hearing
- Heart issues
Though your senior dog may be slower than before, it’s still important they get exercise. Maintaining an active lifestyle throughout their whole life will actually help your dog by reducing the onset of such symptoms as they advance in age.
As with any dog, exercise stimulates them mentally and physically, keeps their weight healthy, and strengthens the body. Exercise with your dog is a lifelong process and activity that they will enjoy with you.
If you notice a sharp decline in your dog’s willingness to exercise, pop them over to the vet as there could be a health issue you’re unaware of affecting them.
How much exercise should a senior dog get?
As with anything to do with our four-legged friends, this advice will depend greatly on the individual dog in question. Make sure to pay attention to their signals as you walk, and if there are real signs that they are in pain, tired, or reluctant to go on, consider taking them home.
The general advice is to go gently and regularly. Calming walks will help strengthen muscles and joints, but if overworked they might become too tired or hurt. Allow your senior dog time to sniff, as taking it at their pace will be better for them.
Senior dogs should still look forward to daily walks, but remember to rest when they need it.
If joint pain is an issue for your dog, then consider taking them to a dog’s swimming pool. As with humans, swimming is a low-impact activity which means that joints and limbs will take less strain than when walking or running. Make sure you dry them off as soon as they get out so they don’t get cold and fully supervise your dog whilst they’re in the water so that you can ensure they stay safe and leave the pool before they’re too tired.
Exercise for as long as your dog wants to, if they lie down in the middle of a walk or stop chasing a toy, they need to rest.
Great exercises for senior dogs
For the most part, senior dogs will love to do the same things as younger dogs, just not for as long. But, alongside the two exercises we have already mentioned we’ll discuss a few others briefly:
- Walking — as we’ve said, a good old-fashioned walk is right for any dog and as long as you go at their pace you’ll do fine. Give them time to stop and sniff the grass, and return home when they’re tired.
- Swimming — access to a dog-friendly pool or lake isn’t something we all have but if you do, this low-impact exercise activity is fantastic for dogs with joint issues, especially when you add in playtime with water-based toys.
- Scent training — exercising the mind is just as important as the body, and scent training does both. Practice with your dog to find certain scents, it gives them something fun to focus on and lets them explore the garden or house with a specific goal in mind.
- Training — the old adage goes “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks”, but it’s not true! Training continues right up through adulthood, and with reward-based training, you can encourage dogs to learn almost anything.
- Playing — despite aches and pains, dogs will still love to play with their humans, especially with their favourite toy or ball, no matter how old they are. Others might not want to as much, and that’s okay. Remember to keep games lower and slower for our senior friends.
- Socialising — dogs are social animals. Some love to meet other dogs and hang out with their other four-legged friends. Whilst there are some dogs who avoid social contact with other dogs, it can still be a good idea for dogs to be around other canines even if at a distance. Bear in mind that senior dogs might get easily frustrated with puppies and more boisterous young dogs, but will likely enjoy time spent with other dogs their own age.
Despite slowing down, our senior dogs will still want to be stimulated and have playtime, just try to take at it their pace, rather than yours!
Things to consider when your dog is getting older
There are a few things that we sometimes need to adjust for older dogs, to improve their quality of life and ensure that they are as happy as they can be, despite their aches and pains.
Keep their minds active
Keeping their mind active will stimulate your dog, help ensure they stay active, and relieve boredom despite their lack of physical activity. You can do this through training with scent, hiding treats around the home (in locations that aren’t difficult to reach), and through simple games of “guess which cup the treat is under”, for example.
Training your dog to learn a new command or trick is also a really good way of improving their mental engagement. Dogs are able to learn their entire life, and positive reinforcement is the way to do that in a happy, engaging way. You probably already know whether your dog responds best to treats or to a favourite toy, but just in case you haven’t, here are a few tips.
Pick out a few different pieces of high-taste foods, like cheese, sandwich meats, fish chunks, or dog treats and see which of them when used to reward your pet gives the most immediate response. The treat that they will pay attention to, no matter how you’re trying to distract them, is the one you should use for training sessions.
Keep training sessions short but sweet, and regular. All dogs, but particularly those of senior age, thrive on routine and fitting multiple smaller training sessions around that routine will be best for them.
Consider their mobility around the home
When thinking about how your senior dog is getting around, have you noticed any areas in the house they are struggling with? Sometimes, especially for smaller dogs that may be used to jumping up steps, onto beds, or couches, you may need to consider installing a ramp or two in homes with lots of large steps or gaps your dog will need to traverse.
Older dogs aren’t always steady on their feet, and walking on slippery surfaces can exacerbate this and make walking difficult and a scary experience. If your home has lots of hardwood floors or linoleum that can be difficult to walk on for your senior friends, consider putting down floor mats and rugs that can give them some added grip as they walk around the home.
Finally, if your senior dog is a larger breed and you struggle to assist them because of their size, consider getting a sling or support harness for them. This will allow them some freedom whilst also supporting their weakened joints.
Hopefully, these tips have been helpful for how to exercise with your senior dog. See our blog for more useful articles, like how to feed your senior dog, and check our carefully selected senior dog food selection.