As our pets age, their mobility is likely going to decline. But this doesn’t mean our senior dogs don’t require any exercise. In fact, maintaining an active lifestyle will help decrease the onset of ailments, such as arthritis and muscle loss. Although your older dog might not be chasing the ball as fast or as far as he used to, there are still many ways to engage your aging pup with safe physical activity.
Exercise helps keep their minds occupied, their weight healthy, and their bodies strong, in addition to proper nutrition of course. Regardless of what physical limitations your dog may have, there is always something fun to do that helps maintain his optimal well-being.
Walking a Senior Dog
Almost every dog loves going for a walk, and this rarely changes, regardless of age. Walking is an excellent, low-impact exercise that promotes a healthy body and mind for both you and your dog. As your dog ages, you’ll want to pay attention to your pace, the weather, and how your dog seems to feel during and after the exercise. Elderly dogs are more sensitive to changes in temperature — either too hot or too cold—so it’s important to make sure they are comfortable throughout your walk. Be conscious of the climate and the time of day to prevent overheating or frostbite.
Also, keep in mind that footing will have an impact on your dog’s walking ability. Grass and sand are recommended surfaces, whereas asphalt and gravel should be avoided — especially in warmer temperatures, as it could harm your dog’s paw pads.
If you notice your pup is stiff after your walk, you might want to take a few steps back (quite literally!) and shorten your outings. Most important, make sure you both enjoy the day and get to experience new sights, smells, and the fresh air.
Is it Safe For Senior Dogs to Swim?
If you have access to a dog-friendly pool or lake, swimming is a great way to get some exercise. Swimming is very easy on the body, especially the joints, while still being a powerful total-body workout. Swimming provides a safe, easy way to allow your dog to strengthen his body while maintaining comfort on his bones and joints. Because of its effectiveness, swimming is often used as physical therapy for dogs that have undergone major surgery for injuries. If your dog doesn’t know how to swim, speak with your veterinarian about finding a local rehabilitation center that offers safe instruction for getting your dog in the water. Also, it’s always a good idea to have your dog wear a life vest, especially in deep water and if your dog isn’t the most advanced swimmer.
Keep in mind that certain breeds aren’t encouraged to swim as much as others. Bulldogs, Pugs, and other brachycephalic breeds are more prone to aspiration pneumonia.
Cross-Training Older Dogs
It might sound funny to do some cross-training with your dog, but it’s essential! Cross-training allows certain areas of the body to rest while you work on building strength in others. There are all kinds of ways to exercise your dog’s body, outside of walking and running, and they usually involve a lot of delicious treats! Yoga for dogs, dog Pilates, and more are all gaining in popularity because they provide so many mental and physical benefits to dogs of all ages. Talk with your veterinarian, look into local training centers and online for classes near you. Cross-training is a lot of fun for dogs and people, and you might be surprised at how much you love it!
Focus on Weak Areas
If your dog is suffering from an ailment, such as osteoarthritis, hip dysplasia, or an injury, you’ll want to consider a physical activity that may ease the stress on those joints and strengthen the muscles.
That being said, remember not to overdo it, and don’t try to treat any ailments without the advice of your veterinarian. But working on problem areas will help strengthen those spots and make the activities more enjoyable for your dog. Your dog’s comfort and well-being come first, so if something is too painful or difficult for your dog, don’t do it!