Exercising your senior dog

Senior dogs are more likely to have health conditions or other problems that might limit how much they can exercise. They tend to rest a lot more, but it's still important to keep them active so they stay healthy.

As dogs age, they may develop age or breed related health problems which stop them from doing certain activities. These can include:

  • Arthritis and joint problems
  • Loss of sight
  • Deafness
  • Heart problems.

If your dog has these or any other medical conditions, always check with your vet that the level of exercise that they're getting is okay and isn't going to cause them any problems.

 

General advice

There are a few tips to follow that will apply to almost all senior dogs:

  • Keep exercise regular and gentle. This will keep your senior dog active and help their muscles and joints. Little and often is best as joints get stiffer when they've not been used for a bit.
  • Don't stop walking. Your dog might not be able to walk for as long anymore but they still need to go outside. Make sure you keep to a fairly short route in case your dog gets tired.
  • Keep in mind the conditions. If you are exercising your senior dog outdoors keep an eye on the weather. Older dogs don't cope as well with very high or low temperatures. You may need to walk during cooler times of day if it's hot, or buy and appropriate dog coat when it's cold.
  • Try to keep to familiar routes and places if your dog has problems with their senses. As dogs get older, much like people they can start to lose their sight and hearing. Keeping to somewhere familiar to them will stop them becoming anxious and confused.
  • Go at your dog's pace. Don't rush them or try to make them exercise for longer than they are able to. If they stop chasing a toy or lie down on a walk, they need to rest.
  • Indoor exercises will benefit your senior dog. If the weather is too hot or cold outside, or getting out for a long walk starts to be too much, it's a great idea to provide some exercise sessions inside. Puzzle toys and indoor games are a great way to keep your old dog happy and enjoy quality time together.

 

Good exercises for older dogs

There are still plenty of exercises you can do with your older dog, you just need to remember to go at their pace and stop if they look like they are tired or struggling.

  • Walking – no matter how old they get, dogs will still look forward to a walk. You may have to take a shorter route and make lots of rest stops.
  • Swimming – if your dog enjoys being in water, swimming can be a great exercise as it doesn’t put as much strain on sore joints. Remember to dry them off as soon as they come out of any water so they don’t get cold and only let them swim if it’s safe to do so.
  • Scent games – as long as they have a good sense of smell, dogs will benefit from scent games regardless of age. It’s a great way to keep not only their body but also their brain in good condition.
  • Playing – although their pace might have slowed down your dog can still enjoy playing. Some dogs never seem to lose their fun-loving puppy nature and will still love to play with you. You can still play their favourite game with your dog, even when they get older. Try to keep games low and a little gentler so they don’t try to jump or twist for toys.
  • Socialising – dogs are social pets. They might not be able to keep up with younger dogs as well and often get frustrated with puppy antics, but they’ll still enjoy seeing and hanging out with dogs their own age that they get on with even if they don’t end up playing.
  • Training – Old dogs can still learn new tricks. Training is a great way to keep an older mind active. They’ll enjoy the extra opportunities to get their brain working.

 

Mobility aids for your dog

If for any reason your dog is unable to walk, it’s still important to keep them as active as possible and keep a close eye on their quality of life.

  • Give them lots of brain games to keep their minds healthy and active.
  • Ask your vet about physiotherapy or massage that might help them.
  • It can be difficult to physically help a larger senior dog that’s struggling because of their size. You might want to consider getting a support harness or sling for when they are walking.
  • While they can be expensive and need to be fitted to your pet, a doggie wheelchair can suit small and medium breed dogs.
  • Dogs will still enjoy being taken along for walks, even if they aren’t actually walking. If they’re finding it hard to keep up or do the whole route, consider a dog pram to help them.