As your dog reaches their golden years, it’s important that they stay active to remain healthy and happy, all through their old age. While a puppy or younger dog may have no problem keeping up with (or easily exceeding) your activity level, as our feline friends’ age, they usually start to slow down and mellow out. Ultimately, the physique of a dog follows a similar trajectory to a human. Lots of energy in the younger years with a notable change in demeanor and excitability as the years stack on.
Just as a human’s exercise routine ought to change over the years, a dog’s should too. You wouldn’t expect grandpa to deadlift like he could in his 30s, so in the same line of reasoning, you might not expect 10-year-old fido to sprint a mile like he could when he was 2. You can expect a change in your dog’s eagerness for playtime as well as they grow into their seniority, but be sure not to let them fall into total laziness!
It may feel sad to watch our dogs slow down as they age, but there’s nothing keeping them from enjoying their lives to the maximum. So don’t feel bad for too long, because there are plenty more playtimes ahead, maybe just not at top speed. With the Covid pandemic keeping people and pets indoors more than ever, there’s no better time to learn how to exercise with your senior dog. Read on for some advice and ideas on engaging, heart-healthy, joint-friendly, bond-building exercises you can do with your older pup.
Take it Slow!
It can be hard to tell when a dog is overdoing it. They might hide their pain or otherwise act as energetic as a puppy, only to have to deal with the soreness and aching later on. Sometimes they don’t know their own limits and let their desire to play hard now win out against their future comfort and health. Ramping up activities with your senior dog and ensuring that they’re comfortable and capable as you go further or play harder can help your dog avoid injuries.
It’s important to keep your older dog’s exercise consistent and light. Gentle activities like walking, light playing, or swimming are good examples of exercises that an older dog should be able to partake in without a serious risk of getting hurt. Keeping these activities to sessions of 30 minutes or less is another good way to avoid overdoing it and getting your pup hurt.
Know Your Dog
You know your dog better than anyone and are likely the best judge of what they can do without getting hurt. An exercise routine should be built up over time, with attention paid to how the body reacts to different levels and types of exertion. Of course, you can’t just ask your dog how they’re feeling or where they’re sore after a hard run through the dog park, so you need to rely on some external information to take an educated guess.
Their Physical Fitness
If you’ve taken care of your senior dog throughout most of their life, you should have a good idea about what kind of activity level they’ve had throughout their years. If your dog has been highly active throughout their life, you can expect a bit more liveliness in their activity level as they hit their senior years. But if you’ve got an old, lazy dog who you’re trying to get exercising for the first time since their puppy years, you’re likely to run into a bit more resistance and low energy.
You should also be aware of any past injuries which could be exacerbated in old age. Beyond known issues, it may be helpful to know the average lifespan of your dog’s breed. Though a bit morbid and sad to think about, it can help you understand where your dog is at in terms of its aging. Generally, smaller dogs live a few years longer than bigger dogs. Bigger dogs also have a higher tendency to develop joint issues in their hips and elbows, as well as heart and stomach issues. Keep your dog’s past medical history and physique in mind when trying to get them to exercise in their old age.
Watch Their Body Language
Your older dog is very likely to set the pace they want to go at. It’s unusual for a dog to run or play harder than it feels comfortable, especially as they calm down a bit in their older age. That said, there’s always the chance they push themselves a bit too hard and wind up with a sprain, bruise, or ache. Keep an eye out for limping, excessive licking of a limb or body part, shakiness, or other subtle signs that your dog might be hurt. Of course, don’t force your dog to exercise if they don’t want to.
Great Exercises for Senior Dogs
While a senior dog can partake in most exercises that younger dogs can, they are likely to be slower, more cautious, and a bit less energetic about the experience. For this reason, gentler activities are best for senior dogs.
Not much beats the classic. Walking with your senior dog is a great way to keep them healthy without a high risk of injury. Two short walks a day with an occasional longer walk should be plenty for most older dogs. Around the neighborhood, through the backyard, in a local park, or even an inside walk through each room in the house can be good for your older dog.
Just as swimming can be a good exercise for older humans since it’s easier on the joints, it can also be a great exercise for dogs. If you are fortunate enough to have access to a dog-friendly swimming hole, it can be an excellent way to get your older pup the exercise they need. Just make sure to remain on lifeguard duty in case of an emergency.
Many older dogs love playing just as much as younger dogs. Playing fetch in the backyard, a tug-of-war with their favorite toy, or chases at the local dog park, are great ways to keep your older dog feeling young and healthy. When it comes to playing, a dog might think they’re younger than they really are, so it would be smart to play gentler than it seems like they want. If they’re playing with other dogs, keeping an eye on their activity level is a good idea as well, as the excitement of playing with another dog can lead to an older dog over-exerting themselves.
Exercise for Your Senior Dog While You’re Away
Sometimes, we have to be away from our dogs longer than we would want. This can be highly anxiety-inducing when your dog is up in the years, with a higher risk of injury or accident. Ensuring your senior dog has a safe place to stay with plenty of chances for activity and exercise can give you the peace of mind you need when you have to be away from home. When you leave your dog at a Greenlin Pet Resort, you can feel confident your dog is getting the attention, activity, care, and affection they’re used to from you. Find the nearest resort to schedule your dog’s next stay today.