The Do’s and Don'ts of Exercising Your Senior Dog
Remember when you first brought your dog home? Whether he was a puppy or a rescue, he was probably full of energy and excited to start his life with his forever family. He probably jumped at every opportunity to go for a walk or run around the dog park with his furry friends. As your dog ages, though, you might have noticed that he’s ready to go home sooner than he used to be. Maybe he avoids going for walks or no longer wants to play with other dogs. That’s because dogs, like humans, slow down as they reach their senior years.
That doesn’t mean your dog doesn’t still need exercise in his later years, though. He still needs to stay active to keep his muscles and bones strong, and to maintain a healthy body weight. At the same time, your senior pup likely isn’t up for chasing the ChuckIt! for hours on end anymore. It’s important to take cues from your senior dog and modify his activities to meet his needs.
If you have an aging pup, we bet you have a lot of questions about what activities are safe for senior dogs or how much exercise your senior dog can handle. Dog Quality is here to help you navigate every step of your dog’s senior years. Here’s everything you need to know about aging dogs and exercise.
Visit Your Vet
If your senior dog isn’t used to getting a lot of exercise or has a condition that limits her mobility (such as arthritis), we highly recommend speaking with your vet before starting any new exercise regime. Your vet will be able to check your dog’s vitals, weight, range of motion, and assess her overall health. Once you get the green light that your dog is in good health, your vet can also offer suggestions for how best to give your pup the exercise she needs to stay healthy through her senior years.
Tailor Activities to Meet Your Dog’s Needs
From age-related issues like lower energy to chronic conditions like arthritis, there are a number of reasons your senior dog isn’t as active as he once was. He might not want to (or be able to) do all of the things he used to love. Listen to what your dog is trying to tell you and make changes to his usual exercise routine, like choosing low-impact activities that are more gentle on your dog’s aging joints.
Instead of going for a 5-kilometre run in the morning, go for a leisurely stroll. Instead of taking him for a hike, take him swimming. Always pay close attention to your dog’s physical state during exercise to make sure he’s not pushing himself too far. If your dog seems strained, dehydrated or worn out, scale back, give him plenty of water or use a Dogger stroller to give your pup a break.
Exercise in Short Intervals
The aging process already puts a lot of strain on your dog’s body. While a little exercise can go a long way to keep your pup feeling good through her later years, overexertion can cause unnecessary stress or even injury. When exercising your senior dog, stick to short intervals that won’t wear your dog out too quickly. This could be a brief walk multiple times a day, or quick 10-minute games. After all, your dog’s overall health includes both her body and mind. Playing games can help to keep her sharp well into old age.
Pay Attention to the Weather
Did you know that senior dogs are much more sensitive to heat and cold than younger pups? That’s why it’s important to dress your dog appropriately for the weather in your hometown. During the colder months, your dog should always wear a sweater or jacket to keep him warm while you’re exercising outside. When the temperatures get hotter, try exercising your senior dog in the morning or evening when it’s cooler. Paying a little extra attention to the changing weather can make a big difference for your dog’s comfort.
DON’T DO THIS
Push Your Dog Past His Limits
Every senior dog is different and can handle different amounts of physical activity. Some dogs can keep up with their owners on runs and hikes until their final days, while others may need extra support. As your senior dog’s caregiver, it’s up to you to follow his lead. There are also a few things you can do to ensure your dog doesn’t push himself too far.
Start with a warm-up to prepare your dog for the activity at hand. For example, if you’re going for a jog, start with five minutes of walking first. Then watch for signs of exhaustion, pain or agitation. You know your dog and you’ll be able to tell if he’s gone beyond his limits. If he has, slow down and allow plenty of space for rest and recovery.
Fall Out of Routine
It’s part of Dog Training 101 that dogs thrive in routines. Just like teaching your dog a new command or establishing a feeding routine, consistency is key to keeping your senior dog in good shape. As you develop an exercise plan for your senior dog, make sure it fits into her regular routine. Short, daily exercises are a lot more beneficial to your dog’s health than one or two big sessions per week, so pick a time each day to focus on your dog’s physical activities and stay consistent.
Let Your Dog Gain Weight
Aging is an inevitable part of every dog’s life. By middle age, most dogs are already slowing down and many have already developed chronic illnesses. While all dogs become less active as they age, overweight dogs are at greater risk for disease than dogs with a healthy body weight. That’s why exercise is so important to improving your dog’s quality of life all the way to his final days. If your dog isn’t able to exercise, you can manage his weight with portion control and a protein-rich diet.
When it comes to exercising senior dogs, all it takes is a lot of compassion and a little common sense. Listen to your dog’s signals, be consistent with her exercise routine, and give her plenty of opportunities to take breaks. And if your dog needs extra support in her senior years, our Dogger stroller is the perfect solution. Your pup can walk beside you for as long as she wants and the stroller is there when she’s ready to rest. Order your Dogger stroller today!