How do you exercise an old dog?
My dog Ace is a 10-year-old black Lab mix. He has been sick for the last six months and unable to do very much walking.
Because of his illness and inactivity, I’ve noticed he’s lost some muscle mass, especially in his hind legs and back. Ace has never had much fat (must be nice!), but now he’s skin and bones in those regions.
Exercise is obviously important for many reasons …
Specifically for Ace, my exercise goals for him are:
1. Keeping him as physically active as possible.
2. Building or at least maintaining muscle.
3. Giving my dog a purpose and a job.
4. Keeping his mind active.
5. Spending time with my dog.
These things are important for all dogs, but especially an aging dog.
Note that weight loss is not one of our goals but that is another obvious benefit for a lot of dogs.
Exercising my senior dog is very simple …
It involves several short “strolls” each day:
Morning: 20-minute “stroll” around the neighborhood.
Noon: 15-minute potty break where Ace does a lot of sniffing and standing around in the grass.
Late afternoon: 25-minute stroll around the neighborhood.
2 x per week: Take Ace somewhere more interesting like a park or trail so he gets to get out and explore fun areas for 25 minutes or so. Ace seems to still enjoy these little “adventures.” We typically do this on Thursdays and Saturdays.
I plan to continue all of these things very consistently even after we pick up our puppy this weekend.
My time with Ace is very important, so most of his walks will be without the puppy. I want to be able to focus on Ace. Plus, it’s good for the puppy to be left alone for a bit anyway.
My “strolls” with Ace are extremely slow. He’s starting to remind me of my old foster dog Sweet Dora. It takes Ace and I about 20 minutes to go a half-mile, but at least my old guy gets to be out and about, sniffing things, exploring and being a dog.
Ace seems to enjoy going on these little strolls and “fieldtrips,” and it’s a relaxing part of the day I look forward to.
Soon, I hope to add some light swimming and water retrieving once or twice a week but for now I’m holding off because of Ace’s health issues. His issues are difficult to explain so that will have to be for another post, but he can’t be in the water at the moment.
[quote_center]Ace seems to enjoy going on these little strolls and “fieldtrips,” and it’s a relaxing part of the day I look forward to.[/quote_center]
My ideas for exercising old dogs
For those with older dogs, here are my suggestions for exercising them:
1. Just get moving, even if it’s slow and a lot of standing around. Standing is better than sleeping all day!
2. If slow walks are boring for you and your dog, drive somewhere more interesting like a local park or trail.
3. Be flexible. Plan on turning around if needed or changing plans all together.
4. Learn to relax and appreciate slowing down! (That tip is specifically for myself because I’m impatient.)
5. Consider giving your senior dog pain medication if necessary. Weigh the pros and cons to this, and remember it’s about providing the best quality of life. Ace takes a medication called Vetprofen.
6. Massage your dog every day.
7. Try some light swimming if it’s safe for your dog.
8. Schedule the time in your day to exercise your senior dog. It’s easy to skip it when they’re older and don’t “need” it like they did when they were young and hyper.
9. If your dog still has a lot of energy but gets sore on long walks or runs, consider a dog backpack with a very light amount of weight. This can help your dog burn more energy in a shorter amount of time and gives her a “job.” Older dogs need “work” to do too!
10. If your dog can handle some light running, go ahead and do that!
What tips would the rest of you add for exercising senior dogs?
Back Leg Exercises for Your Dog (from Slim Doggy)
Walking a Senior Dog in the Winter (from My GBGV Life)
Sign up to receive training tips & more in my weekly newsletter: