Skip to Content

How Do You Exercise An Old Dog?

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.

How to exercise an old 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.

Visiting the park with my old dog Ace

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.)

My dog Ace out on the local trail

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?

Related posts:

How to Exercise a Senior Dog 

When is it OK to Run with 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:


Thursday 21st of April 2016

I really like your idea of going somewhere different with older dogs so they have the desire to explore a little bit. I've been thinking about Ace and sending healing thoughts his way. He's such a sweet and gentle soul. :)


Tuesday 12th of April 2016

Oh Lindsay, Buddy has never been a bundle of energy, as you know! I tell people that if we moved any slower we'd be moving backward! He enjoys his walks so much, and we have been going on shorter walks like you and Ace. I just try to enjoy the moment with him...I let him sniff, chew as many sticks as he wants, and plop down in people's front yards when he is tired.

Lindsay Stordahl

Tuesday 12th of April 2016

I thought of you and Buddy while writing this post! I've learned from you to just appreciate these walks with Ace even if it takes us forever to go two blocks and people wonder what's wrong with us. I have also been letting Ace stop and sniff the grass and plants whenever he wants.


Monday 11th of April 2016

These are really good tips and a good reminder to keep exercising a dog even when they don't act like they need it so much. I know my parents have been struggling with finding the right balance since their 10-year-old dog was diagnosed with IVDD. Getting to hang out with our new puppy seems to have livened him up though, to the point where he's started some play bowing and some playful growling noises, even if he's too stiff for a good wrestle. Hopefully your pup will liven Ace up as well!

Lindsay Stordahl

Tuesday 12th of April 2016

I'm sorry to hear your parents' dog has IVDD. I'm sure it's cute seeing him interact with your pup. I hope our puppy livens Ace up as well but we shall see!


Monday 11th of April 2016

Thanks for linking to us. The slowing down and time commitment are the hardest parts. Katie really enjoys a very slow walk which forces Mom to slow down...and often be late for things because if Katie wants to walk she doesn't have the heart to stop her. I walk with Katie and Mom on the mornings Bailie runs with Mom. It's hard to be so slow, but then I slow down myself and just do more thorough sniffing along the way. Keep on paw padding forward Ace!

Lindsay Stordahl

Monday 11th of April 2016

We have been thinking of Katie lots. Such a sweet girl.