All dogs need regular exercise, no matter their age, but as dogs get older, they’re more likely to develop health conditions that affect how much they can exercise.
Older dogs will likely be slower and need to rest more. They may also not be able to walk as far as they could when they were younger. It’s still important to ensure they get regular exercise though, as it helps to keep them healthy.
This means understanding how to adjust their exercise routine and the types of exercise they do so they are still active but aren’t experiencing discomfort. Here are some tips to help your older dog exercise.
What conditions can affect older dogs when exercising?
Several conditions can mean older dogs need to slow down or not exercise as much as when they were younger. These include:
- Arthritis and other joint problems
- Heart problems
- Loss of sight
If you notice that your older dog is having trouble with mobility, isn’t enjoying exercise as much or doesn’t want to go on their usual walks, you see should take them to see your vet. This will allow for diagnosis of any issues and your vet will be able to provide treatment and advice to help deal with any health issues that are affecting their ability to and enjoyment of exercise.
What do I need to know about exercising older dogs?
There are a few things you should bear in mind when it comes to exercising your older dog to keep them as comfortable as possible.
Regular and gentle exercise
You should aim to exercise your dog regularly but opt for gentle walks. Regular exercise helps to keep them active and keep their joints and muscles moving. Aim for shorter walks a couple of times a day so their joints don’t get too stiff in between exercise sessions.
Keep taking them out
You should never stop taking your older dog outside for walks. Not only are walks good for their health, but they are also important for enrichment. Your dog will still enjoy having the chance to enjoy fresh air, have a sniff and stretch their muscles, even if they can’t walk very far or stay out very long.
Look at the weather
Checking the weather is important when taking older dogs for walks as they tend not to cope well in very hot or very cold weather.
During the summer, it’s a good idea to take them out in the morning and evening to avoid the very warm parts of the day. Make sure you also take water with you so they can have a drink to cool off when they need it.
When it’s winter, ensure they have a suitable dog coat and that you dry them off when they get home to stop them from getting too cold. You may also want to reduce your walks slightly to ensure they can stay warm as the cold is likely to make their joints worse.
Go on familiar walks
Familiarity can help ensure your dog is comfortable and doesn’t get stressed. This is especially important if they have sensory issues, such as deteriorating sight or hearing. Going to familiar places and following routes they know will help to avoid confusion and anxiety.
Walk at their pace
Paying attention to your dog is a big part of ensuring they enjoy their exercise but also rest enough and go home when they need to. You should always walk at your dog’s pace and allow them time to lie down and rest if they need to. Trying to make them walk too quickly can cause pain and discomfort, as well as tiring them out too much.
Keep things calm
If your dog can’t hear or see well, people or vehicles you encounter while walking them may cause stress and anxiety. It’s important to be aware of your surroundings so you can reassure your dog when you see something coming that may upset them.
Exercise at home
If you can’t take your older dog out for a walk, for example, if the weather is too cold, you can still get them exercising at home. Indoor games, puzzles and interactive toys provide enrichment and get your dog moving.
Making exercising easier for your older dog
As your dog’s mobility decreases, you may want to make changes to your home that helps to make exercise easier for them. This can include:
- Ramps to help them get up stairs or in your car
- Support harnesses or slings to help larger dogs when out walking
- Mats or rugs on wood, tile or lino floors to help avoid slips
- Regular nail trims