Maybe you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, but you can introduce new activities that can make their lives healthier and more rewarding. Becoming couch-bound isn’t a given for mature dogs – in fact, the more you’re able to keep them active, the happier everyone will be.
When senior dogs stay active, it can help maintain their joints, boost their mobility, and improve their overall quality of life. The best way to keep them active is with low-impact exercises, as well as games that are both mentally and physically stimulating.
Why Exercise Matters For Older Dogs
It might be tempting to let your old girl relax, but that’s not doing her any favours (although, of course, she might need more recovery time than she used to).
We know how important staying active is for us as we age, and it’s no different for our best friends. If you’re trying to help your senior dog manage aging, maintaining their level of activity with a consistent routine should be at the top of your list.
Exercising and staying mobile can help improve a mature dog’s blood pressure, gastrointestinal (GI) motility, edema, body temperature, and muscle strength. The more active they are, the more comfortable they’re likely to stay, for as long as possible.
And that’s not to mention that dogs were born to run and fetch and jump and play! An active dog is a happy dog, no matter how old they are.
Low-Impact Exercises For Senior Dogs
Of course, ‘play’ might start to look a little different as your dog gets grey around the nose. And that’s ok. Older dogs aren’t going to run around like puppies, so it’s our job to help them find new, healthy activities that still support them.
That typically means finding low-impact exercises that are easier on their joints, as well as adding extra supports as necessary. For example, it’s often a good idea to invest in a portable, fold-able ramp that can help your dog get in and out of your car more easily.
The following activities can also make good options.
Swimming & Hydrotherapy
Swimming is great for older dogs for the same reason it’s great for older people – it’s all the movement, without the shock to the joints that comes with walking and running.
Hydrotherapy in particular is rising in popularity because of its great benefits. This is swimming in a heated pool, making it a helpful choice for dogs with arthritis and other similar conditions, as well as for obese dogs or those recovering from surgery. It can also be used to slow the progression of chronic conditions.
Why is hydrotherapy so great? According to studies, just a five minute swim has the same benefits of a 5-minute walk, without the pain and other side effects that walking can create in older dogs or those with chronic conditions.
There are many different options for hydrotherapy – talk to your vet for recommendations.
Walking & Hikes
We’ve got a beloved, always up-for-a-hike older dog, so we know what it’s like to see your friend start to slow down. But slowing down doesn’t have to mean stopping. For example, you may find your senior dog prefers shorter but more frequent walks. It may be more important to stick to a regular schedule for older dogs, and to pay attention to what time of day they seem to do better. But keep walking!
There are lots of things you can do to make hiking easier for your older friend, too. Go slower, take more breaks, remove the pack, and allow more recovery time between hikes. If possible, go hiking near a water source, since a cold dip might help their joints. And always (always, always) listen to your dog and pay attention to their needs.
Brain health is important for older dogs, too. That means seeking out activities (and modifying them where necessary) to keep their minds active, too.
This can mean modified cross training, regular social interactions with other dogs and people, and toys and food puzzles that require focus and coordination. And never underestimate the value of a good game of fetch.
Finally, it’s important to ensure that your senior dog has a diet designed to help maintain their joint health. Omega 3’s are important for dogs, too, and we also offer a line of dog supplements designed to help dogs stay as active as possible for as long as possible.
Otherwise, always speak to your vet to rule out any underlying conditions that can be affecting mobility, and by keeping them active, you’ll help your friend have the best twilight years a dog could ask for.