Caring for an older dog is drastically different than caring for a spunky, young puppy. While it is easier in some respects, owning a senior dog does come with it’s unique challenges. One of the biggest challenges pet owners face as their dog’s grow older is keeping them active on a daily basis.
While your dog may not be able to join you on mile-long runs anymore, they still need daily exercise in order to stay strong and healthy in their old age. Keep your senior dog active with the following activities!
Take him swimming
Swimming is easy on the joints and muscles, thus providing a good source of physical activity for senior dogs. It also helps them stay strong, and can be relaxing for dogs that enjoy it. When you take your senior dog swimming, go to a pool or a calm lake instead of the ocean. Always keep a close eye on your dog, and install a ramp into the lake or pool if your dog has trouble walking.
Go on shorter walks and runs
Your pup may have been able to run for miles in the past, but not anymore. Still, running is a great way to get his blood pumping and heart rate up. Rather than going the distance, take your dog on shorter runs. If that doesn’t work, walk instead. Whether you’re walking or running, you’ll want to stay close to your home in case your dog shows any signs of fatigue. This could include heavy breathing, frequent stopping, a slower pace, and glancing back in the direction that you just walked.
When walking or running with your pup, look for hills. Going up hills is an excellent form of strength training for your senior dog and will help burn calories if he’s overweight. Hills also engage the hind legs, which tend to be weaker on older dogs. Go straight up the hills, but when you come down, walk in a zigzag motion to ease the amount of stress on his front legs.
Platform training works to strengthen your dog’s muscles, improve balance, and exercise his mind as well as his body. You can either build a platform yourself or buy one. If you create your own make sure it’s made out of non-skid material and is wider than your dog’s stance by at least a few inches. Some platform exercises include putting two paws in it, backing up onto it, side-stepping onto it, and placing the back paws on it while the front paws are on the floor. As with dogs of any age, your senior dog will learn these platform tricks if he’s rewarded with treats.
Your dog may not able to go on long walks. But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t want to play with you anymore. Purchase some senior dog toys that he will enjoy even as he reaches his late teens. Some great toys include soft Frisbees, which won’t do damage to his teeth, plush toys with squeakers instead of stuffing so your dog can hear the toy, and Kong toys made of gentle rubber.
Look for toys that are softer and make noise. When you’re playing, monitor your dog’s breathing and look for any signs that he may be slowing down.
Play hide and seek
Hide and seek is a fun way to bond with your pup and exercise his body and mind. Hide your soft chew toy around your home and watch your dog use his brain and senses to find it.
Stretch with your dog
If your senior dog can’t do much in terms of exercise, you can still stretch with him. If your dog can exercise, it’s always a good idea to stretch as a warm up. To effectively do this, tell your dog to sit while you hold a treat. Then, move the treat in your hand from side-to-side and away from your dog. He will stretch to follow the treat. Throughout the stretching, your dog must remain seated.
Your pup may be getting older, but it doesn’t mean it’s time to give up on physical activity. Though you’ll have to take it slower and decrease the amount of time you exercise, it’s crucial that you keep him active into his senior years.