You've always made exercising your dog a priority. But if you have an older dog, you might have noticed that they're starting to prefer napping to playing fetch. Or maybe they don't seem to run and jump like they used to. Perhaps you've realized that walking a senior dog sometimes means adapting routes for their comfort.
Even if your dog doesn't seem as excited about playtime as they used to be, exercising older dogs is the best way to manage their weight and ensure their health, happiness and longevity. By providing a mix of indoor and outdoor exercises that are fun and easy on their joints, you can give your best friend a comfortable, age-appropriate exercise routine year-round. Wondering where to start? These three ideas can help.
1. Take Them for a Swim
Swimming is known as a great low-impact exercise for people — but did you know that it's also a great option for exercising senior dogs? According to the American Kennel Club (AKC), swimming is perfect for older dogs because it doesn't put pressure on their bones and joints and it's an effective strengthening workout. In fact, says the AKC, "swimming is often used as physical therapy for dogs that have undergone major surgery for injuries."
Just be sure to outfit your pooch with a life jacket before they take the plunge. And know that swimming isn't the best option for every senior dog — especially brachycephalic breeds like pugs, which are known to have issues with breathing.
2. Take (More Mindful) Walks
Even though your dog is older and perhaps a bit slower than they once were, they're probably just as passionate about walks with their beloved pet parent. Continue walking your dog if they're physically able, but as you do, pay close attention to check that you're going at a comfortable pace. Consider any ailments your dog may have, such as hip dysplasia or pain from previous injuries, and monitor them carefully to ensure they aren't experiencing any flare-ups.
When walking a senior dog, you'll also want to account for the weather, as they may be more sensitive to cold and heat than they once were. Fortunately, there are lots of ways to help protect your dog from the elements so that you can get outside together — even if it's just for a short stroll around the block.
3. Play Roll-the-Ball Fetch
Does your dog love playing fetch? If so, consider adapting the game so that they can continue enjoying it as a senior dog. Rolling the ball instead of throwing it makes it much easier for them to chase and catch it, as it's less likely to travel far and bounce wildly. They can still get the thrill of the chase and the feeling of victory that comes with retrieving the ball — without the added strain on their joints.
The great thing about fetch is that you can play it anywhere, indoors or out. Just gently roll a ball and have your dog grab it and bring it back to you. You can even kick the game up a notch by rolling the ball, asking your dog to sit and stay, then having them fetch it.
As your dog ages, it's important to maintain a comfortable workout routine that keeps them healthy and happy. And just like your dog is one-of-a-kind, their optimal exercise plan may be, too. Consult your veterinarian for suggestions about exercising older dogs and before starting any exercise routine. With a fitness plan in place, you can continue building your bond with your four-legged best bud.
Erin Ollila is a pet enthusiast who believes in the power of words and how a message can inform—and even transform—its intended audience. Her writing can be found all over the internet and in print, and includes interviews, ghostwriting, blog posts, and creative nonfiction. Erin is a geek for SEO and all things social media. She graduated from Fairfield University with an M.F.A. in Creative Writing. Reach out to her on Twitter @ReinventingErin or learn more about her at http://erinollila.com.