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11 Tips for Exercising Your Senior Dog – Safe & Effective!

Nicole Cosgrove

May 21, 2021

If you have an old dog who’s losing weight and muscle mass, you are probably concerned and looking for ways to exercise it to help improve its condition. Older dogs tend to spend a lot more time lying around and might not be interested in getting fit. It’s also common to be afraid of injuring your old dog with strenuous activity. Keep reading while we address these problems and show you several things you can do to help get your pet motivated and back in shape to help them live a longer, healthier life.

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Tips For Exercising Your Senior Dog

senior german shepherd

Image Credit: Pixabay

1. Check With Your Veterinarian

The first thing you will need to do before you start any exercise program is to have your dog looked over by a veterinarian. Your doctor can tell you if it’s safe to start up such a program and will be able to give you a starting point for how much exercise your dog needs each day.


2. Start Slow

You will wan’t to start slow with an old dog losing weight and muscle mass because it can be injured easily and will be discouraged from continuing when it heals. Have patience and let the muscles build back up slowly. Any activity is better than no activity, and you can increase the duration and difficulty later.


3. Warm-Up

Anyone that runs every day will tell you how important it is to stretch before you begin. Old dogs need extra time to stretch and get their muscles ready for a long walk or run. Let our dog take a few laps around the yard chasing a ball or a stick before you get started to help get the muscles moving and the blood flowing. A short warm-up will help reduce the risk of injury.

senior labrador
Image Credit: Pixabay

4. Keep It Low Impact

You will need to keep the exercise routine low impact for an old dog losing weight and muscle mass because high-impact exercises like jumping can injure the dog. The best low impact exercises you can choose from are walking and swimming. Dog parks are another good choice, and they will provide your dog with the added stimulation of meeting new friends.


5. Proper Surface

If your old dog has been spending a lot of time in the house lying around, there is a good chance the paws are tender. It can be painful for it to walk on concrete or pavement, especially in the hot parts of the day. If you notice your pet struggling to walk, it’s probably better to move your sessions to grass or wait for a cooler part of the day.


6. Daily Walk

We recommend going for a short daily walk unless you have easy access to water and your dog likes to swim, then let it go for a short daily swim. The walks don’t need to be far. A ten or 15-minute walk will be more than adequate. You can extend it a few minutes every few weeks if you start to see some progress.

senior cocker spaniel
Image Credit: Pixabay

7. Watch for Pain and Discomfort

As we mentioned earlier, you will need to be vigilant about looking for signs of discomfort, especially at first. Hot pavement might not be the only reason your dog is complaining, so you will need to keep watch and stop if problems arise. Stopping can help prevent injury from occurring, and it will also help the dog trust that you have its well-being in mind.


8. Be Consistent

Consistency is always key when training your dog, and exercise is a form of training. You are teaching it to be more active. Holding your sessions at the same time each day will help your dog to get into a routine. Routines are extremely important, especially if your dog is reluctant to participate. You will need to show that it can be fun so your dog will remember the good time it had at this time yesterday and will want to participate. It’s extremely effective, but missing even a single day, especially at the beginning, can set you back to square one.


9. Don’t Forget Mental Exercise

Exercise doesn’t always need to be physical. Your dog will appreciate some mental stimulation as well. Hiding treats around your home can trigger your pet’s hunting instincts, and there are many similar games you can play with your pet. You can also purchase commercial puzzles with different difficulty ratings online or in your local pet store. In our experience, a mentally stimulated dog is less likely to be depressed and is more likely to enjoy participating in games and activities.


10. Cool Down

Just like it was important to warm up before you began the exercise routine, it’s equally important to remember to cool down. This is where you can praise your dog and give it some pets, a massage, and a belly rub. Some treats are probably also in order no matter how your pet did. This cool-down period is what will bring the dog back to the training session tomorrow, so don’t leave it out.


11. Flexible Routine

One more important step for exercising your dog is to keep it flexible, especially for an old dog losing weight and muscle mass. These dogs will have good days and bad, so you shouldn’t push them even if it’s making progress and hasn’t had a bad day in a while. Make sure your routine is flexible enough that you can have a change of plans at any time.

senior white dog
Image Credit: Pixabay

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Summary

Exercising an older dog can be scary, but it’s essential for longer, happier life. Even mild exercise will make it easier for your dog to get up from a resting position or walk up and downstairs. It will also help your dog regain its appetite, so it can begin to put on weight again. As long as you get your dog checked by a vet before you begin and you start slowly, your dog will begin to regain muscle and have fun in the process. It will also give you some extra time to bond with your pet.

We hope you have enjoyed reading and found the answers to your questions. If we have helped your pet start to be a little more active, please share these 11 tips for exercising a senior dog on Facebook and Twitter.


Featured Image Credit: Pixabay

Nicole Cosgrove

Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts' knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.

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