3 Ideas for Exercising Older Dogs

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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 realised 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.  If you are wondering where to start with an exercise routine for your older dog then 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 older dogs? Swimming can be a good idea for older dogs, as not only is it a great overall strength workout it also doesn’t put pressure on joints and bones like many other forms of exercise as the water helps alleviate this. 

Just be sure to to provide 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. That’s why it is important to ensure your dogs exercise plan is appropriate to age as well as breed.  

Yellow Labrador in blue lake retrieving sticks from under the water.

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 and you may want to consider investing in a good coat for your elderly dog — 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 this type of exercise 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. This should make it much easier for your older dog to enjoy playing with you, whilst getting some exercise at the same time. 

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.

Contributor Bio

Erin Ollila

Erin Ollila


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.


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