Gold Souls, Gray Faces is a series where we discuss caring for our older canine friends. Our sweet senior dogs may not move as well as they used to, but it’s still very important for them to get the exercise that they need.
Regular, moderate exercise can help keep blood flowing to the muscles, get joint fluid moving, and stave off weight gain that can worsen conditions such as diabetes or arthritis.
Older dogs can be more sensitive to the weather, and at certain times of year it may be more appropriate for them to do indoor workouts, but if spring and summer are on the way where you live, you may want to start incorporating some outdoor exercise into your routine, too.
Before you take your gray-faced, furry friend outside, make sure you consult your vet to see if your pup is healthy enough for mild exercise and determine how much activity is appropriate. Do not push your old dog too hard. Remember, the purpose of these exercises is just to get seniors’ bodies and minds moving, not to provide a difficult challenge.
With that in mind, here are six exercises you can do outside with your senior dog.
1. Short Walks
Walks have probably been your dog’s workout of choice for their whole life, and there’s no reason that should change just because your pup is getting older.
Getting out for a walk is also mentally stimulating for your dog, as they’ll get a chance to find new smells and see new things. It will get their brain moving, as well as their body.
Just make sure you are keeping the walk reasonably short and moving at a slower pace. If your older dog shows any signs of pain or discomfort, it’s time to stop. Make sure you walk in easy terrain, as tall grass or sand can wear your dog out faster and make it harder for them to move.
Stick to shady areas on hot days and bring a non-plastic water bottle with you to keep your pup hydrated if necessary.
Stay safe and take it easy, and your old dog will get a great workout.
Swimming is a fun activity for many dogs, and it’s especially beneficial for seniors because it gets them moving without added stress on their bones and joints.
It’s mostly an activity for dogs that already like the water. You don’t want to add stress to your senior’s day.
Just make sure that you are able to get into the water with your dog and keep them supported. You may even want to try getting a dog life vest for your pooch.
Many dogs are so happy in the water that they forget about their own limitations, which can be dangerous for older pups. The goal is not to wear your dog out to the point that they can’t move any more; it’s to get their muscles and joints in motion.
Keep the swim fairly short, and make sure your dog can get to a cool place where you can dry them off afterward. Wet fur can trap steam on a hot day and cause overheating, so get your dog dry and indoors where it’s not so hot as soon as you are able.
3. Soft Fetch
Your dog doesn’t have to give up playing fetch because they’re old. You may have to shorten your throws, though.
You probably don’t want your senior to get up to full speed like they did when they were young, as running puts a lot of stress on the body. Just do short tosses, and if your dog is unsure about chasing down their toy, walk with them slowly.
It’s okay if they’re not as good at fetch as they used to be. Remember, this is just to get them moving.
Use a soft toy. There are many soft dog toys designed for seniors that are easier on the teeth.
If your dog wants to play a bit of tug-of-war, that’s fine, too. Just be gentle and let them win once in a while. The pulling motion can be a nice workout and gets many of their muscles moving at the same time.
Certain toys can even benefit dental health.
4. Easy Obstacles
Senior dogs may have put their days on the agility course behind them, but you can still have some fun with obstacles that are simple.
Slowly weaving through cones or even circling the tree in your yard can give your dog a bit of mental stimulation while giving them some physical exercise.
If you have kids, sometimes their toys or playground equipment can make good, easy obstacles for senior dogs, or you can get toys specifically for your dog. Children’s tunnels, for example, can be fun and simple for senior dogs to walk through, especially if you have a dog that loves to tunnel. You can buy one of these tunnels on Amazon if you don’t already have one, but you can also be creative and find plenty of items to walk around in your yard or near home.
Give your dog plenty of rewards for a job well done, and if your old dog can’t quite figure out what you want them to do, that’s okay, too.
5. Practice Commands
There are plenty of commands you can practice inside, but now that the weather is nice, you may want to move outdoors for some more open space.
Reviewing commands can help your dog work their brain and their body. Try the command “stay” with your dog. Have them stay in place while you walk a few steps away. Then practice “come” with them.
Just keep training sessions short enough to hold their attention, but long enough to keep them active.
This will also help you keep bonding with your dog well into old age.
6. Learn New Tricks
Old dogs can absolutely learn new tricks so long as you are patient and willing to work with them. This can be a good time to try teaching some of the basics that they may have missed out on, or you can try other moves.
Getting your dog to walk between your legs on command, for example, is a fun trick that isn’t physically demanding, but it will work out your dog’s mind and keep them active.
“Find it” can be a fun one, too. Just hide a toy around the yard and let your dog “find it.” You can put it in an obvious place to make it a bit easier and guide your dog there if they are having trouble.
There are plenty of other low-impact tricks you can teach your senior, and it will help keep them mentally sharp and physically engaged.
What other workouts would you recommend for senior dogs? What kinds of activities do you do with your gray-faced pup outside? Let us know in the comments below!
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