If your pup is getting a little gray in their muzzle, they might have lost a little pep in their step or started stumbling over obstacles they used to spring over. As our dogs age, their mobility will decrease, just like it does for humans. And as with people, the healthy thing to do for both body and mind is to stay active while remembering that limitations and expectations have shifted.
Shorter activities more often is the key. For example, rather than a long adventure once a week, short walks several times a week will be more beneficial. The same approach goes for any physical activity. Here are a few ideas to help you keep your older pal moving and living their best canine life.
Start by Warming Up
When your dog was young and had energy to burn, they didn’t need to pregame with stretching and warmups. Now that they’re a seasoned veteran, it’s smart to start any activity by loosening up their muscles and joints. Have your dog sit and then high-five you to stretch their front legs. Next, get them to stretch their back legs by crawling to you on their tummy. Finally, get the blood circulating and work the tendons by walking them in tight circles one direction, then the other way.
Take Regular Walks
No matter their age, just about any dog on the planet will perk up when you grab their leash for a walk. This is a great low-impact exercise for an older dog, especially if you live in a good area for walking. You’ll want a route without stairs and extreme elevation changes. Opt for stable, comfortable surfaces with good traction, such as grass and pavement — provided it’s not scorching hot or covered in snow and ice.
Along with temperature and weather, be mindful of the pace you set for those high-mileage legs, and take paths closer to home in case your dog gets tired. If your pal stops more often these days to sniff what’s happening with the neighborhood dogs, give them an extra minute here and there. Consider adding a stop or two along your walk, perhaps a park or a dog-friendly café.
Play Low-key Fetch
Is the fast-paced fetch you and your best friend shared in the past a fond memory you wish you could keep replaying? A more moderate version of the same game can be a lot of fun too! Even if your dog still appears to have the fire in their belly for fetch, the rush of adrenaline that gets them excited for it now may leave them extra pooped-out by tomorrow. To play a more joint-friendly game of fetch, you’ll want to minimize force on your pup’s joints by decreasing acceleration and deceleration. Don’t get your dog wound up to spring after their object of choice — instead, toss it nearer than you used to and try to keep it low to the ground so your dog doesn’t jump for it. Play on a surface that provides good footing and keep the sessions short.
Go for a Swim
The buoyancy of water is fantastic for letting your pup enjoy a thorough workout without all that body weight on their bones and joints. Whether it’s in a pool or natural body of water, swimming can help maintain muscle tone and mobility. Even if your dog is an accomplished swimmer, always monitor their activity — it’s a good idea to put them in a life vest no matter their level of experience.
Try Strength Training
We’re talking dog Pilates, dog yoga and other exercises focused on flexibility and muscle tone. These are ideal not just for older dogs, but also for you because you can participate with your pup. Check for classes in your neighborhood or ask your veterinarian for suggestions.
Consider Dog Supplements
Did you know there are supplements formulated to support joint health in adult dogs of all sizes, including GREENIES™ Hip & Joint Supplements? If you’re considering supplements for your dog, talk to your veterinarian first. They know your dog and their medical history, so they’ll make the best recommendations regarding any supplement regimen.
Regular exercise benefits your dog’s joints and keeps their mind working, which helps maintain their overall well-being. Be conscious of your older dog’s physical limitations, but don’t let age curtail your best friend’s quality of life — it just takes a little adjusting to make your dog’s favorite activities as safe and fun as ever.