Tips for Exercising Senior Dogs

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Like humans, as dogs age and enter their senior years, they will generally lose athleticism and muscle tone and their bodies will take longer to recover from vigorous exercise. However, aging is really no excuse for becoming a couch potato, whether it is you or your dog. Unfortunately, far too many pet owners use old age as a primary excuse to cut back on their dog’s exercise often to the detriment of the dog’s wellbeing.


Exercise and your Senior Dog

As a dog ages and enters their senior years, their body will lose muscle mass and flexibility. A classic case of “use it or lose it”. Furthermore, inflammatory diseases like osteoarthritis can manifest and cause pain, which can further limit mobility and their willingness to get up and moving. It can become a vicious cycle, leading to inactivity. This is the same, unfortunately, for us humans.


The Importance of Exercise for Seniors

I would argue that older dogs need exercise as much, if not more than younger dogs. As a dog ages, they will naturally become less active and are at greater risk of muscle atrophy and osteoarthritis. These are the exact things that regular exercise can forestall. Furthermore, as a dog ages, their skeletal system is less capable of handling the stresses of everyday life. Regular exercise (and proper feedings) can ensure that the pet is at a healthy weight and thus, minimize the load on the senior dog’s bones and joints. The Mayo Clinic reports that exercise is crucial for people with arthritis because it increases strength and flexibility, reduces joint pain, and helps combat fatigue. The same is likely true for our pets.


4 Tips for Exercising a Senior Dog

Old age is not a valid reason to stop exercising your pet. Sure, an older dog might not be able to do the same things that they could when they were younger, but there are many ways to ensure that your dog remains active and healthy throughout their senior years. Here are 4 tips to keep your older dog in shape.


  1. Cross train. Providing your pet with a variety of exercises is a smart way to keep their bodies strong, mobile, and healthy. Mix in core work, strength, and balance training, which are low impact.
  2. When possible, cut back but don’t cut. Maybe your dog can no longer run the 5 miles with you that they used to. This does not necessarily mean they shouldn’t run! Before stopping an activity all together, try cutting back. Reduce the intensity level (e.g., the distance or speed, or both of your run). Your dog will still enjoy the benefits of the activity without it causing them discomfort or overuse.
  3. Focus on weak points. In older dogs, the hind legs tend to lose strength before the front legs do. Incorporating specific exercises that target the hind legs, like hill work and squats, can mitigate this issue and keep your pet active longer.
  4. Feed your pet well. By well I mean appropriate portions of appropriate food. Overfeeding can put undue stress on and older pet’s body. The last thing they need is to be carrying around excess fat. Furthermore, choose high quality dog foods that are full of healthy, natural ingredients that can help your older dog’s body regenerate and resist the aging process. And watch out for the so called “senior” foods, which tend to be much higher in carbohydrates and lower calorie fillers, when in fact, your older dog needs more protein and fat to help their bodies function at their best.


Of course, always check with your veterinarian when contemplating changes in your dog’s exercise routines. Assuming that your dog is generally healthy, there is really no reason that they can exercise for their entire life.

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  1. Hi Y’all!

    Now that I’m a senior I need that reminder. I do lay around more, now that you mention it.

    Y’all come on by,
    Hawk aka BrownDog
    Hawk aka BrownDog recently posted…Lazy Hazy DaysMy Profile

  2. that are great tips… and older furfriends nee exercise too, I agree :o)
    easy rider recently posted…easyblog BLAST FROM THE PASTMy Profile

  3. Those are great tips! With Katie seeing the chiropractor and the supplement she is on, she feels better and enjoys walking but she is very slow. We are just happy she enjoys walking again. Mom tries to keep her fairly active, but we let her do what she feels she can do. Her back end is getting weak and we haven’t found a way to stop that unfortunately. Hills are pretty much impossible for her as she can’t keep her back end up, the muscle is just not there anymore. As our vet said two years ago, had she not always been a real active dog, she would be in much worse shape.
    Emma recently posted…I Sniffed John Deere And Liked ItMy Profile

    • Poor Katie – that happened to our Tino too. Not much to do but keep them as active as you can and then as comfortable as you can.
      mkob recently posted…Tips for Exercising Senior DogsMy Profile

  4. Great Tips, it is so important to keep exercising senior dogs. I try to get Nellie to the lake more now that it is summer so she can swim, much easier on her joints.
    Sand Spring Chesapeakes recently posted…Bring On The Puller Fun~FitDog FridayMy Profile

  5. This is much appreciated advice. Both our girls are starting to show more pain and stiffness and I worry about letting them do too much.
    But I did find, especially with Cricket, that if we just cut her play sessions back to no more than a half hour at a time, she does much better! I let her set the pace jogging, and yesterday she made me tired! Again, I was worried about overdoing it, but she still wanted to play ball later in the day. I kept it short, and this morning, she was running around the house playing with Luke and their toys! She doesn’t do that often and I was so glad to know that what we did yesterday seemed to be really good for her!
    Now I just need to figure out what is going to work for Sheba…her arthritis is acting up more lately.
    Jan K recently posted…Fitness Fun with Tuggo Dog Toy (& Giveaway!)My Profile

    • It’s tough to measure as they get older. I usually let them dictate the length of our walks/runs – and make sure they rest if they show any discomfort.
      mkob recently posted…Tips for Exercising Senior DogsMy Profile

  6. The more I do it the more I love exercising with our dogs. They’re not seniors yet, but when they get there we will all be in shape and will be able to keep up with each other.
    Kimberly Gauthier recently posted…Have Your Dogs Keep Up with YOU! #WalkDogsLoseWeightMy Profile

  7. Great information! Next week I’ll have 2 senior dogs in the house and I need to prepare myself!
    Jen recently posted…7 Office Tips For Your Co-Workers On Take Your Dog To Work Day #takeyourdogMy Profile

    • Glad you caught this – I was going to forward it to you after reading that Leroy is turning seven.
      mkob recently posted…Tips for Exercising Senior DogsMy Profile

  8. Our seniors still like to exercise, but it can be tough to give them enough since they are not doing the heavy training like Freighter is. We definitely have to make an effort to keep them exercising.
    2 Brown Dawgs recently posted…Angle Entry Water BlindsMy Profile

  9. Couldn’t agree more. As I’ve gotten older, I can’t maintain the same level of activity that I did when I was 30 years younger, but if I can’t exercise I’m downright crabbish. I suspect dogs get out of sorts too. Luckily Sam still enjoys his outings despite being chronologically considered a senior. It just hasn’t sunk into his pea brain yet. 😉
    Monika recently posted…Somebody Flipped the SwitchMy Profile

  10. Great tips- I could have used them with Cookie (13+) and Isabelle (nearly 16). We kept both very active right up to the last 6 months or so. Both their back ends/hips went and we tried swimming, supplements and a skate board contraption as they still loved to get to the park.

  11. Great advice SlimDoggy! Just look at our pal Sugar, who’s a very active senior dog. Taffy will be 7 soon which is approaching a senior dog but she is more energetic than me. People think I am older than her but I’m not so I know we’ll be keeping her very active as she ages. Love Dolly
    Dolly the Doxie recently posted…Dolly’s Play Date with LaylaMy Profile

  12. Great tips! Is there any guide as to how much exercise? i.e. is there a fitness test your dog can do so you know where they’re at today and what the goal should be?
    Dogsized recently posted…8 Great Large Dog BedsMy Profile

  13. Great tips, they may not be as speedy as they once were, but senior pups still get plenty of benefit from staying active.

  14. I have always been suspicious of “senior” foods. Now I know what to look for on the label. Thanks for the information
    jan recently posted…Who will be the World’s Ugliest Dog–2015?My Profile

  15. Great post. With Jax around I am trying really hard to not overdo it with Harley. So far – he’s hanging fine with the youngster. I am very conscience of what/how many treats I’m giving him, and I loved all the suggestions about the right types of exercises to do. Thanks – have a great weekend!

  16. Great advice, guys – all ages of dog need exercise, even if it’s just a little to keep them sane.
    Earl Lover recently posted…It’s Finally Time!My Profile

  17. All great tips!! Important for the senior humans to remember to exercise too!
    Diane recently posted…The Facts on Canine Flu and Keeping Your Dog HealthyMy Profile

  18. Awesome post! Must keep moving!

  19. Great tips! Exercise is so important for all dogs–even if they can’t exercise the same way they did when they were young.
    Beth recently posted…Multiple Pet FitnessMy Profile

  20. You are so right ~ senior dogs need their daily exercise as much as their younger counterparts do. Our pups are just about to turn 4 years old and have exercised every single day since they came to live with us at 8 weeks of age (minus when they’ve had some sort of ailments and were sick).

    I take care of quite a few older pups in my capacity as a dog walker/pet sitter, but unfortunately only very few of them get exercised. My favorite senior pups are two huskies who DO get exercised every day ~ their owner is very active himself and puts a lot of emphasis on his dogs’ exercise! I love it!
    Barbara Rivers recently posted…It’s the 17th Take Your Dog To Work Day! #takeyourdogMy Profile

  21. Great tips! Exercise and keeping our seniors fit is SO important! I think they live longer and healthier lives if you keep them as active as possible [within reason of course!]. One of my dogs, LiLo, has bi-lateral hip dysplasia. I have her on adequan. While we cannot bring back the muscle mass she has lost from being dysplastic we have maintained what she has. She can keep up with my two other dogs whether we are playing ball or riding bikes – sometimes she just needs some extra pain medication if she over-does it. She is 10yrs old and I think she is doing as well as she is because I keep her active and still do things with her even though she’s “old”.
    Suzanne recently posted…Black & White SundayMy Profile

  22. Great advice. When our dogs become really elderly, we find that we truly enjoy slowing down to their pace and taking in the details of the forest with them. When one of our Labs became very slow and needed lots of rests during his hikes, my husband spent their short hikes building a new trail behind our house. It now bears the name of that dog. It’s the “Samson Trail”. I have a special place in my heart for elderly dogs.
    KB recently posted…Sunset SundayMy Profile

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