Do you have an older dog? Have you noticed changes in their mobility? This is common, just like it is with us when we age. Muscles can weaken and become less flexible, joints can get stiffer and sorer. These changes may progress slowly – you may just feel like your dog is slowing down- but knowing the correct way to exercise a mature dog can have a positive impact on mobility – even improve their mobility!- and improve the quality of your dog’s life. Here are four points to remember when you exercise a mature dog:
The surface you walk your dog on:
Good footing is essential if your dog has some stiff or painful joints, or is a little unsteady on their feet. This makes the walking easier and reduces the risk of injury. Try to avoid uneven surfaces when you exercise a mature dog such as soft sand and choose a level surface with good footings such as a pathway or short grass. If they are running outdoors, make sure the surface isn’t slippery. Inside the house, it’s advisable to avoid slippery surfaces such as polished or tiled floors as these may cause your dog to slip causing an injury to muscles or joints. Place down non-slip matting or yoga mats in common walk areas around the house to keep your dog safe. If you have steps, make sure they are non-slip.
How long to walk your dog
The older your dog becomes, the less strength and energy they will have – this is a normal result of aging. As they slow down, it can help them to keep their walk time shorter and perhaps more frequent. Just how long to walk them will depend on their previous fitness level. If they are used to a 40-minute walk and are slowing down as they age, consider shortening it to a 30-minute walk. Remember to cater to your dog’s needs and not just your own exercise regime, or the fitness of a younger, more active dog.
It is a great idea to have their body assessed and treated with a targeted program to address any issues that may be causing them to slow down such as soreness or weakness. Having their body treated and starting a strengthening program may mean you don’t have to shorten their walks, but they actually become fitter and stronger and walking endurance is prolonged.
If their mobility is significantly affected, however, you could also consider using a dedicated dog pram so that your dog can still get to be outside and enjoy a walk with you!
Any time you are out exercising your dog, watch for signs of fatigue or increased limping after the exercise and use this to help guide you to the right walk time for your dog, or get some advice from a rehab therapist.
How often to exercise a mature dog
As dog’s age, it’s still important, just like with us, to try to walk them every day when possible. If your dog can’t travel as fast anymore, then consider taking them on 2 shorter walks per day. This will avoid over-exercising, but still allows time to exercise the muscles and joints, and their heart and lungs – which is vital for their health.
When you exercise a mature dog we recommend reducing uncontrolled fast directional changes in their movements. Reduce, limit or eliminate jumping, running, chasing a ball and aggressive play with other dogs. When dogs get excited by the ball or other dog company, their adrenalin can kick in, and they can be very poor at self-limiting – leading to them over-exercising themselves. On leash exercise and some pottering around off leash to smell the smells is safest for your older dog. Some gently dog-to-dog interaction is also great! But if things get too vigorous, then pop them on the leash or move on to another area to exercise. We want to ensure they can keep exercising with ease for as long as possible.
What else will compliment the exercise?
It’s a great idea for older dogs to have a mobility assessment with an experienced physiotherapist who treats. They can help you to not only determine the best exercise for your dog but also provide a program of exercises to strengthen your dog, and treat their body to help them move better, feel better and enjoy life!
Keeping them warm in winter, sheltered from the elements, a comfy bed, well fed and with access to clean drinking water is ideal. A joint supplement can be helpful such as Green Lipped Mussel to help their joints move more freely and reduce inflammation. If your dog hasn’t had a recent checkup with your vet then that is also advisable.
Implementing these above points in your dog’s daily exercise program will have a positive effect on their quality of life. It’s important to keep your dog moving no matter what their age but when it comes to how to exercise a mature dog, tailoring the type of exercise, duration, regularity, and intensity can ensure a happy, healthier and longer life.