Exercise is vital for all dogs, regardless of age. Regular physical activity is good for keeping older dogs' bodies flexible and in good condition. It's also good for keeping their minds sharp overall. Although older dogs do indeed need routine exercise, they generally don't need to get as much as younger specimens.
Age for Less Exercise
Dogs generally start to require less exercise as they enter their senior years. Dogs usually gain "senior status" when they're 7 to 10 years old, according to the ASPCA. Smaller dogs, however, usually become seniors later than their bigger buddies. If you own a Yorkshire terrier and a Great Dane of the same age, expect the second cutie to enter his senior years first. When dogs get older, they sometimes exhibit telling signs of it -- think gray fur around their mouths and noses. If you have any questions regarding your dog's status as a senior, speak to your veterinarian.
Suitable Exercise for Older Dogs
Exercise needs in dogs vary based on many different factors, from breed to age. Even dogs of the most active and lively breeds -- think border collies -- mellow activity-wise as they get older. This is why it's important to tailor your pet's fitness plan to his own age group. If your senior dog has kidney disease, arthritis, cognitive issues or is often sore, your veterinarian can assist you in determining a daily exercise regimen that's right up his alley. She might suggest daily strolls around the park at a moderate pace, for example. Older pooches often do well with low-impact physical activity such as swimming, according to Chuck Johnson, author of "Training the Versatile Hunting Dog." Your vet can guide you on appropriate forms of physical activity for your pet and suitable time requirements for them.
Why Exercise Helps Older Dogs
While it's natural for older pooches to need less exercise as they advance in age, it's still crucial to never abandon the concept of physical activity. When senior dogs move their bodies regularly, it maintains the conditioning of their muscles, for one. It keeps their joints mobile. It even promotes the predictable passing of stools. Since older dogs don't exercise as much as they did in their younger years, it isn't uncommon for them to experience weight gain. If you notice any shifts in your pet's weight, take him to the veterinarian, just to be safe.
Activity Levels of Older Dogs
Many dogs begin their lives as seemingly unstoppable forces of energy -- puppies constantly running around, jumping and perhaps even getting into a little mischief. When they start to get older, this frequently changes. Older dogs often don't have as much endurance as before. They often stop playing quickly. They might lounge around the house and sleep a lot more. An older canine might be particularly sluggish after waking up, for example. All of these things are generally no cause for alarm for owners -- just typical aspects of the canine aging process.
- Partnership for Animal Welfare: Dog Tip - Senior Dogs
- Making Friends; Linda Colflesh
- Vetstream: Senior Pet Care
- Canine Rehabilitation and Physical Therapy; Darryl Millis and David Levine
- Dogs - The Ultimate Care Guide; Matthew Hoffman
- Blue Cross: Caring for the Older Dog
- ASPCA: Aging
- Training the Versatile Hunting Dog; Chuck Johnson
- Comstock/Stockbyte/Getty Images