Is your four-legged running partner starting to feel his age? Is your hiking buddy finding his favorite hiking trails a little more challenging? Don't worry, there are things you can do that will let him enjoy his favorite activities without stressing his aging body. Physical exercise and mental stimulation are still important even as your best bud gets older. Fortunately, taking him for runs, jogs, hikes, or walks provides both. No bored, sedentary couch potato pooch for you!
Signs of Getting Older in a Dog
Your pup's gravity-defying frisbee leaps and agility prowess may be behind her but that doesn't mean she has to give up the runs she loves to take you on or a hike up her favorite trail. Those runs might be a bit slower or shorter (or even both) and you may not quite hit the end of that trail. However, that doesn't mean that you can't help her enjoy her favorite activities. You'll just need to adapt to her changing needs and abilities.
Is Your Dog Showing Any of These Signs of Aging?
- Graying around her muzzle
- A reluctance to jump up on the couch or your bed
- Napping more often or for longer than usual
- Getting up from her bed more slowly than usual
- Difficulty regulating her body temperature (you may notice her shivering or panting at moderate temps)
- Cloudy eyes or less acute hearing
- Slower reactions
- Moving slower in general
- Weight gain (Even more reason to get out there and exercise!)
Your formerly sleek dog may also suddenly be sprouting lumps under her skin. These fatty lipomas are generally benign but should be checked out by a vet just to be sure. In fact, it's a good idea to have your vet do a senior exam on your pet even if she isn't lumpy. Your vet can clear her to continue exercising plus give you tips on senior nutrition and how to adapt your exercise or hiking routine to her changing body.
Accommodate Your Dog's Age
There are steps you can take to make exercise easier on your pet. For one thing, always warm up and cool down properly. This is even more important for an aging dog than it is for a young pup!
Go for walks or runs in the cooler morning or evening hours during hot weather. Conversely, choose midday for cold weather walks whenever possible and choose a good cold weather walking surface. Either keep walks a bit shorter or provide your dog with a warm coat. Running in cold weather is probably not a good idea with an aging dog because of the risk of injuries.
If your dog enjoys running or hiking with you, adjust your pace or the type of trail you choose until it's comfortable for him. Pay attention to any stiffness or difficulty moving the next day and modify your pace and route accordingly. You want your dog to enjoy the experience even afterward instead of being stiff and sore. Adjust to his new limitations by choosing a pace or trail that he'll enjoy without feeling exhausted and achy when you get home.
New locations can keep your aging pet interested and engaged so much that he may not even notice that the pace is slower or the trail less steep. All he'll know is that he's exploring new territory with his favorite person in the whole world. Would could be better than that?
Introduce Your Aging Dog to New Sports
If your dog has been your faithful running partner or hiking companion for years, it can be hard for both of you to leave her behind. However, it can also be difficult to hold to a slower pace so your buddy can keep up. It may be time to find a new sport that's better suited to your aging dog's current abilities. PetGuide has several suggestions for dog sports that can keep your senior pet engaged, interested, and physically active.
Rally (Rally Obedience or Rally-O )
This slow-paced obedience competition will provide your dog with plenty of mental stimulation. However, the heeling, sitting, staying, and other obedience work on a designated course won't task her physically. There are even special divisions just for senior dogs like yours!
There's no age limit on a dog's ability to sniff out a scent and independent dogs will especially love this sport! Even dogs that are losing their eyesight or are slowed down by age can participate in scent work.
This isn't a sport so much as a fun game that you and your pet can play together. The game involves a good-sized unusual object such as a box or empty plastic container, a clicker, and treats. Any time your dog shows any interest in the object, you click and treat. Your aging dog can choose her own interaction with the object. Touching it, picking it up, pushing it with her nose or a paw, stepping on it... Any kind of interaction counts and earns her a treat!
Take the object away when playtime is over or your pet is likely to keep it up as long as the treats last! Keep the game interesting by switching out objects and waiting to see how long it takes for your dog to notice the new object and initiate a game.
His eyes may be full of desire still, but your dog's body may not be able to keep up with those desires as he gets older. Unfortunately, as a dog's eyesight fades, his joints become painful, and his limbs stiffen, he can become bored and depressed from a lack of interesting activities in his life. As his loving human, you won't let that happen!
Think of his senior years as a time to bond, play, and exercise with your dog in exciting new ways while you both squeeze happiness out of every moment. Sharing new and exciting adventures with his best bud is absolute bliss for your dog. He won't know or care that those new adventures are targeted at his senior body as long as you're with him
By accommodating his aging body, you can help your dog still enjoy the glorious adventures he shared with you in his prime. Just at a slower pace and with a little more attention to his path. Visit our Dog Blog to learn more about activities you can share with a dog of any age. And if you have questions just send us a woof. We always love to hear from dogs and their favorite humans!