Exercising Senior Dogs
We get a lot of questions about how the fulfillment formula – Exercise, Discipline, then Affection – changes as dogs age and don’t require as much physical activity and energy draining. Here are some tips to keep in mind as your dog enters his senior years.
We stress how important it is to get a dog that fits your energy level and lifestyle, but at some point, even the highest energy dogs that are in great health will slow down as they enter their senior years.
Nothing is more important than prevention, so it’s important that throughout your dog’s life, you are providing exercise, a nutritious diet, and supplements like Glucosamine as needed and recommended by your vet. Homeopathic remedies, like acupuncture, are becoming increasingly more popular for all kinds of conditions, especially arthritis which is common in older dogs who have been very active.
Swimming is a fantastic activity for dogs of all ages, but is particularly good for older dogs because it is low-impact and easy on their weakening joints and muscles. Swimming also builds strength, is good for their overall conditioning, and is naturally relaxing and comforting to most dogs.
When we think of aging, we think of medical conditions. But for many dogs, they age without any sign of illness at all. When Daddy was a senior, he had very little physical desires. He would get tired walking from my house to the neighbor’s house – it was like walking miles and miles for him – and we celebrated that walk the same way we did when he was younger and we’d return from a two-hour Pack Walk.
As he aged, it was not so much about the time spent walking, as it was about allowing him to stay where he wanted to be. This was his revised fulfillment formula. Daddy still wanted to be outside and experience nature, but he didn’t need to do it with the one and two and three year old pups. He could do it right in the back yard.
Tailoring the fulfillment formula as a dog ages to fit his needs is something that many humans have a hard time with. It’s no different than the fears we have aging as humans. But this is a natural part of life, and honoring that life is honoring your dog.
You don’t have to feel like you’re no longer giving the dog rules, boundaries, and limitations if you, for example, bring them their food instead of making them come to the kitchen or the yard to eat. “Room service” at this stage of life is acceptable. Remember that their body doesn’t match the mind any more – they might have trouble controlling their bladder and this isn’t something to punish. It’s a result of the kind of care we provide our dogs with in this country and many around the world. You’re not going to see a 14-year-old dog in a third world country very often. They just don’t have the same kind of care and nutrition.
Overall, remember that you don’t need to provide stimulation at this senior stage of their life. What you want to provide is relaxation. Give the dog a massage, help them when they need it (like using a ramp as you would for an elderly human who has difficulty getting up stairs), and be patient. Enjoy this time and celebrate their life!