As dogs grow older, even the most energetic dog will experience some physical changes.He probably won't have the stamina he once had, he'll lose some muscle mass and he won't be as physically adept as he once was. If he has some physical limitations (perhaps arthritis or cataracts), he may be hesitant to exert himself. However, it's still important for your dog to keep moving. Exercise keeps the body working as it should, helps keep him as strong as he can be and also can help prevent your dog from becoming overweight as he ages. Before beginning any exercise program for your older dog, have a complete physical examination done by your dog's veterinarian. Your vet will then, depending on your dog's health and limitations, give permission for him to begin an exercise regimen or will prescribe exercise with limitations. When I took my 11-year-old Australian Shepherd, Bashir, in for his annual exam a few months ago, his veterinarian and I talked about his exercise extensively. Here are some of her recommendations.
Walking with ReservationsMy dogs and I walk just about every morning and Bashir's vet said this was fine, but she added some reservations. In hot weather, she asked if we walk early or late, and recommended I pay more attention to the temperature and humidity. Older dogs may not be as tolerant of hot, humid conditions and can overheat more readily than younger dogs. Older dogs who walk with younger dogs may also push themselves hard to keep up and may get too tired or too hot. I watch Bashir more closely now and when I see him start to slow, even a tiny bit, I head for home. I drop him off with some cool water and then take the younger dogs out to finish their walk. As Bashir grows older, I may need to slow the pace of our walk even more and eventually make his portion of the walk even shorter. I've done that with previous dogs as their physical abilities decrease and will do the same for Bashir when the time comes.
Swimming is GreatSwimming is a great, low impact exercise for older dogs. The water supports them nicely, taking the stress off joints that might be sore, and yet the dog can still get a good cardio workout. If you have access to a pool or other calm body of water, that would work better than the ocean as waves could knock down an unsteady, older dog. However, if your dog loves the beach and is still strong, that's fine. Just remember to rinse all the salt and sand out of his coat afterwards.
Running can still be FunBashir has arthritis but still loves to run. He can't keep up with the younger dogs and tires before they do, but he's still eager to run so I asked his veterinarian if allowing him to run as much as he wants to was a good idea. She was all for it. Running is great for the muscles and heart, keeps the joints moving and is great for keeping the dog mentally alert as well. Her only recommendation was to choose the times carefully, paying attention to the weather just as I do for our walks. I let Bashir run as much as he wants and I let him slow down or stop when he's ready. I'm careful not to encourage him to continue running as he wants to please me so much he might push himself too much. My veterinarian cautioned me that as Bashir grows older, depending on his health, he might reach a point where running may no longer be recommended. So make sure you get an okay from your veterinarian prior to letting your older dog go for a run, especially if he hasn't been running regularly.