Exercising older dogsOlder age in dogs increases issues such as weight, arthritis, anxiety and sense loss. Each of these can cause reluctance in older dogs to exercise. But no exercise increases the likelihood of heart, arthritis and obesity problems. But with a few small and evolving adjustments exercise can still be fun.

Regular gentle exercise into old age for dogs and humans:

  • Frees joints and ligaments from stiffness
  • Keeps muscles supple and strong
  • Reduces pain and inflamation
  • Improves blood flow
  • Boosts moods

And overall improves the quality of life for both. According to the Kennel Club, old age starts for larger breeds at 5 years and for toy and small dogs at 8-12 years.

Daily Walks

Older dogs need more consideration when going for a walk. As they get older, dogs find it more difficult to regulate temperature, so in the heat they get tired more quickly as well as overheat. Mornings and evenings tend to be cooler and more relaxed times to walk.

As well as thinking what sort of day it is, consider the walking surface. It needs to be firm, level and with good traction. Flat maintained grassy areas are ideal, but avoid those with bumps, holes, steep hills and ditches. Hot tarmac and smooth concrete are never fun.

In old age eyesight, hearing and smell can decline so keep to familiar routes to avoid confusion and improve relaxation. But also intersperse these with somewhere new occasionally to keep the mind ticking over.

It is also key to know your dog well and follow his lead as he is now, not what he used to do. He may become a perpetual stopper and sniffer, where before he always ran ahead. If your dog loves games in the park but has always dawdled on the way there, consider driving so he has the energy for the bit he enjoys most.

If your dog is unable to walk as far then consider whether three or four 15 minute walks would be better than a single hour. Not least because the variety of the short walks breaks up the day.

Other Games

Exercise is both physical and mental. There is no truth in the saying about not be able to teach an old dog new tricks as what your friend now lacks in stamina, he may retain in terms of alertness.

So if he loved fetch, make sure you throw lower so he doesn’t have to leap as high and do so on a surface without holes to prevent injury.

Or why not try a gentle tug of war as unlike a younger dog, he may not be so keen to assert dominance and just enjoy the interaction.

Swimming is great for older dogs if the temperature is right and you have something to help dry him off. While the body weight is supported, he can exercise his limbs gently.

5 Signs Your Older Friend Has Had Enough

The PDSA have a great checklist of how to keep your dog cool in the summer, but here are 5 signs in any weather for older dogs:


  1. Excessive panting or drooling
  2. A slowdown in walking or a reluctance to walk/play
  3. Limping or a limb weakness
  4. Coughing or hacking
  5. Bright red gums

With the exception of the last one, they’re also the symptoms often found in humans taking up too much physical exercise! But there is one key difference. Your dog will often push himself further to keep up with you as his friend and won’t tell you to stop, so look out for the signs.

But if you heed these warning signs and keep on with regular gentle exercise, you will both enjoy your time together for longer.