It might seem like your senior dog will always be the puppy he once was in your eyes, but in reality, your older dog often won’t be able to tackle life with the same energy he did when he was younger.
However, this doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy activities with him anymore. On the contrary, as your dog ages, it’s important to keep him involved in your active lifestyle; you may just need to be more intentional about helping him have a great time.
6 Tips to Help Your Senior Dog Stay Active
As time goes on, you may need to adjust your lifestyle to support your aging dog. Keeping your dog active as he ages will make both of you happier, but you do need to play it safe. There are a few adjustments you can make to keep them going strong.
1. Utilize a Dog Carrier Backpack
A dog carrier backpack can be useful for toting your dog around on hikes, backpacking trips, and even a simple weekend outing to the basketball court. A front-facing carrier is the way to go – it provides you the comfort of carrying your dog on your back, while allowing them to experience all the scenery ahead. This also prevents nausea and motion sickness.
Although intended mostly for small to medium sized dogs, some can accommodate dogs up to 80 lbs. These kinds of carriers keep your dog included in all the rituals you’ve built up together—even when his tired paws can’t keep up with your feet anymore.
2. Consider a Dog Wheelchair
When dogs age and lose mobility, a dog wheelchair enables them to still get around on their own. You can help your dog retain some of his independence and expend excess energy through moderate activity.
Typically available in 4-wheel support or hind-leg-only models, a canine wheelchair can be a good way to ease the strain on your dog’s aging system while still encouraging him to get out and about. Naturally, there’s an adjustment period, but it’s typically only a matter of time until pets adapt to their new wheels.
3. Take Your Dog for a Swim
Instead of taking your dog on walking adventures, plan to engage in more water-based activities. Hydrotherapy is recommended for dogs with joint problems as it helps to alleviate the stress put on joints, providing a painless and fun exercising experience for your aging pup.
Swimming and treading water force your dog to use his muscles in different ways than on land because he’s no longer fighting gravity. This makes going for a quick swim an excellent way to stimulate muscles and cross-train in a manner that will support his time on land without completely fatiguing his body.
Your dog will also naturally stretch out his legs in different ways than he would while running, which will help keep his joints flexible. This mobility will help him age with grace.
4. Avoid Weekend Warrior Syndrome
“Weekend Warrior” syndrome describes an exercise regimen wherein your dog is mostly sedentary Monday through Friday, and then is over-exercised to compensate on Saturday and Sunday. While this might seem to make logical sense, living beings aren’t equations that can be averaged out over time.
This schedule can do more harm than good, as your dog’s muscles are alternately weakening and becoming over-stressed. Consistent, moderate daily exercise is best. That might mean getting up fifteen minutes earlier before work to take a quick walk.
5. Challenge Your Dog’s Mind
Keep your dog’s mind sharp. As your dog ages, his thoughts will begin to slow down. The longer you’re able to keep his brain active and alert, the more he’ll be able to enjoy his life as a venerable old pup!
For starters, forget the old adage that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. It might take longer and require some patience, but keeping your dog on a learning curve will give both of you a fun activity to work towards. You can try naming his toys and asking him to bring them to you, and work your way up towards playing active games of hide-and-seek together.
6. Feed Your Dog a Healthy Diet
An active lifestyle starts with a healthy diet for your senior dog. Ensure that you’re feeding your dog a good mix of nutrients, whether it be through kibble or individual meats, fats, and fiber. This will do wonders for your dog’s temperament, ability to sleep peacefully, and natural friendliness towards strangers and other dogs.
As your dog ages, his weight may fluctuate due to the slowing of his metabolism. If you notice any drastic changes to your dog’s weight or a general disinterest in food, take your dog to the vet to get him checked out.
Your dog has one best friend — you! They may not be your only partner for travel and adventures, but you’re theirs. So, instead of succumbing to your dog’s increasingly restricted mobility by staying home more, integrate them into new adventures that are more conducive to their new limitations.
With the help of mobility tools, continued learning, and new activities, your aging pet can remain a travel partner – all the while taking a load off his hard-working paws.