Senior Dog Exercise | 5 Fun Ideas

Senior dog exercise is one of those elements we need to balance. More is not simply more, it may be too much especially with your senior dog or for any animals with the telltale sign of early arthritis. Here are 5 senior dog exercise ideas you can start using today.

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5 senior dog exercise ideas

  1. Shorter, slower walks
  2. Swimming!
  3. Add variety to your walk
  4. Enrichment and brain stimulating games
  5. Try teaching a new trick

Longer, slower walks

The key with senior dog exercise is to take your time, savor the moment, and allow your dog to go at its own pace rather than being driven by your own need for exercise. Dogs are highly intuitive and will listen to their bodies for the most part.

This is often overlooked in their need to please their loving parents and simply to keep up! So take your time and smell the flowers together. Leave them to sniff the fence posts alone however.


If you can find a safe, clean place to swim this is pure gold for a senior dog. Swimming puts much less stress on the body than running. It exercises all of your dog’s muscles, is a great workout for heart and lungs and assuming you are not reading this from the Caribbean, the cold water works wonders on aching joints. It can contribute to reducing inflammation and joint pain.


On these slower walks, it’s great to vary the landscapes you visit, preferably on grass or soft ground rather than constant tarmac and concrete which can take its toll on those elderly joints.

By varying the walks you allow room for greater stimulus and for your dog to employ one of its superpowers, smell. This stimulates some neural activity to keep those brain cells active!

Enrichment games

Ditch the ball thrower and weave in some enrichment instead. A great idea for this is hide and seek in the garden. Take a nice smelly tennis ball with a treat slipped inside. Show it to your expectant dog then head off into the garden or woods to hide it.

Learn more about enrichment for dogs

Then the fun begins. Release the hound! I cannot tell you how much my dog Kismet loves this. For her, it’s a mission to find the treasure and she cruises the garden tail wagging, nose twitching, eyes darting left and right.

Importantly she slows down and investigates every nook and cranny. She loves this more than simply retrieving a ball and it’s putting significantly less strain on her body whilst putting significantly more thought into her exercise.

Teach a new trick

You can teach an old dog new tricks. Join our Facebook group and head over to see some of the dog training tricks available. Not all of them are aimed at the younger pup. You can keep those brains ticking over and their bodies active with some great new skills to their arsenal, be it ringing a bell for a treat or rolling over and keeping you all amused.

Extra senior dog exercise considerations

So how can you adapt exercise to suit your senior dog and why do you need to do it?

Lost in the moment of those blissful endless walks with our dogs, it sometimes easy to overlook that they age much quicker than we do. With the best intention of keeping them fit and agile we often focus on exercise as that all essential youth extension tool.

That often-repeated mantra that we must walk every day and the more the better right? Well, not quite so much.

Hormetic Stressor

Firstly you need to consider that exercise is a “Hormetic Stressor”. Thats something that creates a “stress” on the body to promote positive growth. We all need them in our life. Think of someone going to the gym to build muscles. They lift weights which break down the muscle fibres. They then grow back stronger or “fitter” depending on how they exercise.

However this is the key. This “Hormetic stressor” only works if your dog has sufficient energy and resources to recover from it. Otherwise, it is simply a “catabolic stressor”, one that creates more muscle breakdown and stress that it grows back.

No more is this more important than with the senior dog. Senior dogs may have problems absorbing and assimilating protein so their ability to rebuild that cartilage, tendons, joints may be impaired.

Also if they are a mite overweight or suffering from arthritis, or both, they may not be moving optimally which creates more wear and tear on their skeletal structure.

The golden rule is first be present and observe. If your dog is struggling, panting excessively, or awaking the next day with a limping gait, their current exercise may be simply too much for them.

We hope you enjoyed this article, please feel at liberty to share, comment and add your ideas into our growing passionate pet community.

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