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Best Senior Dog Exercises

Black Labrador Retriever laying in grass under a tree.

Exercise is one of the most important factors of a senior dog’s routine. However, it can be difficult to determine how much activity is enough for him/her. This is because appropriate levels of exercise change drastically with age. Therefore, you should first visit your vet to get an account of your pup’s fitness level. Once you have done that, you are all set to learn some senior dog exercises for your canine friend.

Best Senior Dog Exercises

Swimming, tug-of-war, and walks are excellent activities to keep your senior dogs fit. However, they do require some additional exercises to stay strong and flexible in old age. Let’s discuss some of the best senior dog exercises that can be performed in the comfort of your home.

Basic Stand

Chocolate labrador retriever on a boat dock next to a lake

Many owners might find it surprising but standing still is not very easy for older canines. Pups suffering from arthritis or other joint pains can find it hard to hold their position. In this basic balance exercise (plank 101), you will command your pooch to stand still and stay there for 10 seconds.

If your dog completes this task successfully, you can start increasing the duration gradually. Try to take it to about 30 seconds in each repetition. You can do 2-3 repetitions of this exercise, every day.

Platform Plank

Golden retriever standing on a platform

If your senior dog is comfortably managing the basic plank, you can shift to this exercise. This will keep him/her interested and improve the balance of your canine companion. Ask your dog to stand on top of a platform that should not be more than 2-4 inches high.

Make sure that the platform you are using is big enough for your pooch to stand on it. An exercise bench can be an ideal platform for this purpose. However, the surface of the bench should be non-slippery to prevent your dog from falling over and getting injured. Just like plank 101, this exercise should be started with 10 seconds (and increased to 30 seconds) and 2-3 repetitions.     

Cookie Stretches

Hand holding out a heart shaped treat to a golden  retriever

If your pooch is comfortable in standing, it’s time to check the mobility. In this exercise, the dog will have to chase a treat around his body without moving. Grab a dog treat and lure your canine friend towards his shoulder. Then, move the treat towards his hip and wait for him to sniff it. When he does that, shift the treat between his front legs and he should follow your hand’s movement.

During this entire repetition, your dog’s feet shouldn’t move. However, if your senior pup is struggling to reach the treat without moving, don’t force them to stretch too much. You can repeat this exercise 1-2 times a day.

Figure 8

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel standing between two weeve poles.

This exercise can be a little challenging for most senior dogs. Therefore, it’s highly recommended to stay calm and be patient with your pooch. Also, you should only perform it once every day as you don’t want to force your dog.

Start by placing two vertical objects, like trash cans, at some distance (about the length of your dog). If you own a small breed, your legs can be used for this purpose. Now, use a dog treat to lure your pet around these objects to make a figure 8. Make sure that your pooch is interested and focused on you. If not, he/she won’t be able to perform this exercise.

This is an excellent activity to mobilize the muscles around the spine of your dog. Similarly, it will enhance his/her overall balance. 

Back Extension

Jack Russell Terrier with front paws up on the base of a tree

Most canines like to keep their weight on the front legs. This makes their rear limbs and back weak. The primary goal of this exercise is to increase the strength of these body parts of your older pup.

Use a treat to lure your dog to get into a standing position and put their front legs on a platform (like an exercise bench). Make sure that the head and neck of your pup are in a straight line with his back. Let the dog hold this pose for about 10 seconds.

You may feed them some treats to keep them interested in staying there. However, they must maintain their position and shouldn’t fall over to get the food. Try to increase the repetition time for this exercise to up to 30 seconds.

Power Posing

Yellow lab standing in front of a woman waiting for instructions.

This exercise tones several body parts of your senior dog including shoulders, spine, and hips. Start by commanding your pooch to stand up. Once he is in position, tell him to sit and then lie down. Immediately repeat both these commands once before asking your dog to stand up. Then, tell him to lie down and stand up again. All these movements will complete the repetition.

NOTE: If your dog is not familiar with these commands, you can use a treat to lure him.

Up and Down Platform

Brown dog laying down on green yoga mat

If your dog is comfortable with back extension, this exercise can be a lot of fun for them. It can also be used to strengthen the dogs that are having problems climbing stairs. Make your pooch step onto a platform that shouldn’t be higher than your dog’s ankle (2-4 inches high). Therefore, the exact height of the platform is dependent on your dog’s size.

Once the dog’s front feet are on the platform, try to bring them down one by one. Repeat this exercise 2-3 times every day to improve the muscular strength of your senior dog. The number of repetitions can also be increased to 5 if your pup is comfortable with it.

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