How to Help Your Senior Dog with Exercise

How to Help Your Senior Dog with Exercise

As your dog gets older, you may notice him slowing down and becoming less active. He may not be able to keep up on such long walks, or perhaps he is sleeping more throughout the day. It’s true that as your dog enters his senior years, some activities he once enjoyed might be too much for him to handle, but that doesn’t mean he shouldn’t get any exercise at all!

Exercising older dogs is an important part of their daily routine and care to ensure they remain healthy, but it can sometimes be tricky to know how much is enough – or too much.

Here, we talk about ways to get your older doggie active, exercise tips and tricks, and how to know when it’s time to relax.

Dr Carol Doyle Veterinarian

Carol Doyle, BSc VN DVM

Carol DoyIe is a small pet veterinarian in a practice in Ashbourne, Co. Meath and is the human companion to her cats, Nala and Donal, two horses - Indie and Bella, and her dog Phoebe.

As a guest blogger and advisor, Carol shares her professional advice with pet owners, answering many of the questions that she gets asked regularly in-clinic.

Exercises for Older Dogs

There are plenty of exercises and activities that your senior dog will enjoy; just remember to go at their pace and stop if they appear to be struggling or are tired.


The best activity for any dog, taking your older dog out on walks is a great way for him to keep fit and mobile. Take them on a shorter route and be sure to stop for plenty of rests. A foldable bowl you can take with you such as the M-PETS On The Road Foldable Bowl is also a good idea so your dog is keeping hydrated during his walks. Sometimes, two short, separate 10 minute walks in the day is better than one, long, 20 minute walk.


Some dogs still have that fun-loving puppy quality and will still love to play games with you. Even as they get older, you can still play their favourite games, like fetch or tug-of-war. Just remember to keep the games gentle and low, so they don’t try and jump or twist for the toys, which could potentially injure them.

senior dog waiting to go on exercise


Does your dog love splashing about in the water? Swimming is a great exercise as it doesn’t put as much strain on sore joints. It can be a very therapeutic exercise for older dogs as the water makes a dog’s body buoyant, allowing for ease of movement. It can also decrease pain by strengthening cartilage, joints and muscles, and improving circulation. Why not throw in some swimming toys for extra fun like the M-PETS Floating Splash Frisbees?

Always dry them off as soon as they come out of any water so they don’t get cold and only let them swim if it is safe. Always watch your dog when he is swimming and be prepared to take action if you notice them struggling.


They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, which is in fact, false! Training your older dog new commands is a great way to keep their mind active. As with all other activities, keep it short, know when your dog is finished, and be patient-they can learn new tricks, but it may take them a bit longer than when they were a puppy!

When To Stop

It’s important to know when your older dog needs a break. They won’t have as much energy as they once did, and may not be able to keep up with longer activities. If you notice your dog is struggling on his walks or is getting tired quicker, make sure to stop whatever activity he is doing and to take a break.

If starting a new activity, always remember to take it slow and go gradually. Monitor how long your dog is active for, and whether or not they’re exhibiting any signs of discomfort afterwards. Once you’ve tried a few sessions, you’ll have a much better understanding of how much activity they can handle, and you can begin to build that up over time.

General Tips and Advice

  • Discuss with your vet if you are making any drastic changes to your senior dog’s routine.
  • Keep exercise gentle, regular, and gradual.
  • Stick to a shorter walking route with lots of breaks
  • Keep an eye on the weather and temperatures; older dogs tend to not do as well in colder conditions. Invest in a warm winter coat if taking him out during the cold.
  • Go at your dog’s pace and don’t rush them
  • Try and stick to a familiar area when out on walks; as dogs get older, they lose their sense of smell or sight, and may be more comfortable in an area they know.
  • If it’s raining or too cold outside, try out some indoor activities your dog would enjoy. It’s important he gets some physical activity every day to keep him healthy.
dog with red coastal collar outside

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