4 Alternatives To Walking A Senior Dog
October 23, 2019 | 3 min read
Updated October 23, 2019
By Sarah Milton
Published: October 23, 2019
Updated: October 10, 2022
Summary: Is your old dog having trouble walking? Do you want to take them out and about on adventures with you but are worried about their willingness to do so? In this blog, we learn 4 different alternative exercises you can do instead of walking a senior dog and things to consider before taking them off on an adventure...
As humans, it's in our nature to crave new experiences, new scenery, and new adventures... And, it's no different for our canine counterparts! Trying new things, and enjoying experiences that are out of the ordinary – they’re what make life fun and exciting! But as our pups grow up and become older, their willingness to go to unknown places can diminish and their bodies might struggle to do as much as their younger selves.
So, maybe you don’t want to take them on a week, or a month-long trip around the country, but there are plenty of adventures you can take them on for the day or for a weekend. It’s healthy for the mind and body to go to new places and try new exercises, so take the leap, and go have some fun with your aging pal...
Things To Consider
Before you go skydiving out of an airplane with your dog strapped to your back, or flying through some white-water rapids with Fido in tow, there are things to consider when you’re choosing where to go, and what to do for your adventure.
Is it senior dog friendly?
You’d hope that everywhere would welcome dogs with open arms! After all, they’re lovely creatures. But some resorts, restaurants, and other public spaces don’t allow dogs. There are various reasons why this could be, so it's best to check before you arrive. If there's no clear information on their website, call up and confirm - it could save you from a very disheartening rejection!
What’s the local nature like for older dogs?
Whether you’re going somewhere nearby or traveling to another state, there are chances that the wildlife and nature will differ to home. Ticks thrive in areas with a lot of woodlands, and mites and leeches might attack in marshy terrain. Think about what dangers could be hiding in the grass, and buy the appropriate protection and supplies for your pet, such as sprays or repellents.
Check the weather forecast, too! If it’s extra hot, you’ll need to ensure you have enough water, for you and your senior dog! Dehydration and overheating can be extremely dangerous. Or, if it’s too cold, your senior dog might struggle to enjoy the adventure, because cold weather exasperates the pain of joint conditions. We will discuss the issue of joint-related conditions later on.
Is it suitable for your senior dog’s ability?
Senior dogs, like humans, may experience deterioration in their health and fitness. It’s natural! But, as pet parents, it can be hard to remember that when we feel able. As puppies, they run and jump around whenever they get the opportunity. As they get older, it’s difficult to act that way.
Consider your pal’s physical ability before choosing where to go. If you’re staying somewhere, how many stairs will they need to climb? What fun activity are you going to choose for them – does it involve jumping onto something?
Does your senior dog get anxious?
Some dogs are more nervous than others, and in fact, as dogs get older, they’re more likely to feel anxious. New surroundings can cause distress, because of the new smells, potential noises, and unknown people. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t introduce your doggo to new places!
Before taking them far, far away, take them somewhere in your neighborhood for a little day trip. Encourage them to sniff around and experience new smells. Did you know that a dog’s sense of smell is 10,000 to 100,000 stronger than a human’s?! Exploring new places, especially with their noses, exercises their minds, and gives them confidence!
Dog Having Trouble Walking? Here's 4 Activities To Try
Now for the fun part! There is a myriad of activities you can do with your four-legged friend, even when they’re in their later years. Here are just a few for you to try together:
Paddling & Swimming
Swimming is a great activity for any dog – but particularly senior dogs. It’s a much lower impact form of exercise because it doesn’t put pressure on the joints that come under strain as they age. Swimming can strengthen those joints, and the muscles, which does wonders for their overall health!
If you want to take your pup for a dip somewhere, look for places with lakes or dog-friendly pools. If your dog has never been swimming before, they might not want to go into water, so shallow paddling pools that allow dogs will be a great alternative.
Go For A Stroll
As we’ve mentioned, older dogs are likely to experience joint-related discomfort, and it’s natural for them to move slower than they used to. But that doesn’t mean you can’t go for walks with them!
Walking on hard surfaces can be really tough on joints and ligaments, so if you’re planning a little nature walks trip, choose places with soil and grass – or even better, sandy beaches! This means when walking a senior dog, it will be less uncomfortable for them and easier on their joints.
Avoiding steep inclines on walks will be better for older dogs who are less able to walk long distances. Or, if you’re really concerned about your dog’s ability to walk far, you can purchase strollers and carriers for you to push or carry, depending on the size of your dog… Just going on the stroll gives them the opportunity to see and smell their surroundings, and this will help to keep their mind active!
Take A Boat Trip
Not all dogs love getting in the water, but they might like being near it. Being on the water can be a soothing experience for your senior dog, so think about taking them on a cruise! You can go on short cruises on lakes and rivers, or go for longer cruises as a vacation. But of course, check that it allows pets on board.
For a more active boat trip, take your older pal on a canoe or kayak with you, or get some wind in their fur on a speedboat! They're bound to enjoy the fresh air and splashing water. Stand-up paddle boarding (SUP boarding) is also an option if you think your pup is up for it, but be sensitive to their abilities and comfort.
Teach Them New Tricks
You CAN teach an old dog new tricks, and in fact, it can be fun, exciting, and a bonding experience for both of you. Just because senior dogs may find it harder to move around, you can teach them tricks that require more mental stimulation.
Puzzle toys and learning new tricks they can do at home will be more than just a mental workout – they’ll be fun! Nose work can build up the confidence of dogs that have become more timid over the years and gives them something to do.
Walking A Senior Dog
Everyone deserves to go on an adventure every once in a while. Just because your dog is getting older, it doesn’t mean they’re not the same puppy they once were! Finding a fun activity for you to do together will grow the beautiful bond you already have, and give them the confidence to live a more active life! Bring some fun into their lives, and you’ll see the joy it brings! A happy dog makes for a happy owner!
Author Clark, Stephanie "Canine Osteoarthritis and Treatments: A Review" Research Gate, Jul. 2015 https://www.researchgate.net/publication/281442944_Canine_Osteoarthritis_and_Treatments_A_Review
Comes from a family of animal lovers and got to grow up with a menagerie of pets! I believe owning a pet is a privilege and I love researching and creating informative, fun content for fellow pet owners to help their furry friends have the happiest and healthiest lives. When I’m not writing blogs, you can find me sharing a walk with my pet dachshund or at a yoga class!