Training and Behavior

From Old to Bold: Help your senior dog feel younger with muscle-building, brain-stimulating exercises.

By By M. Christine Zink, D.V.M., Ph.D. |

When we think of aged dogs, we picture gray faces and wise expressions, but aging is an internal process, too. Senior dogs experience decreased metabolism, and they lose muscle mass and recover more slowly from injuries. Arthritis that might have developed from the wear-and-tear of living becomes more painful. Regular, targeted therapeutic exercise is beneficial to aging dogs, and will help keep them looking younger than their true age.

Out-of-shape oldster
Three-legged standing helps strengthen your senior dog’s limb and core muscles. Gently lift one leg to elbow or knee height so the dog stands on three legs, and hold the leg up until your dog becomes antsy and tries to put the foot down. Do three repetitions with each leg.

Pole walk. Encourage your dog to walk over eight PVC poles (1-inch diameter) laid parallel to each other on the ground 12 inches apart, resting on slightly crushed empty soda cans (which will prevent the poles from moving). Walk your dog slowly to increase its awareness of foot placement. Once your dog completes this exercise without touching the poles, have it walk forward then backward, or sideways with either the front or rear feet in the poles. When your dog is a superstar pole walker, place the poles on a small hill and have your dog repeat the exercises.

Fighting fit senior
Cross-legged standing. Maintain your fit dog’s core muscle mass with cross-legged standing. Hold up two diagonal legs (e.g., right front and left hind) at the same time, gently flexing them under the dog’s body until the dog tries to put its feet down. When your dog can easily do three 15-second repetitions on each side, try this exercise on a bed.

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