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Keeping Senior Dogs Active – Exercises, Training & Tips

↯ Key takeaway points

  • Swimming is a low-impact exercise ideal for elderly dogs with mobility issues or joint pain.
  • Hiking should be done with caution, avoiding steep inclines, and ensuring hydration and rest for the dog.
  • Food scent games provide mental stimulation and low-intensity exercise at home using treats.
  • Socializing with other dogs at a park or at home can provide exercise and breaks for the dog.
  • Yoga and Pilates can be adapted for elderly dogs to increase muscle strength and stability. Training programs and tricks can also help keep senior dogs active.
Breeding Business is passionate about all sorts of domesticated pets. They have written dozens of articles across the web.
Licensed veterinarian and animal behaviorist with over three years of experience and a Ph.D. in Poultry Science.
Published on
Monday 30 November 2020
Last updated on
Monday 24 July 2023
keeping senior dogs active
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When you own an elderly dog, it can be difficult to know if you should provide them with exercise, let alone what kind and how much. We have found the best exercises for keeping senior dogs active and how you should respect their boundaries so as not to cause them pain, stress, or overwork them.

From enrichment based exercise to low impact sports for senior dogs who have joint pain, arthritis, or general mobility issues. Every individual deserves fun and stimulated exercise suited for them. Therefore, our comprehensive list will help you to identify the best exercise for your dog to make them an active senior dog.

Exercises for Keeping Senior Dogs Active

From swimming to yoga, there is an exercise for every elderly dog. Take a look below to find the right one for your pup.


Swimming is the ideal form of exercise for elderly dogs due to being low impact. It is the same reason that dogs with mobility issues go to hydrotherapy. Swimming is a wonderful way to help build muscle strength and help correct other mobility issues. Often, elderly dogs will suffer from mobility pain or general struggles while walking or doing other activities. By providing your dog with swimming as a form of exercise, they are likely to get all the regular benefits of exercise without the pain that walking can bring to some senior dogs.

If your dog has and form of dysplasia, arthritis, or any mobility pain or struggles, then swimming is one of the best exercises to try. Also, be sure to visit appropriate dog swimming centers and provide your dog with their own life jacket for safety. This is meant to be a fun form of exercise but there are still risks, especially for elderly dogs. However, like with every exercise, your dog can still overdo it. Follow the advice of staff at the center and if your dog appears to be struggling or panting, let them rest!


Hiking is a wonderful exercise for dogs who love to explore and sniff. However, you cannot do a full, high-incline hike with a senior dog in the same way you could do with an adult dog. You will need to find the right location, one with not too many hills or those with fewer inclines so your dog does not overwork themselves or even get joint pain during the hike. Furthermore, your dog should always be properly hydrated before, during, and after a hike. Consider bringing a dog-friendly tent, travel bed, and collapsible travel bowl so whenever your dog looks tired or thirsty, you can take a break and give them a drink.

The hike should also not be too long of a distance for them to walk. There is not a specific time to recommend as it depends on your dog’s breed, exact age, and health conditions. However, your dog should not be exhausted by the end of the walk. They can be a little tired, as exercise should provide them with an energy outlet, but if your dog is heavily panting and struggling to walk, then this is far too long. Also, be sure to check the temperature that day so they are not hiking in extreme heat which could lead to heatstroke.

Food Scent Games

A low intensity but very enriching form of exercise for your dogs is playing a food scent game. One benefit is that you can do so easily and cheaply at home. Simply buy some treats that your dogs adore, and hide them around your house. Make sure they are in locations that your dog can reach and they are permitted in, such as in their bed, under the table, or in different locations outside.

Alternatively, you can consider purchasing a snuffle mat or a puzzle toy and putting them around your house. This will get your senior dog up and moving and give them mental stimulation and enrichment. Make sure the treats are low-fat though, such as one ingredient treats. As one of the purposes of exercising your dogs is to maintain weight loss or a healthy weight. Therefore, be careful with the number of treats you can administer.


When dogs socialize, they will often chase each other and play, this in itself is a form of exercise. Taking your elderly dog to the dog park is a great form of enrichment. They can meet and play with new friends, greet their old friends, and sniff around the park. Another bonus about this form of exercise is that your dogs can take breaks whenever they need to. When a senior dog exercises too much, they can feel exhausted and unwell. When socializing, if your dog is tired they can walk away and rest. Furthermore, these places always provide water bowls. Although, if you have any concerns you should bring your own.

An alternative to a dog park visit is to invite over your dog’s friends to play with them in your house. This gives your dog a less stressful experience as there will not be too many dogs and they also have the comfort of their own home. Furthermore, if your dog feels overwhelmed at all, they can go to their bed.

senior dog activities
You can have doggy play dates at home.

Yoga for Dogs

Yoga for dogs, also known as doga, is the practice of yoga with your dog. You can both do poses alongside your dog or do a pose with their aid. A good example of this is, with a small breed of dog, doing the crab pose and encouraging them to jump and sit on your stomach. Many recommend doing yoga alongside your senior dog though, as they are not as agile as they once were. This can mean training them to mimic similar poses such as the downward dog. These will stretch your dog’s muscles and get them moving as opposed to them sleeping like normal.

This exercise may be most appropriate for dogs that can’t go on walks or play with much ferocity anymore. It gives your dog a new form of enrichment whilst helping your dog to get moving.

Dog Pilates

Canine pilates for elderly dogs is focused mainly around balance to help stability and strengthening muscles. You can choose to practice this at home or even to book a class with other dogs. Start your dog on a balance board so they are able to start a gentle process of improving their balance. You can either encourage them onto the balance board and treat them to praise them, or lift them gently onto the board and treat them when they are on the board. As they become more comfortable with the balance board, you can move them onto a balance disk. Which is more difficult to balance on.

The use of canine pilates will help your dog to strengthen their muscles, learn new tricks, and it even gives you two a fun activity to do together. Just be sure not to rush your dog into practicing and to consult your vet to see if this is a good new exercise to start.

Active Senior Dog Training

Training programs are not only useful for you, but they also enrich your dog and are great for keeping senior dogs active. The saying ‘you can’t teach an old dog new tricks’ isn’t entirely true! It may just take longer, a bit more dedication, and to have reasonably set expectations for their abilities as an elderly dog.

Even if your dog has never learned any tricks, it is not too late! From sit to lie down, you can work a little bit each day to teach your dog how to do these tricks. By keeping your dog engaged and rewarding them with treats, this is a fun and beneficial activity for you both. You can also be as advanced or energetic with your trick choices as your dog can handle. For example, say you have an older adult dog, you could consider teaching them how to spin. However, if you have a very elderly dog, you could work on teaching them how to shake their paw. This means you are not overworking a dog and pressuring them too much. Instead, you are keeping their enrichment within their abilities.

You can put together your dog’s own training plan. This may include the tricks you wish to teach them, which treats you wish to give them as praise, the length of time, and how regularly you will attempt to train them. You can make a fun tick chart to check that you are staying on track with progress too!

Tips for Keeping Senior Dogs Active

Disregarding direct exercise that you can encourage your senior dog to do, there are also day to day tips that can help your elderly dog stay active and healthy.

Go on Walks Together

It may seem obvious, but gentle walks together is a great way to exercise your senior dog. Some owners believe that because their dog is moving much less and at a slower rate, that a walk will not make much difference to their health. However, regular walks even at a gentle pace will positively influence your dog’s health. Walking smaller distances more slowly is to be expected as your dog ages. They simply can’t exercise how they use to. But that does not mean that they no longer want to walk.

In letting your dog explore when they walk, they are actually walking longer distances than if they were to walk a straight trail. Therefore, it may be worth allowing your dog off the lead if they respond well and it is a permitted area. If not, extendable leads are a wonderful solution to this problem.

Explore New Places

In exploring new places, your dog will want to walk and move around to check out everything. Whether this be a new dog park or a woodland journey, a new adventure holds many benefits. For starters, all these new smells will encourage your dog to move around everywhere. The will follow different trails and uncover new smells, all of which encourage even your elderly dog to move around the area and walk longer distances than they may in a known area.

Other benefits include the encouragement for an elderly dog to actually want to explore. In a known area your dog may not be bothered to move and, even with encouragement, they may refuse to walk. By taking your dog to a new area, they are much more likely to want to explore, and this want makes all the difference in keeping your senior dog active.

new places for senior dogs
Take your dog to new places.

Meet New People (and Dogs)

Socialization is important for dogs of any age, and it can actually help your elderly dog to keep active. When dogs meet new people and dogs, they are usually excited. They will bound up to their new friend, or in the case of very elderly dogs, gently plod. Either way, new friends are often a form of encouragement for older dogs. You’ll often find elderly dogs acting like puppies once more when with a friend, especially new ones.

New friends often elicit a more physical response of positivity. When one dog recognizes another, they may be excited for a while but soon settle into comfort with their friend. New owners and dogs encourage your dog to explore and bond with a new owner or dog. Often, this can mean physically greeting them, playing, and even chasing them (more so if their new friend is a dog of course!).

Work on New Tricks

Teaching your dog new tricks offers all kinds of benefits for them. From keeping your senior dog active to strengthening the bond between you two, this is one of the best tips we can offer. Decide upon a trick you wish to teach your dog and an amount of time to do so daily. The time you spend doing this with your dog also acts as mental enrichment because they are learning a new association. Positive reinforcement when the trick is displayed will allow your dog to associate the pleasure of receiving a dog trick with performing that trick.

You can teach your elderly dog tricks such as spin, roll, or even paw to encourage them to do a bit more physical exercise than normal. This combined with the fun of an activity with their owner and treats, they will want to learn tricks over and over.

Double Your Vet Visits

Regular vet visits become more important as your dog becomes older because they are more vulnerable. Vets are able to explain if anything is wrong with your dog or if there are any specific changes you can make to help your dog.

For example, you may believe your dog has less energy because they are old, when they actually have weaker muscles from inactivity. This can be aided with hydrotherapy, all of which vets can analyze in a vet visit.

Common Health Issues in Senior Dogs

Generally, dogs are considered senior or elderly when they reach the age of seven. During and even before this age, you will notice that your dog’s health will begin to deteriorate and some signs of health issues may arise.

Here are some health problems common to senior dogs:

Bone and Joint Problems

Bone degeneration and joint pain are some of the most common issues in elderly dogs. This is the reason why some dogs become more inactive over time and slow to move even in their usual activities.

To help dogs with these health issues, you can give them supplements that contain omega-3 fatty acids. You can also ask your vet about the best diet for your dog to improve their bone and joint health.


Although cancer can come at any age, senior dogs can become more prone to it. Lumps and tumors can easily spread on an elderly dog since they can have a weaker immune system. To make sure that your dog is free from tumor cells, always bring them to a vet for a regular check-up.

Cognitive Dysfunction

Some dogs experience disorientation and confusion as they age. They may even forget about their usual routine and change their behavior all of a sudden. Moreover, as your dog ages, there may be more frequent toileting accidents and incontinence.

Eye and Ear Problems

Some dogs are more prone to vision problems and deafness compared to others. Some senior dogs can even experience partial or total blindness or deafness as they age. Their genetic makeup is a big factor when it comes to these health issues. Nevertheless, you can prevent the early onset of these health issues by taking necessary precautions and keeping your dog as healthy as possible.

Organ Issues

Lastly, it is very common for elderly dogs to experience organ issues and failure as they age. Some of them may experience heart diseases, liver problems, and kidney problems. These issues may be prevented by ensuring that you provide the necessary nutritional requirements to your dogs as they grow. Visiting your vet for a regular check-up will also help.

Keeping Senior Dogs Active – FAQs

For further information about keeping senior dogs active, find the four most searched questions online about the topic.

What can I give my older dog for more energy?

The best thing you can give your older dog is a diet tailored to their age and needs. Dogs need alterations as they age. Older dogs often need less energy provisions due to being less mobile and therefore require less fat, carbohydrates, and calories. A regular diet for an adult dog can quickly make them put on weight which makes affects their mobility even more so.

How often should you walk a senior dog?

You should walk a senior dog as often as they want to. Always offer once a day. Their walks may need to be shorted with less inclines that they are older, but many senior dogs still adore and need their daily walk. Don’t count these guys out yet, many older dogs still find time to run through the dog park and play with others, even just for a little while.

Is it ok to walk a senior dog?

It is not only okay, but recommended for a happy dog. Of course, there are exceptions, such as dogs with mobility issues and pain. Generally though, elderly dogs love their walks as much as any dog, they just need an altered walk. Provide them with flatter surfaces and shorter walks. Or consider taking your dog to an enclosed area where they can be let off a lead. This way they can run as much or as little as they like.

Why does my senior dog sleep so much?

Older dogs sleep more because they do not have the same desire or energy levels to stay awake and interact. General activities tire them much more easily than they would an adult dog. However, if you find your elderly dog only sleeping, be careful. Senior dogs are more prone to mobility issues and illness which can lead to the symptoms of lethargy. A quick vet visit can tell you if your worries are justified or not.

is it ok to walk a senior dog
Walk your dog to keep it healthy and happy.

Keeping your senior dog active is just as important as keeping your puppy and adult dog active. Our old friends need exercise to stay healthy, even though their needs are changed. Make sure you don’t force your dog to exercise if they seem very reluctant. Instead, consult your vet for advice.

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