A lot of dog parents mistakenly think that a healthy adult Labrador Retriever in his senior years doesn't need exercise anymore. While some people are afraid that their aging dogs might be injured in the process, others believe that their golden-aged pets may not be as interested in games and similar physical activities as they used to.
Sure, your much older pooch may not be as active and agile compared to when he was just a Labrador puppy or a juvenile, but completely doing away with exercise sessions in his list of activities can result in behavior problems and health issues sooner or later. Contrary to popular belief, though, pulling the whole thing off won't take too much effort!
This is the reason why we've put together this blog post to not just walk you through the best exercise routines for your senior dog, but also get you in on some very important bits and pieces to make the whole thing as fun and enjoyable for the both of you. How about we start things off right now?
Why a Senior Dog Like Your Aging Labrador Retriever Needs Regular Exercise
The Labrador Retriever is one of the dog breeds that have exercise hardwired in their system. It's not uncommon to see a Labrador puppy being very energetic and playful at such a young age. These canine companions can really play fetch or ace an obedience training session, too!
And whether you have a chocolate, black, or yellow Lab, this attribute will keep on until he becomes a much older dog. See, integrating a structured exercise plan into your pet's schedule has a direct connection with his physical and mental health.
Besides helping your pet get rid of pent-up energy, which can lead to anxiety and high levels of stress, your senior dog also needs regular physical activity to maintain ideal mobility, support good physiological function, keep obesity at bay, and many more health benefits. Keeping your golden-aged Labrador fit can help add more years to his life as well.
However, there are crucial things to keep in mind when giving old dogs a workout session. It doesn't mean that the more exercise you give your aging dog, the better. It's even possible that your workout sessions are already becoming counterproductive. We will touch on these pointers as we go along.
The Benefits of Regular Exercise in Senior Dogs
As we emphasized earlier, you need to exercise your Labrador senior dog because it has a direct link with his overall health. Regardless if you've got a male or female dog, or perhaps a yellow or black Lab, your pet could be in for some wellness concerns sooner or later if regular exercise isn't on your checklist.
Below are some of the best exercise benefits that your much older dog will have when you give him a regular workout routine. These benefits are not just entirely focused on good health, but also help improve a senior Labrador's overall quality of life:
It helps keep gastrointestinal function ideal.
Engaging your senior dog in physical activity like playing tug-of-war or having a walk around the neighborhood helps improve the circulation of blood in the digestive system. It not only helps support regular bowel movement but promotes a more efficient metabolism in the process. Most dogs often gain weight unexpectedly due to metabolic issues.
It prevents sore joints and muscles.
Regular dog exercise helps maintain the strength and flexibility of muscles, while also promoting the integrity of the joints. When you exercise your Labrador, it stimulates his body to replenish the amounts of synovial fluids that act as joint lubrication. Many dogs become prone to arthritis as well as chronic stiffness and pain due to significantly reduced levels of synovial fluid in the joints.
It provides adequate mental stimulation.
A lot of people erroneously believe that the exercise needs of older dogs are only connected with their physical health. It affects a senior dog's health mentally, too. Providing your pet with sufficient mental stimulation helps deal with the extra energy they may have. Akin to all dog breeds, not taking care of your dog's mental health can lead to sudden changes in mood and behavior problems, not to mention being at risk of anxiety issues.
It helps curb weight problems in older dogs.
Apart from improving your aging pet's overall metabolic rate, the physical activity involved in an exercise routine also helps burn excess calories. The body tends to store these extra calories as fat, which results in weight gain and may even lead to obesity in other dogs. Engaging your dog in simple physical activities like playing fetch and hide and seek can already contribute a lot when it comes to dealing with excess calories.
It gets the heart and lungs working moderately (but not too much).
Giving your aging Labrador Retriever enough exercise on a regular basis helps keep his lungs and heart in tiptop shape. You can think of the whole thing as a form of dog training where the vital organs can also get in on the action—and can become stronger while at it.
We'd just like to emphasize that Labrador "exercise" should mean an activity that will give your senior pooch the right amount of physical and mental stimulation. Additionally, it should also be something that your dog enjoys.
It is crucial to keep in mind that there is a fine line between great exercise for your senior lab and too much exercise. Overdoing the whole thing can also set off the manifestation of hereditary conditions like elbow and hip dysplasia. So how much exercise does an aging Lab really need? We'll go over this more in detail when we move on to the next part of our discussion.
How Much Exercise Does a Senior Labrador Retriever Require?
While it is important that we give our senior dogs a regular workout session, we also have to see to it that we're giving them enough exercise in the process. On one hand, there is a possibility that your exercise routine may not be adequate to help your white, yellow, chocolate, or black Lab deal with pent-up energy and keep his muscles moving as much as they should.
Alternatively, there is also the likelihood that you may be giving your much older dog too much exercise, which will already make your pet prone to overfatigue and injury instead of health benefits. If we're being honest, many dogs are unknowingly subjected to this problem by their pet parents.
We used the term "dogs" without qualifying if it is a Labrador puppy, a young dog (juvenile), or a much older pooch since over-exercise is a problem that can affect canine companions regardless of age, sex, and breed. Even the best exercises done inappropriately can potentially trigger adverse effects on your aging dog's health before you know it.
So how much exercise should you give an aging Lab (and senior dogs in general)?
We recommend that you exercise your Labrador senior for at least thirty (30) minutes each day. This isn't a universal rule, though. Always keep in mind that aging Labrador Retrievers are individually unique and your pet may need less or more exercise compared to other dogs.
Moreover, you also have to consider the activities that your senior dog likes. It is possible that your adult Labrador will prefer taking long walks around the neighborhood instead of choosing to play fetch. Some senior Labrador Retrievers also like to spend their time playing with puzzle toys and being engaged in indoor exercises.
Signs that you may be giving your senior pet excessive exercise
There are key indicators of over-exercise that you need to keep in mind. And they aren't that tricky to spot, too. Below you will find the most common signs that your senior dog is already having too much exercise:
Your aging dog pants excessively.
Your much older pet does not display or only shows very minimal tail wagging.
Your senior Lab shows disinterest in his usually favorite activities.
Your golden-aged pet exhibits changes in his eating and drinking habits.
This is not an exclusive list. Compared to other dogs, your pet may display other types of behavior when he is subjected to excessive exercise. Remember to immediately adjust your aging Lab's exercise routine when you notice these signs or else, they will cause health issues when you least expect them.
Potential Health Risks Your Pet is Prone To Without a Senior Labrador Exercise Plan
Not having an appropriate exercise routine for your senior dog can have a lot of significant health impacts. This doesn't just apply to Labrador Retrievers but to other dogs as well. The following are the great dog risks that your pet is going to be prone to without a proper workout plan:
Weakened overall immune system health
Dogs that do not get their ideal exercise needs—whether it's a short walk or to play fetch—tend to have weaker immune systems since the circulation of macrophages, lymphocytes, and antibodies tends to slow down in their bodies. This can lead to serious consequences sooner or later in senior dogs.
However, it is also important to take note of how much exercise to give your aging Lab. It doesn't matter if you have the best exercises for senior dogs on your checklist. If they're too intense (like getting it on during really hot weather) or too long, they could already be counterproductive and will cause harm to your pet.
Muscle atrophy and joint issues
Not giving your much older Labrador Retriever an exercise routine can result in a prolonged state of inactivity, which sets off a loss in muscle mass. Although it's not uncommon for aging dogs to lose a bit of muscle mass here and there, prolonged inactivity can make it really difficult for your pet's body to get back to normal. This issue often begins in the back legs.
As for joint problems, the lack of exercise in senior dogs can inhibit the replenishment of synovial fluid. This fluid acts as a natural lubricant and when its levels get really low, it can trigger unexpected pain and discomfort, not to mention joint degeneration and cartilage problems.
Obesity and heart disease
Engaging your senior dog in a Labrador exercise plan not only helps get rid of pent-up energy but also keeps him moving like he should, such as in the case of having a daily walk. Prolonged periods of inactivity will only make his body store a lot of excess fat, making him prone to obesity.
Moreover, this excess amount of fat can end up in his arteries, which can clog up circulation and may even lead to cardiovascular blockage or even heart failure. Remember, even playing fetch with your aging pet for a few minutes can help prevent this from happening.
Anxiety and very high stress levels
As we've highlighted earlier, senior Labrador exercise is not just about physical movement. It also involves providing your much older pet with the mental stimulation he needs. Not doing so can make your pet feel extremely worried and neglected, which can progress to anxiety before you know it.
Whether or not your golden-aged Lab is crate-trained or not, or prefers chew toys over playing fetch, making it a point to engage him in an appropriate workout regimen each day will help support his mental health. Unnecessary biting, aggression, excessive vocalization as well as deliberate urination and defecation in random places are just some of the issues that you'll have to deal with when this happens.
Disrupted quality of life
Anxiety, increased susceptibility to illness and possible heart failure are just some of the negative consequences of not giving your aging dog the proper exercise he needs. This doesn't just put a strain on your pet's quality of life, but on yours as well. And if you're anything like most dog parents, chances are you only want to give your canine companion the best quality of life, right?
Indicators That Your Senior Labrador Retriever Is Not Getting Enough Exercise (Or Getting Too Much Of It)
While this may sound surprising, it is possible that your aging Lab still isn't getting the right exercise benefits even if you have a regular workout plan. Below you will find the most common indicators that you should reconsider the activities you should engage your pet in as well as how much exercise to give him:
He acts restless after your exercise routine.
Picture this: you've just had your daily walk in the local woods with your senior dog and he still acts frisky when you get home. When this happens, it is either your workout time is just too short or the intensity of the activity does not suit your pet's energy level.
It is crucial to keep in mind that not giving your dog an opportunity to get rid of pent-up energy will just lead to negative habits and behavior problems. Just to emphasize, don't compare his activities with other dogs since each one of them has a different exercise preference.
He is reluctant to engage in a workout session.
If your senior dog seems disinterested in getting in on the action, two possibilities may be in play: it is either the games and activities you engage in are redundant or your workout plan is too intense for his liking.
When you notice that this is taking place, make sure you add a new routine to your exercise place. And unlike what a lot of people mistakenly believe, it's not that tricky at all. Here are a few simple ideas you can use as inspiration:
Improve activities that he likes (like make him enjoy walking more by visiting new places)
Exercising with other dogs might help
Integrate new elements in your activities (like walking in a straight line and then in zig zags)
Use puzzles and chew toys to make things more interesting
He is noticeably having mobility issues (plus a few more problems).
When engaging your senior dog in Labrador exercise, it is crucial to be mindful of all factors like the type of activity, the length, and intensity, as well as one factor many pet parents seem to overlook: the time and weather.
Making your daily walk too vigorous may not be that helpful to your pet's aging bones, joints, and muscles, which can reduce his overall mobility a lot. On the other hand, engaging him in too little mental stimulation won't cut it.
And no matter what you do, never go on a hike with your much older pet during hot weather since it significantly increases his risk of heat stroke. It doesn't matter if the delay is going to be a few minutes or a few hours. This doesn't change the fact that heat stroke can be fatal.
He is either gaining or losing too much weight.
Whether you're looking to make your aging dog shed off excess pounds or buff him up a bit, a very important red flag to keep in mind is that this process should be gradual. There is certainly something wrong if your dog is losing or gaining weight at an accelerated pace. It is either you slow things down or properly amp up his exercise plan.
Now we've got that covered, let's go over the really crucial things to take note of when giving much older dogs exercise. These tips are not just for aging Labrador Retrievers, but are also applicable to pooches belonging to other breeds:
#1. Engage your pet in low-impact workouts.
For starters, a senior dog has to have a much more relaxed exercise plan compared to his younger counterparts. Remember that you're only maintaining your pet's ideal state of health when you're working out and not training for some agility competition.
The most straightforward low-impact exercises you can go for include walking, swimming, playing tug-of-war (but take it easy on the intensity and length), as well as hide and seek. Interestingly, you can also include other dogs in these activities since they are enjoyable for pooches of all ages.
#2. Use puzzle toys to give him mental exercise.
Senior Labs are still really into mental stimulation. This is the biggest reason why you should always have puzzle toys, food dispensers with puzzle mechanisms, and toys that need to be moved in a certain way to release treats.
Moreover, although we immediately think about puzzle toys and similar items when we encounter these words, it also involves engaging your much older dog in activities that use his sense of smell and intuition. One such activity is to hide a piece of cloth sprayed with a bit of your cologne or perfume and you'll be amazed with your aging pet's smelling skills.
#3. A daily walk does a lot of wonders.
Having a daily walk with your senior Labrador Retriever is perhaps the most straightforward dog exercise you can have in your checklist. Besides having complete control of the length and intensity of your walk, you can also add other elements (like mentally stimulating factors) to it as you go along.
One quick tip, though. Make it a point not to use the same routes every day. This is to give your aging dog new scents and new views to enjoy. This keeps your walking routine exciting and interesting for your senior pooch.
#4. Set up an age-appropriate indoor obstacle or agility course.
Don't underestimate your senior Lab's energy and stamina! You'll be surprised to know that he can easily negotiate an indoor obstacle or agility course without a hitch. Just remember to make your agility or obstacle course age-appropriate for your much older pooch so he won't be at risk of injury while at it.
#5. Introduce a new routine regularly to keep him engaged.
We'd just like to reiterate the importance of introducing fresh elements to your aging pet's workout plan. Being very intelligent dogs, your pooch will tend to think that your exercise plan is boring sooner or later if you just do the same things over and over.
This is as simple as choosing a new route every other day for your walk, taking advantage of his need for mental stimulation, mixing up the toys and activities that you do as well as maintaining your dog's level of interest and enjoyment in the process.
A Natural Product That Helps Maintain Ideal Joint Wellness
Before we wrap things up, we'd just like to remind you that ensuring your senior Labrador Retriever's safety and protection also plays a key role when it comes to realizing an ideal workout routine for him. Zumalka's JOINT & HIP SUPPORT - ADVANCED is designed to promote more complete joint support for your dog's body.
Apart from maintaining ideal mobility and flexibility, JOINT & HIP SUPPORT - ADVANCED also helps nourish the tendons, ligaments, and joints so they won't be prone to pain, inflammation, soreness, and other health concerns. Your senior Lab will definitely appreciate these benefits, too. Naturally with you and your pet, every step of the way!
HOMEOPATH & CO-FOUNDER OF ZUMALKA
Suzie Cyrenne has dedicated more than 20 years of her life in making and improving natural animal health solutions in the global setting.
Being the co-founder of Zumalka, Suzie is a forerunner in enhancing the lives of pets through natural and homeopathic options using the knowledge she has gained from the Classical Homeopathy School in Quebec.
Besides immersing herself in books, personal development and visiting new places, Suzie also enjoys keeping herself in tiptop shape by snowboarding and taking daily hikes with her husband and Zumalka co-founder, Matt Lessard, and their Golden-Doodle, Westin.