Regardless of what type or breed of dog you may choose, all dogs need regular, routine exercise. It is also important to note that while some breeds are naturally more active or energetic, no breed of dog has been bred to be a complete couch potato. This means that even the toy dogs that love to just sit on their owners laps still need to get out and go for a walk, a run in the park or play games that encourage physical exercise.
Dogs that don't receive regular, moderately intensive and sustained periods of exercise as more likely to develop a wide range of mild to serious health conditions. In some cases these conditions are much more prominent in some breeds, particularly those where there is a known link or genetic component within the breed to these health issues.
Diabetes is one potentially life-threatening disease that tends to be found more commonly in small and toy breeds, but can occur in any breed under the right conditions. Without proper, routine exercise these dogs, which are often fed incorrect types of nutrition, are more likely to develop blood sugar regulation problems through insulin imbalance in the system. Dogs fed a lot of table scraps, human foods, and canned foods are often at highest risk for developing diabetes. Without proper exercise the dogs fed these high risk foods will rapidly or gradually gain weight, which is a leading cause of diabetes in dogs as well as humans.
Obesity causes problems with the dog's mobility, heart functioning and respiration. Since obesity is a direct result of lack of physical activity and incorrect diet, it is one of the most easily corrected and managed health conditions. As with people, regular walking, playing and moving about can prevent most obesity issues or can help correct the situation when the dog begins to gain weight. Without regular walking and outdoor time the dog will not only gain weight but he or she will also begin to experience stress and strain on the body, leading to even more mobility issues. Dogs that are carrying too much weight are more likely to develop joint related conditions such as bone factures and breaks or even arthritis due to pressure on hip and leg joints.
There are definite benefits to exercise for both senior citizens and their dogs. Routine exercise keeps both fitter, healthier and more active, but it does require commitment on the part of the human in the partnership. If, for some reason, the senior is not able to routinely walk their dog due to health issues or other concerns, it is essential that time be provided for the dog to get exercise. Dog walkers, doggy day care centers or other even having a family member or friend walk the dog on these days will be important.
Dog day cares or dog spas may be an option for pampered pets that need to have some refresher courses on training or get some more intensive types of exercise and socialization. Many of these businesses will provide pick-up and drop-off of the pets, plus they may include consultations with dog behavioral and training professionals to help with any problems the owners may be experiencing. Typically these types of services will also provide in-home support with training concerns, all at an additional price. Other services that doggy day cares or dog spas may offer include hydrotherapy for older dogs with joint and muscle problems, dog bathing and grooming and even aromatherapy and massage therapy for dogs with specific types of health concerns. These all in one type of facilities are a terrific option for seniors that want to pamper their dog but don't necessarily want to travel to several different locations to get it all done.
Many senior citizens have time available to really combine training with physical activity for the dog. Senior citizen groups, dog associations and organizations or even local community groups may provide low cost or free training programs to encourage seniors and their dogs to get involved and active. Combining activity with training through classes such as obedience, agility, canine good citizenship, earthdog competitions, Flyball, herding, hunting or working dog type trails can all be ideal ways to combine training with exercise. For seniors that have experience in dog training they may also want to work with other seniors in hosting classes or setting up group activities within their own community or breed organization.
Another great way to combine training and socialization with exercise that can be intense for the dog and less stressful on the human is to start a group that meets on a schedule at a local dog off-leash park or in a park area where dogs are permitted. This is a wonderful way to combine physical activity for both the people and the pets, plus provide socialization for both. These walking groups or dog play groups will help provide mental stimulation for dogs and keep them from becoming bored or tired of the same old walking routine. Often parks will reserve off-leash areas or dog parks for groups that register with the park. These activities are usually at no cost or a very low cost to the participants and are typically rather informal as to membership and actual commitment to participation. Drop-in formats are common, making it a good mix of individuals and their pets that attend on any given day or event.
Participating in different dog walks may also be a great way for seniors and their dogs to help out in the community. Dog walks are popular to raise funds for different groups including providing funding for assistance dog and guide dog training, obtaining extra funds for shelters and rescues and even contributing towards other charities such as cancer research or mental health programs within the community. Seniors that have time to help with organization, recruiting, fundraising and advertising within the community may also find a worthwhile cause to get active and involved in. Often approaching different charities or organizations is all it takes to get both yourself and your dog involved in these very worthwhile causes.