If your dog has a disability such as IVDD or arthritis, you know that high impact exercise can be dangerous and/or painful for your canine companion.
You have probably already discussed what the no-nos are with your veterinarian and that is a great start. This article will explore some yes-yes exercise options that will help your pup stay fit even if high impact play is off the table.
Of course, it goes without saying that each individual dog has specific needs and abilities – a consult with your vet before trying something new is always a good idea.
Disabled dogs have daily exercise needs even if they are not allowed to jump or swim. It is possible to help them stay fit and respect their physical limitations. We hope these ideas will get you thinking about new avenues for exercise for your special needs dog.
Most people are surprised how easy it can be to teach a dog to safely use a treadmill. Of course, if you have the basics of clicker training down, you already know it will be a piece of cake. If you are new to training, you can still take on this challenge.
Treadmills are often easy to find for a bargain at thrift stores if you are on a tight budget. You do not need a treadmill specially designed for dogs. All you really need is a treadmill with variable speed so that you can adjust to your dog’s natural walking gate.
You can find the basics of training your dog to use the treadmill here. It bears repeating that you should use plenty of positive reinforcement while your buddy gets adjusted to this piece of equipment. In addition, NEVER attach your little guy to the treadmill or leave them unattended while they are having their work out.
This is a two in one game. You get to add some low impact exercise to your dog’s routine while practicing a vital skill: teaching your dog to come when called. In addition, you get to select the course your companion will travel so that you can avoid high impact activities like stairs if your vet has recommended that.
This simple game does require at least two people, although more can certainly join in. Start with each person having a small bag of high-value food rewards chopped into small pieces. Take turns calling the pooch, rewarding with some food and praise every time they successfully go to the right person.
Start in a small circle and extend the distance as your little guy gets the hang of it! Make sure to keep it fun and positive so your dog will play this game with as much gusto as they can muster.
This game involves teaching your pup how to find a toy on command in exchange for a reward. It starts simple enough. Ask your dog to sit and toss the toy a short distance away. Their natural inclination will be to go get it, at which point you can make an exciting sound and offer a treat reward in exchange for them bringing you the toy.
Once your canine understands that they will get a treat when they find the toy and bring it to you, you can slowly make this game more challenging.
Over time, by adding one room at a time, you can really make this a house-wide search game which will add plenty of low impact exercise to the daily routine without even leaving the house!
If you are lucky enough to have a little shorty like a Dachshund or other small breed dog, they may love to use a tunnel. It is a fun way to add steps to their day without a lot of additional impact.
Most tunnels are made of fabric and can be squeezed and expanded for short and long runs. Start with it short and lure your dog through with a treat. After a few times, switch it up to a hand gesture, giving them the treat after they have gone through the tunnel.
Once your dog is reliably going through after they get the hand gesture, raise the challenge with a longer tunnel, and start working from a long distance away. Pretty soon you will have a rainy-day activity perfect for your pup!
In recent years there has been an explosion in commercial dog toys designed to challenge your canine to think and act in order to release treats from a toy. These kinds of toys can engage your pup in hours of low impact play. You don’t even have to add food to their diet since most of these toys will work just fine with kibble.
If you are working on a budget, most of these types of toys can be reproduced using commonly found household items and a little ingenuity. Before you toss out that next empty plastic bottle, try cutting a few holes in it just larger than your dog’s kibble, fill, and let the games begin!
We hope this article gives you a few more tricks up your sleeve to think of creative ways to help your disabled or senior dog have fun and get moving while avoiding risky high-impact activities!
Mat Coulton has worked with dogs for just under a decade and is the founder of WileyPup, a doggy lover’s website that provides great tips and advice for pet parents everywhere.