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Backpacking with a dog

How to Keep the Adventures Going with Your Senior Dog

Few of us care to admit when we start to notice signs of aging in our senior dogs. I know I denied the inevitability in Sora as she became older (pro tip: blue merle dogs really hide the gray!)

However, if your dog is healthy, in good shape, and still has plenty of energy, there is absolutely no reason to put a stop to the adventures. We continued our outdoor excursions with Sora almost up until the day she died. Yes, she was slower and our adventures a bit more tame, but we promised we’d never leave her behind.

And you don’t have to leave your dog behind either. Here are our favorite adventure-packed activities that you can enjoy with your senior dog.

Exercise is Still Important for Your Senior Dog

All too often, pet owners put their older dogs out to pasture, thinking they are incapable of strenuous exercise. All dogs age differently. Some fatigue more quickly during physical activity, while others can keep going almost at the same rate as they had in their younger years. The important key is to adjust the activity to suit their abilities.

While older pets do naturally slow down, an inactive lifestyle only increases their risk of health issues, including:

  • Weight loss
  • Obesity
  • Joint Pain
  • Heart Disease
  • Arthritis

Keeping them as active as they allow increases their quality of life and maintains their overall pet health. As with humans, staying active keeps the muscles and ligaments strong, the blood flowing, and fights depression.

So, let’s get outside with our old pups, shall we?

Paddle Boarding

For Sora’s last weekend, we treated her to a low-key paddle boarding adventure in the Mediterranean in Spain. If your dog can sit comfortably and enjoy the ride, then it is the perfect activity for a senior dog, especially those who have health issues that don’t permit a lot of exercise.

Some dogs (like my Sora) take to the paddle board easily, others (like Laila and Riia) not so much. It takes practice and confidence building. My friend Maria of @supwithpup has a great book about how to get your dog on a paddleboard.

If you do paddle board with your dog, don’t go during the hottest time of the day. Senior pets can be especially sensitive to hot temperatures. The general rule for any dog is that if it’s over 85 degrees, keep them indoors.

For tips on keeping your dog cool in hot weather, see our recommendations here.

Car Camping

Whether you have a van or a car, camping is certainly an activity your senior dog can still enjoy well into their older years of age. Pick a spot near a trail your dog can handle, depending on their current fitness level. If hiking is too much and they love the water, camp near a lake or a river. Maybe your dog just wants to chill, so just sling up the hammock and enjoy the snuggle time.

Because camping is so dog-friendly in most places around the world, it’s unlikely that you will have a difficult time finding a good site near something you can both enjoy together.

Beach vacations are perfect for senior dogs

Take a Beach Vacation

What dog doesn’t love the beach? Depending on the beach and time of year, it is one of the few places that most dogs can run around freely. It’s also the perfect place for less active older dogs to enjoy as they can regulate their own activity levels.

We tend to hit the beach early in the morning or in the evening. Again, this is to avoid the hot daytime temperatures, but to also increase the chance of off leash fun with fewer people around.

Go for a Cycle Tour

You know this one had to make the list! Sora accompanied us on our bike tour when she was 10 and 11 and man did she life the life! She got to rest easy like a queen in her Burley Tail Wagon while we Dave did all the hard work lugging her across two continents.

If you’ve never biked with a dog before, this post will help you get started. We have also written a comprehensive guide to picking the best dog bike trailer to suit your needs.

Start small if you’re new to touring. Pick a nearby campground you can reach in an easy weekend ride from your home, if possible. This is a great way to test the waters for both you and your dog. If you enjoy it, then extend the adventures!

If you happen to live in Oregon, we can highly recommend trying one of the Scenic Bikeways. They follow well-labeled, quiet roads with plenty of resources and amenities along the way.

Plan a Road Trip

Grab a map and plan a road trip centered entirely around fun activities you can do with your dog. The possibilities are endless, really, but here are a few ideas to spark the imagination:

  • Visit some of the shops on my friend Tori’s list featuring 70 dog-friendly boutique shops across the US
  • If, like us, you’re always in search of the best craft beer, locate dog-friendly breweries to visit with your pup. We’ve got you covered in Bend, Seattle, and Portland.
  • Go wine tasting! I had no idea how dog-friendly wineries could be until we went on a trip with Oregon Wine Country in the Willamette Valley. Wineries love dogs and welcome them indoors, which makes it a perfect year-round activity.
  • Hit up your favorite state parks and spend a few days learning about each one.

A Few Supplement and Therapeutic Recommendations for Active Senior Dogs

Often, veterinarians will prescribe NSAIDs to dogs with arthritis, however there are there are several natural ways to help keep your pooch comfortable and active in their senior years without the use of drugs. Many of the items listed below are the same as what I gave Sora for her dog cancer diet.

Of course, if your dog does suffer from medical problems, always clear any adventures, exercise, and supplements with your veterinary medical professional beforehand.

  • HempMY Pet CBD Oil. We first tried this when Sora was going through her last round of cancer treatments. I am a huge fan of this brand because the team behind the HempMY Pet is incredibly dedicated and knowledgeable about producing an exceptional product. You can learn more in my review here.
  • Natural joint supplements, like turmeric, kelp, chondroitin, glucosamine, and bone broth will help manage any arthritis that currently exists and hopefully delay the onset of what may come.
  • Omega 3 fatty acids from wild salmon oil are known to be very therapeutic for dogs with arthritis, thanks to their anti-inflammatory properties. We love this one from Grizzly Omega Health
  • Acupuncture is becoming more and more common for pets and for good reason. For older dogs or those with injuries, acupuncture helps increase the blood flow, reduces inflammation, and stimulates a natural pain relief in the body.
  • Massage is something you can do at home and makes for wonderful bonding time between you and your dog. A daily dog massage not only feels like heaven to your pup, but it also helps stimulate blood flow, reduces anxiety, and increases lymphatic fluid movement, strengthens the immune system, and reduce pain and swelling.

What ways do you and your senior dog continue to adventure together?

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Jen Sotolongo

Jen is the Chief Storyteller and Photographer for the Long Haul Trekkers. Born with the travel bug, she has lived in Spain, Chile, and New Zealand. When she’s not galavanting around the world by bicycle, she is running long distances in the woods, exploring nature, or whipping up delicious vegan meals. She is always planning her next adventure.

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