Earlier this year I completed a program through the University of Tennessee earning my Certified Canine Fitness Trainer, (CCFT) credentials. Fitness, nutrition, and overall longevity are areas I’m most passionate about so I was excited to have this opportunity. The CCFT curriculum gave me a better overall understanding of canine fitness. Pairing that with my animal science background, I now have the ability to complete my canine health puzzle.
I know first hand how much fitness plays a part in agility, obedience, and injury prevention. Of course, at some point, all of our active performance dogs must face retirement. In fact, I do believe in retirement and a good fitness program can increase a senior dogs quality of life. As a matter of fact, my dearly loved Oakley has retired from competition but never from an active daily routine. And since a lady never reveals her age, I’ll keep that between her and I.
There is a special place in my heart for our family’s senior dogs so retirement has always been bittersweet.
When is the right time for retirement, is it age or signs of aging?
Some signs that our dogs are getting older may be subtle and we should be aware of those signs. Gaining weight, losing interest in play, sleeping more, less stamina on walks, slower to stand after lying down for long periods, etc. If your dog has led an active life over the years then maintaining a moderate level of activity in their golden years should be a priority. If your dog has led a rather sedentary adult life we cannot expect them to adopt an advanced physical condition program now that they are seniors. Mobility is still very important. Increased mobility slows down the effects of the aging process while maintaining physical activity and decreasing muscle atrophy (use it or lose it is real). A CCFT senior fitness program can create a good quality of life for our companions that have been by our sides for so long.
While aging is inevitable, there are strategic fitness plans we can implement to keep our seniors healthy and most importantly mobile. In general, dogs bare 60% of their body weight on their front limbs, over time, this weight distribution creates their rear limbs to become weaker. Focusing on exercises that strengthen the core and rear is where I like to put my center of attention when it comes to building a fitness plan for seniors. It’s critical to monitor signs of overexertion, pain, and soreness with senior dogs. Therefore, know that proper form and posture is more important than the number of repetitions completed. Remember old dogs can learn new tricks which inevitably help slow the progression of cognitive decline.
A few things to remember when it comes to exercising our seniors.
1. If weight gain is an issue, use their kibble as treats to avoid adding empty calories.
2. Slow is the new fast, don’t overdo it. Watch for signs of fatigue and ensure ample rest to recover is provided.
3. Seek out the help of a professional certified canine fitness trainer to ensure you are safely working your senior dog.
Remember that starting new training sessions can bring joy to our old friends, just as they have enriched ours over the years.
If you’re interested in obtaining a fitness plan for your dog you can email me directly.
Ashley Escobar CCFT, CTDI, HCFC, NCM