Hill Climbers

Next month Sampson will be ten years old.  By all rights he is a Senior Dog.  According to Pet’s Web MD he is 66 years old in human years, while Pedigree’s Age Calculator says he is 75.  I’m going with Pet’s Web MD. :-)  Delilah’s age (she is 1 1/2 dog years behind Sampson) is calculated by Pet’s Web MD as 55, while Pedigree ages her at 61.  Delilah is also considered to be a Senior Dog.  While Senior dogs still need daily exercise, there comes a certain age where exercise modifications need to be made.

And we apparently are there.

According to Sampson’s Physical Therapist, when you are exercising with your pet and begin to see signs of tiredness it’s too late.  You should stop exercising your pet BEFORE they become tired.  Since Sampson’s ACL surgery, I have really become more aware of signs of tiredness.  While he seems to pant the minute we walk out the door on leash, there comes a certain point where his face sort of wrinkles up and I’ve come to realize, that is his tired face.

So we have a Senior Dog, who has had ACL surgery.  Our surgeon has deemed Sampson a “slow healer” as he is not where most dogs are this far into the recovery process.

We did an 8 week course of 2x per week of physical therapy.  During these sessions the majority of the therapy included cold laser treatments and the underwater treadmill.  When those initial sessions were finished, Sampson still wasn’t using his leg enough for us to get exercises at home, so we signed up for another 10 sessions of underwater treadmill.  These sessions are spaced out to one per week.

I’m not going to whine about the cost of these sessions because I pay the money gladly to help Sampson feel better, I will just say this, there comes a point where I can’t pick anymore money off the tree.

So what can we do?

Well Sampson needs to build up the muscles in his legs and one of the best ways to do this (besides the underwater treadmill, which has a price tag larger than some houses) is to climb hills.

We score on this since we live about 3/4 up a hill.  When we walk, at some point we are going up a hill.  To increase the amount of time Sampson uses his legs walking up hill, I do something I’m calling, “Hill Climbers.”  What I do is shorten the distance of our actual walk, BUT two to three times during our walk when I find myself on a decent pitch I sing out, “Hill Climbers.”  At which time, I turn us around and head back down the hill for about 30 paces.

We are at a good pitch right now so we'll turn around.

We are at a good pitch right now so we’ll turn around.

When I reach the 30th or 40th step, I again sing out, “Hill Climbers” and we turn around and head back up the same stretch of hill.

Making the turn and heading downhill again.

Making the turn and heading downhill again.

Our walking pace is very slow, so to help myself feel like I’m really exercising, when I start back up that hill I suck in my gut and walk on my toes for those 30 to 40 steps.

You can't tell, but I am sucking it in!

You can’t tell, but I am sucking it in!

Truthfully I have to say, I think Sampson is walking better.  He still compensates for his leg, but in general I feel like he is using it more, putting more weight on it and walking with less and less of a limp.

I think our hill climbers are helping.

Just because our dogs are older or not physical capable of traditional exercise, doesn’t mean we should stop working with them, it simply means we need to find a form of exercise that works for them.

So how about you?  Have you made any types of modifications to your dogs exercise routine as they’ve aged? Any tips on how to help him build up his muscles?

Today we are joining SlimDoggy, Peggy’s Pet Place and To Dog With Love for FitDog Friday.

Badge courtesy of SlimDoggy

Badge courtesy of SlimDoggy


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  1. says

    With Callie and her cruciate disease, I walk her around the yard on leash for about 5 minutes at a time, several times a day. OR, if she’s off the DL, I’ll let her off the leash to jog with Shadow. One thing about Callie — she knows when it’s time to stop and wait for me, and she won’t budge except to come back in the house.

  2. says

    Peeps allows me to run around like an idiot for only small amounts of time and plenty of rests stops as being a senior she says I have to pace myself. Long gone are the four hour stints in the park, big sigh but I know it makes sense. Have a fabulous Friday.
    Best wishes Molly

  3. says

    I love that you cry out hill climbers and walk up the hill again. It is so something I would do. I constantly chatter to my two as I walk along and people look at me like I’m nuts, which we then discuss when said person has moved out of ear shot!!

    I can’t offer and pearls of wisdom but now I am thinking of you guys and willing you on from here. Oh wait I have found a pearl of wisdom – walking up hills tones your butt!

  4. says

    Bailie is now running with Mom, I run sometimes, but Katie is now really working to build some strength in her back legs. She is doing doggy squats two times a day at ten reps, she is doing the short part of our stairs five times up and down a day. Right now we think it is helping. Hills would be good for her too but we don’t have many around here. Her arthritis has gotten worse and we are trying whatever we can to help her feel better. Good for Sampson…keep up the work, it will payoff.

  5. says

    That was a great post. I am very happy to hear that Sampson is doing a wee bit better.
    I absolutely did not know that you were suppose to stop exercising them before they got tired! By the end of our walks, my huskies always look a bit tired. SO I suppose I should end them a bit sooner then? I never knew that! Thanks for sharing! The hill climbing is a great idea!!! And I applaud you for walking on your tippy toes while sucking it in! I never think of that stuff!!! Thanks for the informative post!
    ღ husky hugz ღ frum our pack at Love is being owned by a husky!

  6. says

    Great tips and your hill climbers are great strength exercises. We do things like that with Jack and Maggie all the time. Their back legs are potentially weak for dogs because they tend to front load so we really focus on strengthening them. I’m sorry that Sampson has slowed down. It’s a tough adjustment to make for them and for you. Thanks for joining the Hop and sharing your tip.

  7. says

    When my senior dog tore his ACL, I walked him in our driveway a lot. At first he wouldn’t put weight on the affected leg, and I had to make him back up to begin to use it. I did a lot of therapy with him at home, since we didn’t have access to doggy PT. It worked, though. Months later, he was running using all 4 legs as if there was never a problem.

    –Wags (and purrs) from Life with Dogs and Cats

  8. says

    I’m glad to hear Sampson is making improvements, even if they aren’t happening as quickly as you’d like them to. Those hill workouts sound tough! Barley and I aren’t to the senior dog phase yet, but we sometimes have to find alternate exercise routines because it’s either too cold or too hot for her. One of our favorites is the wobble board because it helps strengthen lots of different muscle groups–would it be possible to try one for Sampson?

  9. says

    Love the idea of Hill Climbers. Great take on a type of interval training… which we talk about in our post today! We also do this strengthening exercise: lift up one paw at a time so your dog has to balance on three legs. Then, pick up the front left and the back right paw so your dog is balancing on two legs. Repeat on the other side. Tip: fold the paws under… it keeps your dog from putting weight on your hand that’s holding the paw(s). Happy FitDog Friday!

  10. says

    I’m glad to hear your hill climbers are working and you are seeing signs of improvement. Toby is nearing 11 and Leah is 14 1/2. Both of them have been slowing down, surprisingly at nearly the same rate. Neither one of them can make it a mile without showing signs of major fatigue, and like you, I’ve stopped walking them that far, wanting them to enjoy the walk, not kill them! I also stopped walking them on consecutive days, giving their senior muscles a chance to rest in between walks. That seems to help as well.

  11. says

    Damien, our 14 year old dog, definitely has a reduced exercise regime. We walk with him out the the road and back a couple of times a day and he goes to work with my wife. She also takes him out a couple of times. With him it is all about short periods of activity with rest in between. Great post, thanks for sharing.

  12. says

    I make modifications for Mom! Before her knee replacement surgery, I had to walk slowly and carefully with her. And I had to watch out for her cane, so I didn’t trip her and she didn’t smack me. Now we walk faster and farther, but every so often, I stop for a street nap so she doesn’t exert herself.

    Love and licks,

  13. says

    I used to do this with Tynan! We lived in the middle of a hill but the parks/nice walking areas were both along the plateau. I knew we both needed more hill strength so we would just do the same two block stretch again and again. Tynan would get so excited to turn around when I’d cue “let’s do it again!” After a couple of months of this, more than a few neighbors had asked me what I was doing so we must have looked loony… but it was fun and we were both fit!

  14. says

    I’m so glad you’ve found an at-home exercise to help!

    I feel you on the money guilt. I was so relieved when we were able to quit going to the veterinary behaviorist, which was costing me a fortune.

  15. says

    I love how you’ve modified your exercise with Sampson, and made it fun with your singing out at the same time!
    Since Sheba’s arthritis diagnosis I also try to take her on a route that includes a hill, to help strengthen her back legs (the arthritis is in her front), and when we can now we go to the river so she can have a little swim or at least walk in the river to add some resistance.
    So far I haven’t seen many signs of tiredness from her, but I guess that is something I should start watching more carefully for.

  16. says

    I think you came up with an excellent solution. It is too bad you don’t also have access to a place you could wade in some water because I am sure that would help with the strengthening.

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