Walking a senior dog in the winter can be a challenge if you live where there is snow, ice, and cold weather. It can be even more challenging if your senior dog has arthritis or other issues with walking in general.
Katie is 13 1/2 now. Her arthritis and other issues are under control but she isn’t always steady on her paws, she does fall down easily, but she still wants to go for her walks every day. Mom takes her out for a minimum of two walks a day, one shorter, one longer, for a total of about sixty minutes. I wanted to share a few tips we find helpful with Katie.
1. Handling the cold
You need to know your dog. Are they warm enough with their own fur, or do they need a coat? How long can they stay out in the cold? How long can you stay out in the cold? Katie can stay out for a long time, even in subzero weather, but Mom starts to freeze because Katie walks very slow. Katie’s arthritis actually feels much better in the winter than in the humid summer weather, so we really try to get her out moving around.
2. Take it slow
Katie has one speed only, and that is slow. She can go for an hour, but it is slow and steady. When walking a senior dog any time of the year, let them set the pace for your walks.
3. Take shorter walks
Let your dog decide how far they want to walk. Some days, Katie doesn’t really want to walk more than a block, other times she wants to stay out for an hour. Just as people don’t feel 100% every day, neither do senior dogs. If you are walking through fresh snow, take shorter walks as it puts a lot of additional strain on the dog’s muscles.
4. Watch out for ice
Be very careful of the icy spots. Katie sees them herself and treads carefully. Mom often holds her collar up to help keep her from falling. Your senior dog may start going to the bathroom on the asphalt because they can grip better than on the snow and ice. Mom actually loves that because it is easier to clean up! Even when you do the best you can to help your senior dog, they will fall from time to time. Katie fell last week on our front step and got a nice gash on her nose right under her eye. We all felt terrible, but other than wrapping her in bubble wrap, there is only so much we can do to protect her.
5. Increasing the heart rate
Since Katie walks slow, and likes to keep stopping to smell things, Mom was frustrated because she wasn’t getting a real workout. By accident, Mom discovered if she walks backwards, Katie focuses on her, walks faster, and has better form. Of course, this can only be done where you are sure there isn’t any traffic to run you over, but around our area where we walk, it works great on walking trails and less busy neighborhood streets.
What about footwear? Katie has never had sensitive paws. She used to wear boots when she was out after it snowed because of the salt, but these days, the boots really make it hard for her to walk, so she no longer wears them. Katie also wears toe grips for traction on our wooden floors in the house. We are pleased to say, they stay on so well! Katie wears them 24/7, indoors and out and they hold up great. We think they even provide a bit of extra grip on icy surfaces.
Walking a senior dog in the winter can be a great activity for you and your dog. Katie loves winter, but can no longer play in the snow. Walking is a good way for her to get out in the snow a little bit and get some exercise as well. Be sure and check out our 8 Tips for a Fit Senior Dog post from last fall. I shared a few of the things we find really work well to keep Katie happy and healthy.
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Oh Emma! My sister is also 13 years old and she is very old and creaky, so I keep her exercised by pulling her bed out from under her and biting her ears to make her play with me!!!! She just loves it so much, which is why I’m so popular around here!!
It is sad to see our Katie not able to do much anymore, but she still really enjoys walking.
Groovy Goldendoodles says
Emma – Katie looks pretty good on that ice. She (and your mom) are to be commended for keeping her in such great shape! Have a wonderful weekend!
Our vet always tells us that her active lifestyle, and ideal weight are huge factors in where she is at today. She loves her walks and that makes us happy.
Whitley Westie says
Ice are da worst! I used to hate dealin wif it when I lived in Bawston, luckily we don’t get it very much down here in Texas.
Ice makes it rough for everyone, but especially the older dogs and we don’t want Katie to fall and break something.
Those are great tips! Katie is so cute!
Thank you. Mom has never had a dog this age before, so it is a big learning experience. She is a pretty happy girl, and that is what really matters.
Truly great tips here, especially about not caring if they go on sidewalks or asphalt, might not be a big issue with Katie’s size, but our first dog, a Lhasa Apso, about 18 lbs. used to have a terrible time walking on snow after it hardened up, some areas were still soft underneath and she’d sink in and have a hard time walking around.
Since our girls are small, and the treadmill is their primary exercise, mostly because of Car-Li’s (worse in the winter) arthritis, they get to use “deck potty” on very snow days. We have a large area of AstroTurf stapled down to protect the wood, and shovel the area flat so it’s safer for them to walk through, and run around on, as they get older. But definitely, if you have smaller dogs you need to shovel well, even your grass sometimes, so they have a safe place, and understand they may start going on asphalt because it’s easier to walk on, or they can’t see well anymore.
Katie must still have good vision to see ice patches. I’m wondering if it’s a testament of Katie’s bond with your mom that she focuses on her if she walks backwards, or Katie’s just waiting for your mom to fall down! ?
Good tip about clothes too, 2 of my pooches shiver in the cold now, our vet (after ruling out other medical issues), believes it’s because older dogs lose the fat that kept them insulated in their younger days. It may be a pain to put them in shoes/socks (we have to use socks because Car’s arthritis gave her a wonky elbow that boots don’t fit), but if they’re picking up their feet outside something isn’t right. Luckily the girls don’t mind sweaters either. A bath towel by your door can help get those stuck on fur snowballs off faster too!
Katie is almost deaf, but her eyesight is still very good for her age. She has a big furry coat, and it never gets snowballs. The Kuvasz has a different kind of fur from most dogs. Katie has always been very independent, but we think she likes it when Mom walks backwards because she is getting attention, and Mom can make hand signals. Since she doesn’t hear, hand signals are what she is looking for most of the time.
Golden Daily Scoop says
Great tips! Katie looks like she is holding her own quite well on that ice. Happy Friday!
Mom can tell she is really focusing on remaining upright, and for the most part she manages, but she does usually fall 1-2 times a day on her walks. It keeps her muscles in shape.
Reilly-Denny Cowspotdogs says
that is the key – watch your dog and learn the signs – sadly Reilly is the opposite of Katie and will walk no matter how much pain he is so it is up to me to watch the signs and say enough. I must admit with his feet – I am so glad not to have to deal with ice anymore
Thankfully Katie’s paws are pretty tough. She is a good winter dog, but she knows when it is too much for her.
2 Brown Dawgs says
Those are great tips. We are very careful around ice too and also deep snow. It is ok if it is fluffy but when it gets crunchy we encourage the seniors not to run in that.
Just as no human would send their gramma out to run around on ice, dogs need to be careful too. One bad fall and a broken bone and it is a big problem.
SlimDoggy (@MySlimDoggy) says
Great tips. As Jack has aged, we’ve had to adjust our walks to suit his level of comfort. We have a dog walker who takes him for his 2nd walk each day and sometimes they are gone for 30 minutes and sometimes 10 – we leave it up to Jack.
Mom always leaves home with a plan, but about half the walks have to be adapted to Katie’s wishes. Usually Katie wants to go farther, but sometimes she just wants to go a block or two.
it’s not easy sometimes… my dad sometimes had to carry Frosty back home… he always wanted to walk and refused to slow down…
Mom has carried Katie here and there, but at 75 lbs, it is not easy for Mom to do, and certainly not over a longer distance.
Those are such good tips. Now do you have one to help get your neighbors to clear their snow and ice so it’s safe to walk?
That was my biggest frustration in Ithaca.
Actually, everyone clears the snow and ice really well around here, and the streets are pretty clear within a couple days of a big storm. There are a few idiots who don’t shovel their sidewalk portion, but it isn’t a big deal. I think it is the Minnesota nice thing.
Such great tips! We get more ice than snow here and it was terrible for Lucy. She, like Katie, had arthritis and it was a real challenge to be able to take Lucy out for walks.
Yeah, you are in one of those areas where it is borderline snow/rain. Not so much fun. Katie has had a fear of ice since she was a puppy, but now with her age, she is super duper careful.
Ellen Shedlarz says
Love seeing Katie. See if such a sweetie.
She is truly a sweetheart, and we are thankful she is still doing fairly well.
My Golden Life says
These are great tips, Emma!! Now that Shadow is older, her arthritis bothers her a bit more than it used to. And she really doesn’t like the treadmill that much so it’s a good thing she still loves running after the ChuckIt! balls when I launch them for her. At least she gets a good workout that way. So far she hasn’t needed a coat on the colder days, but I imagine she will eventually need one. Callie hated wearing even the raincoat. She just wanted to go “au natural” all the time.
We don’t see Katie ever needing a coat, the problem we have is Mom freezes when it is real cold out and she walks Katie. With Bailie and me we walk super fast and stay warm, with Katie it is so slow, Mom starts to freeze up!
My Golden Life says
Sounds like your Mom needs an Eskimo coat. ?
Sparkle the PBGV says
Sweet Katie. you all take such good, loving care of her. my sister Hollee is 14, but as you know, we do not have snow. It is tough to see them age. XOXO Sparkle the PBGV
You have the humidity, though. Katie was miserable last year when we went to Florida. She didn’t want to walk at all. For her, the winter is much better. No matter, it is hard to see our fur siblings getting old. Hollee is a smaller dog too which gives her a bit of an advantage at that age.
Way to go Katie! It’s nice you get to do the out n’ abouts too pretty lady!
She loves to be out and about and she acts as if nothing has changed. She just enjoys herself.
Two French Bulldogs says
Great tips! Mom walks me only when I want to go go go
Lily (& Edward)
Bailie and I always are go, go, go!
Diane Silver (@ToDogWithLove) says
Great tips! Tell your mom to be careful walking backwards!
She actually likes it as it works out some different muscles, but she has an eye open while doing it. Actually, we all think she may have eyes in the back of her head the way we can’t sneak anything by her!
Those are some great tips! Sherman walks very slow now too, I bet him and Katie would be great walking partners. I’m going to try the walking backwards tip this weekend and keep my fingers crossed that I don’t trip 😉
It is a bit tricky, but Mom keeps looking behind her to make sure the coast is clear, and as slow speed it isn’t too bad. Katie loves boys, too bad Sherman isn’t closer we could send them out on a walk all alone, LOL!
Earl Lover says
Thank you. Senior dogs are a challenge, even more so when they are 80 lbs.
Jan K says
I love how senior dogs never give up. I remember Kobi falling over because of his weak back legs, and he would just get right back up again and keep going. I wish I’d known that walking backwards tip with him, because he was SO slow! Of course, he had that beagle nose that still worked just fine even when he was older.
Katie looks like a polar bear in that video, the way she is plodding along. It’s too cute!
Mom always feels terrible when Katie falls, but she helps her up and she keeps going like nothing happened. I think it is a human thing. She just enjoys going along.
Good job Katie! Staying in shape is the real secret to success. We know too many pups who get fat and then the arthritis kicks in and yikes! they can’t move at all and have a terrible quality of life. Not you Katie! You’re looking great Katie! We have an old cousin who moves really slowly now but she still likes to jump on the couch. But you have to cheer her on “come on, you can do it, come on, up, up, up” And then she gets up and settles in. Since she is an old lady she gets to get on the furniture. Have a great weekend Emma! your doodle friend Dash
Katie could never jump on the furniture because she is far to well behaved, and she can’t jump. She can barely get up the two steps to the front door. She is happy and enjoys walking which makes us all happy.
M. K. Clinton says
That is great that she still gets an hour of walking each day! Slow and steady wins the race, right? ☺
It’s no wonder Mom never has any free time with all of us and the time she puts into walking and running with us, but she does love it and Katie deserves her time as well.
Tenacious Little Terrier says
It’s great that Katie still gets exercise despite the weather and her age! It rarely gets super cold here and we don’t really get snow. It gets miserable when you’re all wet and walking though!
She doesn’t like the rain as she hates to be wet, but she loves the winter and the really cold weather, but Mom freezes because they have to walk so slow!
Tails Around the Ranch says
Even though Sam is technically a senior (at 10+ years), he doesn’t act or look like it. That said when he biffed it on some ice between the driveway and the alley, I was very concerned about him. Fortunately he was ok, but I’m definitely more aware now and he is too. Now if I can just keep him aware and avoid running into patio doors. 😉
Katie was pretty good still at 10, she started really having issues around 11 1/2 or so, the Rejenease really helped get her moving again. For a large dog of her age, we are pretty proud of her condition.
Tails Around the Ranch says
That’s fantastic. Good for Katie!
She tries so hard on her walks and really wants to be out there walking which is great.
Wonderful Fit Dog Friday featuring Katie! You are looking great and perfect tips for any dog surviving the winter time! Hope you and your sisters have a wonderful weekend!!! 🙂
I think it will be a good one. Started off passing my tracking certification, today nose work with friends for a couple hours, and tomorrow Mom says lots of photos. My kind of weekend. Have a good one you guys!
What great tips! We are lucky enough not to have any snow, but Bilbo does have a tough time getting around in the wet deck sometimes.
It’s probably slippery for him. Katie has trouble on regular surfaces, so winter really adds a challenge but since she enjoys it, she does power through.
Sand Spring Chesapeakes says
Bless her, what a gal! Have a great weekend.
She is pretty amazing. Katie does really well considering all her challenges.
Quinn and Carol says
Katie is so sweet! And your advice for wintertime walks with senior dogs shows how much you love her and want to share how you care for her.
There is so much to learn when dealing with an older dog, and it changes all the time too.
Barbara Rivers says
I enjoyed reading more about Katie 🙂 It’s wonderful that she still gets to go for her daily walks. Way to go!
She is one very special lady dog. Even with her issues, she is still classy.
It’s nice to see Katie still enjoys her walks.
Even though they are slow and not all that far, she loves to get out and walk. I think if you walk since you were tiny and have always walked a lot, you never lose the desire for it.
Yes, I think you’re right. And I think that getting that exercise plays an important part in keeping her as healthy as she can be.
It definitely helps keep her muscles a bit stronger.
There are a lot of great tips here. I’m finding it challenging walking Sampson with his arthritis and injury, especially in the snow. He loves the snow and it sort of makes him wild, which makes it harder to control him.
With Delilah I usually let her set the pace, but with Sampson I time his walks and regulate the speed. But we are dealing with different issues.
Have you considered adding green-lipped mussel to Katie’s food? It is supposed to be very helpful with joints.
Never heard of green lipped mussel. I will have to check it out. Her biggest issue is losing strength in her back end. It keeps “letting her down” literally, but Mom helps her up and she keeps going.