Exercises for Elderly Dogs with Weak Back Legs

Whether your elderly dog has weak back legs due to arthritis or surgery, exercises can be useful in improving movement and reducing pain. They’re also fun ways to bond!

These exercises will help get your dog moving better by introducing the basics of joint movement, balance and strength. Doing just 10 minutes daily will help keep away stiffness and keep those joints nice and lubricated.

Sit to Stand

Stand in front of your pup and ask him to sit. Then back up a few steps and ask him to come towards you. Repeat 5 times.

Hind leg Stands

Ask your dog to step up his front legs on a step or stairs, with his back legs on the ground. Leg him hang out there with his back legs supporting his weight.

If that’s too easy, progress to holding his front paws up for balance, allowing him to support all his weight with his back legs. See how long he can stay in that position. Do a little “dance” with him by moving him forward and back.

If even that is too easy, use a treat to ask him to stand on his hind legs, without any support from you. This uses his legs and core to stay upright.

Weight shifting drills

Use a treat in front of your dog to make him shift his weight from left to right, while standing. His head will probably follow the treat, but so will his body weight. This works on his balance as well as strengthening his back legs.

A more advanced version of this is manually lifting a leg off the ground while your dog is in a standing position. This forces him to shift his weight to stay balanced.

Stair Climbs

Walk your dog up and down a flight of stairs, watching that he isn’t hopping or jumping; each step should be controlled. If you notice any hopping, this could mean it’s painful, in which case you should stop, and move to more gentler exercises like the ones in this blog post, including passive range of motion exercises that you can perform with him while he’s lying down.

Can senior dogs with weak back legs still enjoy a good quality of life?

Absolutely! Your senior dog is probably slower than he once was, and might be restricted from doing certain activities that he once enjoyed, but he’ll still enjoy a slower pace. With the help of consistent physical therapy at home, you can strengthen his legs for as long as possible. If you’re needing a bit more help with arthritis or join related pain, see my article Help! My Old Dog’s Back Legs are Collapsing for more tips.

About the Author

Tina C

Founder of The WOOF Line, Tina cared for her rescue dogs Jen and Flapper to the ripe ages of 16 and 18, respectively. Dogged persistence led her to corners of the internet where fellow senior pet owners congregate, revealing troves of valuable experience and advice. Tina hopes that by gathering this information, pet parents will better understand the options available to them, and find solutions to thrive with their furry friends for years to come. Read our story here.

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