How Old is Too Old?
One of the most common questions we’re asked is how old a dog should be when it starts to run. We wrote a brief post on that topic here (although it probably needs revisiting and I’ll do that in the near future), and although I haven’t looked through every post, I’m pretty sure that’s the post that has the most comments and questions on it.
We’re enjoying both ends of the age spectrum at the moment, with our new youngsters Morag and Rose just starting their running journey. On the other hand our seniors Sinner and Guinness are slowing right down. Sinner no longer runs at all, he is getting a bit doddery on his legs and he is happy to settle for an easy stroll around the block. Guinness loves to run but his distances are kept to around 4-5km because he starts to lag, sniff and become a trip hazard.
So how old is too old to run?
Well, that depends on the dog. Guinness will be 13 in March and he’s still very very keen to run, so it would be a shame not to take him out. However I don’t ask him to do any more than he’s comfortable with, because then it wouldn’t be fun for him. When we run together, it’s just for him, and I do my training runs at other times.
One thing to keep in mind when your dog is getting older is that they may be developing arthritis. This can make running uncomfortable for them. The mind is keen but the body lets them down a little and if they do too much they can pull up quite lame. There are a couple of ways to manage this. One is weight control. Another is joint support products like 4Cyte. A third is to use medication to manage the discomfort and your vet is the best person to advise you on this.
If your dog is getting on in years, you can still run with him but be guided by how much he wants to do, and how much he can do. There really isn’t an age limit, after all age is just a number.
It feels a bit like the end of an era. Guinness has been with me for so much of my running life and now I direct my training towards running with young Morag and Rose. He’s still my running buddy and he will be for as long as he wants to be.
You may remember my beautiful Leonberger, Cleah, who started the Pt5k program in 2011 and worked up to dog-friendly 5k fun runs. (I am a slow runner, so speed was never an issue.) We continued our 1 to 3 mile runs, and added agility to the mix a couple of years later. We earned some nice titles! In April 2018, when she was nearing her 10th birthday, she was diagnosed with cancer. She lived for eight more months in fairly good shape until the final three weeks. She left us in December. Until September, we continued going for our 2-3 mile jogs in the woods, with a swim in the pond. So, for me, for this dog, the answer was 10.5, which took her almost to the end of her life. A 100-pound dog, who ran much of the time on pavement. It was, in many ways, a good run for Cleah. Now, I’m working Pto5k into her daughter’s fitness regimen. I think it all really depends on the dog.
Hi Mara, we remember Cleah, I’m so sorry to hear she’s no longer with us. She was a wonderful running buddy. We’re finding that 14 year old Sinner isn’t really up for anything other than a stroll, but Guinness at 12 is still keen. However his mind thinks his body can do more than it can, and he tends to run for a few hundred meters before he finds that walking is a bit easier on him. Would love to see a picture of Cleah’s daughter 🙂
My dog has pretty advanced heart failure. You wouldnt know it from how she acts. She can still take multiple hour long walks, and likes to frollic through tall grasses. I was thinking about starting this running program with her to see if maybe it can strengthen her heart a bit and keep her with us longer. I feel that if she can go for 2 hour long walks multiple times a week she should be able to handle this program of running. Do you have any info or insight on this? I know to consult with my vet about stuff like this, and we r in regular contact. Just wondering if you have amy success stories about this?
Mitch, I don’t have any stories at all of dogs running with advanced heart failure and to be honest, it’s not something I’d recommend. When running, as you’d be aware, there is increased demand for oxygen and increased heart rate and a failing heart may not be able to cope with that. I’d certainly encourage you to speak to your own vet who knows your dog personally but I personally would enjoy the long walks with your girl because her heart is managing with that. All the best.