How to keep your dog in shape at any age

Make sure your pet is in peak condition with our vet-approved guide to helping them look and feel their best.

One of the keys to helping your dog stay healthy and happy is combining regular exercise with a balanced diet. Add in a good grooming routine, plenty of companionship and mental stimulation, and regular vet check-ups, and your dog will be feeling in tip-top shape. 

Exercise for dogs

Most dogs love nothing more than bouncing around the park – and making sure your dog gets enough exercise is a vital part of good pet ownership. Bear in mind that different breeds need different amounts of exercise. The owner of a Border Collie will need to incorporate a lot more action into their daily routine than the owner of a Pug!

Mental and physical activity are vital for your dog’s wellbeing, whatever their breed. Mix walks (including plenty of stops for sniffing!) with short training sessions and games to keep your dog entertained and engaged.

You might consider signing up for a canine sport, too. Before doing so, make sure your dog is a healthy weight, and has had the all-clear from your vet. Popular activities include:

  • Agility
  • Flyball
  • Working trials
  • Heel to music
  • Competitive obedience

Eating right

When feeding your dog, it’s important to choose a healthy diet for their age, breed and lifestyle. A survey by the Pet Food Manufacturer’s Association (PFMA) found that vets consider more than half (51%) of dogs to be overweight or obese. Yet over two-thirds (68%) of owners think their pet is exactly the right size. As owners, we’re becoming accustomed to seeing overweight dogs, and now many of us class this body shape as ‘normal’.

If your dog is a healthy weight, you should:

  • Be able to feel their ribs, spine and hip bones easily
  • See a visible waist and abdominal tuck
  • Feel a thin layer of fat across your dog’s body

Unfortunately, obesity can lead to a range of health conditions that can impact your dog’s quality of life, including:

  • Diabetes
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Respiratory distress
  • Certain types of cancer

If your dog seems overweight, speak to your vet about putting them on a diet. They may want to screen for underlying health conditions first, and they can also help you calculate healthy daily rations to ensure slow and steady weight loss.

Good grooming for dogs

Keep your dog’s coat and skin healthy with regular grooming sessions. They’re great for spotting external parasites such as fleas and ticks, as well as helping you bond. How often you do this will depend on breed – long-haired or prone-to-tangling breeds like Cockapoos may need daily attention, while short-haired breeds such as Boxers can get away with a weekly brush down.

Getting into the routine of checking their teeth, ears and nails every week is also a good idea. Dental problems are common, so ask your vet to show you how to examine and brush your dog’s teeth.

Canine health checks

There’s no set rule about how often our dogs should visit the vet, as it varies with their age and state of health. But an annual health check-up incorporating their annual vaccinations is the minimum. The vet will ensure your dog is up to date with all their preventative healthcare, check their weight and look for any changes in their overall health. In between vet visits, follow our five-step home checklist for keeping an eye on your dog’s wellbeing.

Keep your dog fit and well at any age

Bear in mind that at different life stages, our dogs have slightly different health needs:

Puppies and young dogs

Make sure your new puppy is vaccinated before taking them outside. Don’t overdo the amount of exercise your puppy gets, especially for larger breeds that take longer to mature. Start introducing short training sessions, and sign up for classes once your puppy is vaccinated.


At this age, most dogs are living their best doggy life, so make sure to fill their days with fun activities, play sessions and other things that make them happy. Annual vet visits will help you pick up on any emerging health problems as they arise.


Different dog breeds reach their senior years at different ages, but once your dog reaches the age of seven, you may start to notice they slow down a little. Older dogs need more regular health checks, so start booking these every six months instead of once a year. You may also need to decrease your dog’s food rations as they become less active.

We’d love to hear your top tips for keeping your dog in great shape. Head over to the Petplan Facebook page and tag with #PethoodStories.

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