Senior Dog Owner Safety Tips by Jessica Hegg
A pint-sized canine companion can be a rewarding addition to the homes of many aging seniors. In addition to therapeutic friendship, small dogs can offer a sense of security, serve as an alert system of sorts, as well as motivate seniors to get out of the house and exercise.
So are there safety considerations to keep in mind? Absolutely. Seniors especially want to be careful about preventing falls, clearing away clutter, and making sure their own mobility allows them to get their dog out for exercise.
With a dog underfoot, be it big or small, trips are bound to happen. Did you know 1 in 3 seniors over the age of 65 will fall at some point? And over half of all falls actually occur in the home?
A report from the CDC revealed that 21,000 elderly people paid trips to the hospital every year between 2001 and 2006 due to pet-related falls.
One simple fall for a senior can lead to ailments including hip fractures, lacerations, bruising, and other life-threatening complications.
Some older dog owners say that small dogs are much quicker and agile to get out of your way. While larger dogs take longer to get up and move out of the way.
Large dogs also carry so much more physical impact that catching yourself from a fall can be harder.
Even a small dog who jumps up on a person unexpectantly can knock them off balance.
So how can you prevent falls with a small dog eager to get your attention?
If you are new to dog ownership, a rescue or shelter dog may be more practical than a small puppy. Older dogs are more settled and have outgrown many of their crazy puppy antics making them more reliable and safe.
Sometimes senior dogs create that perfect match made in heaven for older dogs and seniors. There is that empathy and patience to overlook things when both human and dog are getting up there in years.
Before you adopt, though, you should do a little research to determine if the dog breed would be a good fit for an older person.
Obviously, training and obedience are part of the picture. A dog that understands you are the pack leader, and listens and follows commands will be easier to lead and manage and less likely to be winding through your legs and jumping up.
Exercising with your small pup helps prevent falls too. The more exercise you get, whether it’s brisk walks, hiking, or even playing catch with your dog, the stronger your bones and muscles stay as you age, and the keener your sense of balance and coordination remains.
Spills and messes by your dog’s water and food bowls can be slip hazards, so remembering to keep that area clean, or put a rubber mat under their bowls to stay safe.
A raised bowl might be a good choice if bending over is a problem
And don’t forget that seniors should avoid bending or stooping over to pet their small dogs, which can cause muscle strain and loss of balance - simply sit down to pet them instead.
You can also play fetch or a gentle game of tug of war with a small dog in a seated position.
Not only will clearing away clutter aid in preventing falls, but it frees up the room your small dog needs to be able to move around with ease, play, and be able to follow his or her pack leader (aka you!).
In addition to all the furniture, clothes, books and other items collected over their lifetimes, seniors will often have new mobility aids and medical equipment in the home.
Wheelchairs, walkers, motorized scooters - all these items take up a substantial amount of room, and when in the way, can make it hard for any small dog to get around and enjoy their environment stress-free.
Where to start? First, remove any large pieces of furniture that rarely get used - like half-empty dressers and extra accent tables.
Second, find a parking spot out of the way for important mobility aids, like knee scooters and wheelchairs, to stay when they are not being used. Unique wheelchair accessories like table tops, technology mounts, wheelchair bags, and seat cushions should always be stored with your chair.
Think about clearing out an accessible closet or finding a spot at the dining room table to park it.
Thirdly, your dog’s own accessories like toys, bones, and supplies should have their own special basket or tub they stay in when they are not in use (instead of being scattered on the floor).
While small dogs offer loads of benefits to aging seniors including friendship, company, security, and physical interaction, they can also be a serious health hazard.
Preventing falls is the number one concern for the elderly - whether they are living on their own at home or out walking their dog around the neighborhood.
Being smart about clutter, eliminating slip and trip hazards, and
inviting friends and family to join them for walks with the dog is the best way
to practice safety as an older pet owner.