Dogs can be amazing companions and this is especially true for older people. Owning a dog has many benefits: not only can it help with fighting loneliness, but also with encouraging us to be more active and sociable.
A dog can provide great companionship, especially for people who live alone. Having a pet to care for can not only boost their mood, but also increase their self-esteem and sense of responsibility.
For seniors who live a sedentary life and tend to spend most of their time at home, a dog will be the best motivation to go out for a walk, embrace the outdoors and socialise with other pet owners.
However, there are many costs associated with owning a dog, from toys and food to vets fees. Taking care of a pet also requires a good amount of time and commitment, with owners having to arrange for someone to look after their dog when they are at work or on holiday.
Another factor many people forget to consider is that owning a dog can also come with some health risks. Elderly dog owners are particularly prone to suffer injuries connected to having a dog around. Dog-walking in particular can be dangerous for older people whose bone structure has become more fragile: the risk of serious falling injuries is high, especially when taking the dog for a walk.
Read on to discover what are the dangers of dog-walking and how seniors can make sure they are as safe as possible when they’re with their four-legged friend.
The dangers of dog-walking for older people
A 2019 study by the University of Pennsylvania found that injuries linked to dog-walking are very common, especially in older women, who tend to have a lower bone density than men.
Walking leashed dogs that are not trained to walk without pulling can lead to falls and in some cases even fractured bones - hip fractures being the most common injury, followed by upper-arm and wrist fractures.
But it’s not only the dog pulling which can cause injury. Many people are used to wrapping the leash around their fingers, which can cause serious hand injuries if the person can’t disentangle promptly in case their dog pulls suddenly.
In the next section, we’ll talk about some simple precautions to avoid painful injuries while walking your pet.
Safety tips for seniors when dog-walking
The most effective way to avoid injuries is to train your dog to walk at your pace while on the leash. It requires some time and a lot of patience, but if you succeed, you’ll get rid of one of the biggest risk factors when taking your dog for a stroll.
The best way to teach them is to keep still and quiet when you notice your dog is moving too far away from you, and instead to reward them with a treat when they keep close and pay attention to what you are doing. This way, they’ll learn that it’s more convenient for them to walk next to you than pulling towards an external distraction. You can find more information on how to teach your dog not to pull on the RSPCA’s website.
There are many other small precautions you can adopt to make sure you keep safe:
When choosing a dog, go for smaller breeds, and always opt for older and quieter dogs.
Use a front-clip harness, which keeps dogs from pulling more than leashes clipped to the collar.
Never wrap the lead around your fingers, wrists or hands. Simply hold the leash by its handle, so you can safely hold or let go if your dog pulls suddenly.
Wear comfortable and solid shoes when walking your dog, and adjust them to the route and terrain.
Also remember to carry a mobile phone so you can call for help if you fall.
Avoid slippery, muddy or icy paths.
Pay attention to external elements that could distract your dog, such as other animals and moving objects.
If you are a wheelchair user and love dogs, don’t be discouraged. Find some valuable advice on how to walk your dog from a wheelchair.
You may also be interested in our free guide about keeping seniors safe from falling injuries at home.
At SuperCarers, we help families find compassionate local carers to support them in their homes. We know good care goes beyond the practicalities of personal care, so we match you with experienced care workers who can not only meet your needs, but also share your hobbies and interests, whether you are a dog lover or amateur baker.
Give us a call on 020 8629 1030, or find out more about home care.