Walking your dog has many benefits for both you and your dog regardless of your age. It lowers blood pressure, burns calories, increases your cardiac health and reduces your stress levels.
In fact, there are so many advantages particularly for seniors that many retirement homes now allow their residents to have dogs. Many doctors even promote the benefits of dogs to seniors.
However, a new study at the University of Pennsylvania issues a disclaimer: “seniors walking with a dog imparts a significant and rising injury risk in older adults.” In fact, between 2004 and 2017, those 65 and older doubled their risk of bone fractures, with women being the most vulnerable. The fractures included wrists, hips and upper arms. The hip fractures were the most disconcerting because of the mortality rates associated with them.
Why have the numbers of injuries increased?
Is it because the number of seniors has risen dramatically in the United States? That baby boomers are more active than their predecessors? The answers are unknown.
If you are a senior, don’t let this study discourage you from walking your dog. Instead, physicians suggest getting a smaller dog, such as a 5-pound chihuahua. If it lunges, it’s not as likely to take its owner to the ground. It’s also better to make sure the dog is trained correctly to walk on a leash and doesn’t take off to chase a 150-pound rottweiler.
Some other safety tops for seniors walking their dog include:
- Make sure your dog is cleared by your vet for exercise. Older dogs can have arthritis and joint problems, so know how far you should walk your dog.
- Wear bright clothing with neon colors so you are well seen by passerby’s.
- Make sure you have sturdy walking shoes with non-slip soles.
- Have a sturdy leash that is 4-6 feet long attached to a properly fitting collar or harness. Wrap the leash around your palm so it doesn’t slip out of your hand. Retractable leashes give the dog more freedom, but they are more dangerous for dog owners.
- If it is dark outside, carry a light. If your hands are full with a leash and poop bag, think about a headlamp or a leash with a flashlight.
- Try to walk where the ground is even versus full of holes you can fall into. Survey the path ahead of time.
- Think about walking with someone else. This not only makes it more fun but can be safer if you fall and get hurt. Start a dog walking club in your neighborhood.
- Avoid busy streets where your dog could get frightened by the cars, bikes or pedestrians.
- Both you and your dog should have the proper identification in case anything happens to either of you.
- You both need to stretch before the walk. Allow your dog a little time to warm up his muscles before setting out on a vigorous walk. Let him smell the flowers and take a potty break. Toward the end of your walk, you should both cool down a bit by strolling a little slower for the last part of the walk.
The Help ‘Em Up® Harness is a useful aid for aging dogs or those with mobility issues. It puts a handle over the front shoulders and one over the hips that allows you to safely and easily lift your dog up into cars, off the floor and up and down stairs. It is gentle on joints, and using the handles on the harness can help save your back as picking up a dog of any size can lead to injuries. Additionally, both the Help ‘Em Up Walking Handle and the Help ‘Em Up Walking Leash/Shoulder Strap provide additional walking assistance and extra leverage for owners of dogs using The Help ‘Em Up Harness.
At Help ‘Em Up® Harness, we want to keep both you and your dog safe, no matter what age either of you are!