Having a companion dog means never being alone. Not only can walking a dog make someone feel less detached, but it can also be a way to meet other people. It’s a documented fact that petting a dog causes our brain to release endorphins creating better mental and emotional health by lowering depression and stress. According to many studies conducted about seniors with and without pets, those with pets have lower blood pressure, a lower incidence of heart disease, fewer medical issues in general and recover more quickly from illness and surgery. Walking a dog increases our need for daily activity thereby improving our health physically. Additionally, senior pet parents tend to sleep better.
Having to take care of a dog is a big responsibility. The routine of feeding, walking, and nurturing a dog may give a person something more positive to focus their attention on, making life in general way more pleasant.
As a trainer, I work with many, many senior dog parents and it always delights me to see how devoted they are to their puppies or adult dogs and the other way around. Much more time is devoted to the family dog when kids are grown and gone on their own, retirement is in place and time to spend with the dog is not limited. But here are some of my concerns as I see them routinely.
Puppies nip and bite and scratch and jump! Many seniors are on medications that cause bleeding more easily when their skin is broken in addition to having thinner skin as we age.
Jumping is dangerous especially when the puppy or dog is a large breed.
Pulling on a leash when walking, is always a primary problem with all pet parents. For seniors with limited mobility or other physical restrictions, being pulled or jerked by a dog on a leash is an accident waiting to happen and unacceptable.
Being tangled or tripping is another leash walking issue I encounter often when working with pet parents. For seniors, this could be devastatingly risky.
If a pet parent is physically challenged or balance is not good, fear of falling is always present with thoughts of broken hips and other extensive injuries in mind.
Adult, trained dogs are a great option for seniors. All the housetraining routine walks, getting up in the middle of the night, teething, chewing, whining, biting, jumping, and pulling may no longer be a concern. Furthermore, what a great way to save a dog’s life by getting a rescue. Also, routine puppy vaccines and veterinary office visits have been completed.
Using a five or six-foot leash will give a pet parent better control when walking a dog. Retractable leashes offer the least amount of control and are dangerous for both the pet parent and the dog.
Investing in a few lessons with a professional dog trainer to help teach your dog to walk without pulling, crossing in front of you, or winding the leash around your legs, is well worth it. This is done through at-home visits by the trainer and not puppy classes at retail stores.
If walking is too difficult but a large breed dog is more desirable, consider a dog walker. That way you have all the companionship and even protection that large breed dogs provide, without the worry of walking.