Making Your Home Safe for Your Senior Dog
We have all heard the terms babyproofing and childproofing, but what about dogproofing? Dogproofing is making changes to our homes to ensure our dogs, especially vulnerable seniors and special needs dogs, are kept safe from harm. With younger dogs this involves keeping dogs away from things they may ingest or chew that could be harmful, but the need for changes around the house exponentially increases when we are caring for a senior dog or a special needs dog.
Here are some items that I personally use to make my home as safe as possible for my senior and special needs dogs.
When I first had senior dogs I had always used pet steps to help them access the couches around my home, as well as my bed, but the older they became, the harder it was to use them. Part of the challenge was their declining eyesight which made seeing where they were putting their feet difficult, so they would either miss a step, trip or sometimes just leap off them. I also noticed that they were having trouble physically using the steps. I spoke with our veterinarian and he explained that ramps are much better for senior dogs as it does not put pressure on joints the way that steps do and from that point on I have always used ramps.
In fact, this is the very reason we created our Gentle Rise bed and couch ramps which I rely on throughout my home. Dogs with declining eyesight and with mobility issues need something with a gentle slope to make climbing feasible, and they need to be kept safe by giving them a comfortable width, a non-slip surface and a guard rail. We put all of these needs into our dog ramp designs and now I don't know how I ever made do without them.
Not only do ramps make it easier for dogs to access their favorite spots like the couch or your bed, but more importantly, it prevents injuries that often happen when a dog jumps up or down from any of these areas. I have seen too many horrible injuries happen because a dog, especially a senior, jumped down from a bed or a couch, so let's protect them from this common hazard by using ramps. Besides, it is also so fun to watch them using the ramps and seeing how much they enjoy having their independence back.
Another product that has become a must-have for me over the years are bed rails, the same kind used to protect toddlers from falling out of bed. With training you can teach a dog to use a ramp for exiting your bed and many dogs prefer this option since it is so much easier for them, but many senior dogs and special needs dogs have balance issues and overall instability that make falling off the bed a very real possibility. I have had it happen with my own dogs who at times might walk a little too close to the edge and lose their footing and fall off and it is very scary. I started with one bed rail that went the length of my bed to block off the side I was not sleeping on and that did the trick for a long time, but then I found myself worrying about when I would get up and go to the washroom in the middle of the night. I would come back and find my dogs standing on the edge waiting for me to return and I had visions of them falling off, so I installed a second bed rail. This one folds down so I can have it down when I get in and if I leave the room, I fold it up to protect them. The added bonus of using two rails is that for dogs who may forget to use the ramp and try and jump, this prevents that from happening. If you share your bed with another human, you may prefer having two rails that fold so you can both enter and exit the bed more easily. There are lots of great bed rail options on Amazon, folding and non-folding and in various lengths so I encourage you to take a look. The peace of mind you get makes the small inconvenience that comes with having rails, totally worth it.
Dog Gates & Barriers
As our dogs age and both their stability and eye sight declines, staircases can be very risky for them to use. If I have a staircase without a door to block off access, I always use a gate at the top to ensure they do not even attempt to go down them. There are a lot of great gates to choose from on Amazon, either designed for protecting babies or dogs, both types work well.
At the bottom of the stairs, to prevent my dogs from going up the steps, I simply use one of our Bamboo Blockers. It is a lightweight accordion barrier that I use to block off different areas around the house, including the base of the steps. In addition, if you have a dog that is struggling with dementia or vision loss and finds themselves stuck in the nooks and crannies around your home, these can be so helpful in blocking off these areas.
In fact, this product was designed for my Bamboo, who many of you knew and loved. Bamboo struggled with dementia and would often get stuck in corners, behind the tv, coffee tables etc. I found myself having to watch him so closely because in the blink of an eye he would find himself trapped. Being able to block off these areas was a game changer for me and for him as it would gently guide him away from the troublesome areas.
There are many more possibilities for products that can help make life in the home easier for our aging dogs, so I encourage you to get creative and keep an open mind. The products I have discussed today are my main in-the-home dogproofing products that I honestly cannot live without since they are essential in protecting my dogs (seniors and special needs). When it comes to my dogs I am a worrier because so much can go wrong if we are not diligent in our efforts to protect them. There is so much that we are powerless to prevent, but by using some helpful products, we can ensure our homes are as safe as possible for our dogs. The peace of mind alone is worth the small amount of effort needed to ensure their safety and quality of life.
Ann-Marie Fleming is the Founder & CEO of Dog Quality, a provider of innovative assistive products focused on improving the quality of life for older dogs and the families that care for them.