The benefits of dog ownership are well known — from lowering stress and feelings of loneliness to decreasing our blood pressure, cholesterol, and our overall risk of heart disease, owning a dog definitely has its upsides. This is particularly true among older adults. However, despite these overwhelming perks, a recent study suggests that dog ownership among older adults may be linked to a higher risk of injuries related to dog walking.
The study examined the medical records of patients 65 and older who visited emergency rooms in the United States between 2004 and 2017. Within that 14 year span, researchers found over 32,000 cases of fall-related injuries associated with walking dogs. Some of these injuries were minor, but a few, such as hip fractures, were more serious.
Nearly all of the injuries identified in the study could have been avoided had the walkers taken a few basic precautions.
Mother Nature Network’s Mary Jo Dilonardo has compiled a list of basic exercises and other measures older adults can adopt to help take advantage of the benefits of pet ownership while minimizing the risk of walking-related injuries.
Dilonardo suggests light strength training of the core and other exercises to improve balance. By strengthening the muscle groups associated with balancing, older adults can reduce their likelihood of falling should their pets suddenly move in an unexpected direction during a walk.
Improve Your Dog’s Training & Obedience
Dogs who are well-trained — specifically in stationary commands like “stay” or ” heel” — are more easily controllable in unexpected situations. Dogs who obey commands consistently are less likely to move unexpectedly, resulting in an overall reduction in movements that may cause a fall.
Working with a dog trainer or behaviorist may be helpful for larger and stronger-willed dogs. While training is important for smaller dogs too, the risk of a dog causing a fall increases with the size of the dog.
For a complete list of things you can do to help reduce the risk of injury while walking your dog, check out the full article on MNN.