As pups start to get older it’s important to start looking at ways to make your home senior dog friendly.
Why is that important, and what does it even mean you ask? It simply means evaluating your dog’s current health issues, and looking at ways you can make it easier for your dog to get around.
For example – if your dog has some vision issues, don’t move the furniture around. If he’s having a bit of trouble walking or keeping his balance, you might want to put some area rugs down on a tile or wood floor. Both of these suggestions will reduce the chance of injury.
Let’s back up a bit
I realise I am a fan of stating the obvious but I can’t help it!! I take this whole “living with a senior dog thing” very seriously. I am going to assume if you’re noticing behaviour changes, no matter how slight, you’ve already made an appointment with the vet. If you haven’t, please do. Never assume that because your dog is getting older, changes are inevitable and there’s nothing you can do.
Okay back to the article
It really is such an easy thing to do, even the smallest changes can make the biggest differences in terms of comfort and accessibility.
Not every point I mention will be relevant, but it’s good to know just in case it does become an issue for you, or someone you know, down the road
Because my dog is blind, I don’t move furniture around. As a matter of fact I sometimes move it out of the way. I had a coffee table in the middle of the living room which she always managed to avoid, however now that she’s developed dementia she’s bang right into it so I moved it and it no longer is in her way. This may not be relevant in your case, but it’s something to keep in mind.
Clutter on the floors
I never leave clutter on the floor, that goes for dog toys, blankets, shoes… anything she could trip over. I don’t anyway, but I’m extra vigilant because of those who would!! If you have an arthritic dog even the smallest obstacle can be difficult to maneuver around.
Ramps and steps
If your dog has always enjoyed a good snuggle amongst the couch cushions or likes to sleep in bed with you, a ramp or some steps will allow her easy access without relying on you to put her on, and take her off. It’s also safer in case you aren’t around, and she jumps off and hurts herself.
Eating and drinking
For some reason, and I really don’t know why, the thought of raising Red’s food and water bowls off the ground popped into my head one day. It wasn’t because of something that happened, or because she looked like she was having trouble, I just thought it would be a good idea, so I did. And it was!
There are lots of raised bowls available in a variety of styles, materials and sizes. If you’re thinking of getting one (or a couple!) you may want to consider the following:
When you’re figuring out the height, you don’t want your dog to have to stretch her neck up to reach
If you get a 2 bowl feeder, do you have room to keep it out (you’ll have to for the water)
Do you prefer one that adjusts, or you’ll measure how high off the floor it should be and buy a fixed height bowl?
In a 2 bowl feeder, your dog’s dry kibble may end up in the water bowl, and vice versa. A 1 bowl feeder may be your preference.
Beware of knobs, door handles and sharp objects
If your dog has vision problems or even dementia, be aware of door handles, knobs and any other sharp objects that may be sticking out at head level.
For example, the water bowl in the kitchen is right next to a drawer handle. Since it’s the only place I can put it I made it safer by wrapping fabric around the handle so Red won’t get hurt.
Wires and cables
Keeping wires and cables tucked safely away and out of reach of pets is good practice, no matter what age or type of pet you have. Not only can they be a trip hazard, but someone might thing they look like interesting toys to chew on!! Even if they’ve been in full view for years, you never know so better out of the way and safe.
Access to stairs
It’s entirely possible your pup is still running up and down those stairs like a youngster and why not!! However, if your dog has become a bit unsteady, is suffering from joint pain or has vision problems, putting a baby gate at the top and bottom of the stairs will prevent any accidents should he decide he wants to go exploring.
I realise talking about beds isn’t exactly in line with the point of the article, making your home senior dog friendly but it kind of is so I’m going with it.
Obviously if your dog is restless you’re taking him to the vet, but have you noticed if he’s avoiding his bed?
You may find your dog’s taste in beds has changed, I know that has happened with Red. For the first few years she was happy with her plus 3 sided beds, the lower front portion made it easy to get in and out of, and she loved leaning against the side like a pillow. I don’t think she found the pillow as “poufy” as she would have liked, and added a blanket didn’t quite make a difference. Then she loved this round, high sided sturdy bed we bought. Although I always advocate for beds with at least one low side for them to easily get in and out of, she doesn’t really have mobility issues, and even with her tiny little legs she had no trouble climbing in and out of it.
Now the only beds she uses are human comforters with covers I put over them. They’re quite big so she gets as much support as she likes, and they’re easy enough to fluff up so she can fold it the way she likes.
I always keep a blanket on each bed in case she gets cold, she can wrap herself in it.
A self heating mat or a hot water bottle give extra comfort.
Hustle and bustle
Your home may have been party central, and your dog loved the activity and hub bub, but if you notice him disappearing more these days, he may be finding it harder/scarier to deal with. That doesn’t mean you have to stop having friends round, but it would be helpful to set up a quiet area your dog can go when he needs some space. A separate room or even an unused closet with the door partially open will do. Set it up with a nice comfy bed, a favourite toy, a bowl of water and maybe even a pheromone calming diffuser. Even if you’ve never used a crate before, it may prove comforting. Add a bed, blanket and toy, cover part of it to create a den and leave the door open so he can come and go as he pleases.
Playing a calming cd created specifically to relax dogs can be very helpful. Red calms down immediately when she listens to Through a Dog’s Ear.
Carpets or runners on the floor
I know you’re loving your new tile or wood flooring, and the last thing you want to do is cover it up. It’s also possible you’ve been noticing your dog slipping and sliding on that beautiful floor!! There’s no reason to cover up the entire thing, but putting down some area rugs will make it safer for your dog to walk on.
Extra water bowls and beds
So my dogs don’t have to go searching for beds and water bowls, particularly if they have sight problems or mobility issues, I add a couple around the house so there’s always one pretty close by.
I know quite a few people who keep a window open all the time, and yes even in the winter. Personally I like a nice toasty home, but it’s not about me it’s about what your dog likes? Older dogs tend to feel the cold more, so if you notice your dog shivering inside, buy him a sweater. A coat may also be a good idea to where while on walks. This is not about dressing your dog up like a doll (I can’t stand when people do that), this is purely for practical reasons. Red shivers easily and wears a sweater inside for several months, and when we’re out I put a coat on top of that.
Keep the doors open (NOT the front door!)
Because Red is blind, I make sure every room’s door is left open. I shouldn’t have to state the obvious but since I can’t help myself…obviously not the front door, basement door… Of course it drives my husband crazy because he keeps saying I let the heat out, but what can you do!! She knows her way around the house, and I don’t want her banging into something she knows shouldn’t be there!
How to make your home senior dog friendly – conclusion
Take a walk around your house and try and visualise what sorts of things can cause an issue for your dog, and come up with creative solutions. For example, I put foam on the doors and table legs so if Red bangs into them, it cushions the blow.
What changes have you made to make your home more senior dog friendly? Join my new FB group Senior Dog Care Club and share your helpful tips. Ask questions, get advice and meet other members sharing and caring for their senior dogs.