Making your home senior dog friendly is pretty much like baby proofing. Going through your house room by room looking for hidden dangers, even getting down on the floor and seeing things from a different vantage point.
While I know you’re not living in a death trap, issues your dog may be dealing with as he ages means what was no problem before, can now be harmful, or just less comfortable.
One quick mention
I apologise if I’m stating the obvious to many of you, but first time senior dog parents or those who have a vet who thinks “old age” is a diagnosis, may not realise this.
While we can expect to see changes as our dogs age, that doesn’t mean there is nothing we can do about it. For example, your dog may find it difficult to walk or get up off his bed. Yes that is common, but there are still plenty of treatment options to help ease pain and increase mobility.
I recommend you make a note of changes you’re seeing, then have a conversation with your vet. If he or she dismisses your concerns, think about getting a second opinion. You know your dog best so if you think something seems “off” make the call. Problems caught early have a better chance of responding to treatment.
Don’t worry it’s easy
I don’t want you to think you need to go through a major renovation!! The changes are typically minor for us, but can make the biggest difference in terms of comfort and accessibility for our golden oldies.
Not every point I mention will be relevant to you at this moment, but keep them for reference should it become an issue for you, or someone you know.
Don’t re-arrange the furniture
An easy one for me because, unlike my mother who needs to keep moving furniture around, I can live with the same set up for decades!! A few new pillows or accessories and I’m good.
My dog Red was blind, but navigated her way very well around the house. The one thing I did move was the coffee table…right out of the living room. It was in the middle of the floor and although she never had a problem with it before, once she developed dementia she would bang into it quite often.
Losing vision is stressful and scary enough for everyone, so make it as easy as possible for your dog to get around. If she keeps banging into things not only can she get hurt, it can make her fearful.
Clutter free floors
I never leave clutter on the floor and that goes for dog toys, blankets, shoes… anything my dog could have tripped over. Not only can a blind dog get hurt, a dog suffering from arthritis or other mobility issues can find it difficult to maneuver around.
Make it easier to get onto the couch or bed, into the house or car
Has your dog always enjoyed a good snuggle, but lately it’s been more difficult for her to jump onto the couch or bed? Is she having trouble climbing the stairs to your front door, or getting into the car without help?
A ramp for dogs or pet stairs can make a world of difference. It may not get you on the cover of Architectural Digest, but it will keep your pup safe. Be sure to teach your dog how to use these mobility aids, and don’t leave him unattended until you’re sure he’s comfortable using them. You can try blocking off access to the bed or couch so he has no choice but to use the ramp or stairs.
I imagine other senior dog parents have a different experience or opinion, but I wouldn’t use these in the house with a blind dog, unless you were there to help them. Number one because they can trip over it, and number two they can fall down or off.
Read how I taught my dog to use a ramp ⇒ How I Taught Saffy to Use a Dog Ramp
Elevate food and water bowls
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.
On the flip side is the belief that raising them could cause bloat, so here are three articles you might find helpful. For some reason the first two don’t have actual titles!!
Be mindful of knobs and door handles
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.
The picture above is of Red drinking from an elevated water bowl. On the right is a drawer handle she could easily have banged into. You’re probably wondering why I didn’t put the bowl in a safer spot, and the answer is because it is the only place in the kitchen. I made it safer by wrapping fabric around the handle several times to make it super padded.
Cover up door edges, chair and table legs
Whether your chair or table legs are made of a smooth material or one with sharper edges such as wrought iron, it’s a good idea to pad them to protect your pup. The same goes for the edges of doors. I used what I believe is known as pipe insulation, which is like a pool noodle but narrower. I slit it down the middle and used it to cover the legs and door edges. It worked wonders! The above is a picture of how it looked.
Sharp corners on tables can be covered in small pieces of bubble wrap.
Cover/hide 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, 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.
It’s entirely possible your pup is still running up and down those stairs like a youngster but…if your dog has become unsteady, suffering from joint pain, has vision problems or is confused, putting a baby gate at the top and bottom of the stairs will prevent any accidents.
Is your pup’s bed senior dog friendly?
You may find your dog’s taste in beds has changed over the years, and what was comfortable when they were 4 may not be at 14. , I know that happened with Red. Although she was around 8 when I adopted her, I still noticed changes in what she found acceptable throughout the 9 years we shared.
For the first few years she was happy with her plush 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.
After that, her next favourite was a huge round high sided sturdy bed my husband brought home one day. Although I always advocate for beds with at least one low side, she didn’t have mobility issues so even with her tiny little legs she had no trouble climbing in and out of it.
In the last three years of her life she only slept on human comforters. They were thick so she got the support she liked, yet poufy enough to fluff and fold the way she liked.
I always kept a blanket on each bed in case she got cold so she could wrap herself in it. A self heating mat or a hot water bottle would give extra comfort.
There are quite a few orthopedic styles that are very highly rated by senior dog parents, some even have magnets. Should every dog with mobility issues only use an orthopedic bed? No of course not, it will come down to what your dog feels the most comfortable on. It may be a case of trial and error to find the one that suits but think about –
- Ease of access
- High sides to lean against
- Removable cover for washing
- Putting more than one bed around the house so he doesn’t have far to go
Tone it down
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.
A nice comfy bed, a favourite toy, a bowl of water and maybe even a pheromone calming diffuser will help. 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.
Cover up slippery floors
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!! You may not have to cover the entire thing, but putting down area rugs, yoga mats or interlocking mats 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 the dog likes. Older dogs tend to feel the cold more, so if you notice yours shivering inside buy him a sweater. A coat will help while on walks. Red shivered easily and wore a sweater inside for several months of the year. They were always well fitted so she was comfortable and not feeling constrained.
Keep the doors open (NOT the front door!)
Because Red was blind, I made sure every door was left open. I’m sorry for stating the obvious, but I can’t help myself…obviously not the front door, basement door… Of course it drove my husband crazy because he kept saying I let the heat out, but what can you do!! She knew her way around the house, and I didn’t want her banging into something she knew shouldn’t be there! It’s also a good tip for a dog with dementia.
How to make your home senior dog friendly – conclusion
By walking around your house and visualising what sorts of things could cause an issue, I hope you see how easy it is to make your home senior dog friendly.
What changes have you made to make your home more senior dog friendly? Sharing helps others so leave your helpful tips in the comment section below.