Monday, 15 January 2018

The ABC of Home Improvements to support your dog around the house

Your dog is a family member. If one of your two-legged family members had a mobility issue (and that includes crawling babies) you’d do the best to make things safe for them. The same should be for your four-legged friend. When we make our AchyPaw Canine Physical Therapy home visits, we don’t just offer massage and exercise advice, but also give advice on appropriate home adaptations which might help their dog feel more comfy and safe. 

Here is a simple A, B, C to help make some improvements. 

A is for ACCESS. How many steps and stairs does your dog walk up and down daily in your house just to get around or to get in and out? Are they human sized steps? You can make simple and inexpensive improvements to ease their access. 

If you’ve got full sized stairs, buy some Half Steps (they are used for human mobility aids). We’ve got an old house with clumsy sized steps. No more – we have half steps everywhere which are more dog sized. Some are bought, some are home made. The dogs don’t seem to care how expensive they are, just how safe they now feel. And they must work as when we have canine visitors to our house, they always go straight to Sarah’s Steps rather than the bigger ones. 

Sometimes, a ramp might be necessary. There are many varieties available but check the size and weight they can hold – and how manageable they are for you - or you might not use them. You could even make your own. To get from our back door to the car, there were many different sized steps. We made a ramp by cutting decking planks to size, fixing them to a frame, and placing it over the offending steps. 

If your dog goes up and down stairs on their own but is now getting a bit wobbly, buy a stair guard to put up when you’re out so they don’t try to climb and fall down. 

B is for BOREDOM. If your dog is slowing down a bit in their senior years, you can hide the ball that finds its way under the sofa and introduce some Mind Games. Again, you can find all sorts to buy or make one with tennis balls in a muffin tin with treats hidden underneath. The dogs will spend ages picking out the balls to get to the treats. Snuffle Mats, perhaps hiding low calorie treats, can encourage mind stimulation. 

C is for CARPETS or lack of. This is the top way to keep your dog injury free according to Natalie Lenton of the Canine Massage Therapy Centre ( I know, laminate floors are easy to look after, but they can be very tricky to navigate if you’ve got aging joints or small paws. You don’t need to completely carpet your house, just provide islands of runners and mats so the dogs can get safely from their bed, to the door, to their food bowl. Otherwise, to the dog, it can be like walking over a glacier. I always carry a number of carpet runners in my car for visits for demonstration. Every time the dogs see it, they walk straight to it and on it. 

D is for DRIVING – (you not the dog). You’re going to take your dog for a walk. How do you get them in the car? If they are light enough, you can lift them. But this is not always possible. Again, there are many ramps and portable stairs to help them get into the car. The main requirement for me when I bought my new car, was the height of the boot. Not too high and enough to fit our drive perfectly. We even built a bridge for the dogs to get in and out. Simple but effective. While you’re there, warm them up before you drive them for their walk and cool them down when they’ve finished. We use the simplest but effective warm-up / cool-down called the Locomotion.

E is for EXTRA HELP. Some dogs with mobility problems or getting senior, find it hard to get up from lying down. Try a harness. There are several that have handles front and back which will give your dog that little extra assistance and thus confidence to stand up. Some can even be left on all day but check out how comfy they feel before you do. If you haven’t got a harness, a towel or a strong scarf also works wonders. 

F is for FOOD BOWL (and water bowl). Try this. Get on all fours. Imagine your food is on the floor. Bend down to reach it. Ouch – your neck starts to hurt, your back aches. If that food was raised a few inches it would make the whole process easier and comfier. 

Z is for ZZZZZZZZZ (sleep and bedtime). Is your dog sleeping comfortably? Try sitting on their bed for a while. Do you feel a bit numb? It might be the bed needs more padding, to be firmer or perhaps a memory foam mattress. Again, you can buy all sorts of these or make them yourself. We bought some memory foam offcuts, some cheap bed covers, cut the foam to size, slip them in the covers, dogs love them.

A few simple but effective ways to help your dog feel safer getting around and about the house.

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