It was recently reported that 86,000 pet-owner-related injuries were reported, based upon statistics gathered from 2001 to 2006. That sounds like a lot of folks falling over their dogs and cats, food bowls and toys, but, in reality, despite media coverage of these statistics, pet related injuries are relatively rare and account for about 1% of home accidents. You are really more likely to fall down the stairs or out of your bed than tripping over Fluffy.

I was concerned about the amount of press this news story received, considering the rarity of these kinds of accidents. I fear that seniors may be advised to give up their pets or reconsider getting a pet for fear of falls. It has been noted in so many studies that living with pets has health benefits – a decrease in blood pressure, an increase in beneficial exercise, an aid to depression, loneliness and more.

Many years ago, my father suffered a very serious heart attack. At the same time the family dog – Manfred – died after 16 wonderful years. My Dad said he would never get another dog – the pain of loss was too much for him. Father’s Day was approaching and I didn’t know what to do for Dad. He seemed sad and depressed. I learned of a young Irish setter who was to be turned into the pound because she was gun shy. I arranged to pick her up and promptly drove her over to Dad’s to introduce the two. My father was adamant – no more dogs. Erin, the setter, was as equally miffed about my arrangement and nipped Dad’s hand as he attempted to pet her. I told Dad I had an important appointment to keep and he would have to keep Erin until I got back – in about a week. He was furious, Erin was sullen. I quickly left – giving them no choice.

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As promised, one week later I returned from my fictitious trip. Erin and my Dad were fast friends – inseparable. Dad and Erin went for long walks. She slept by his side. She adored him and Dad doted on her. She changed his life and probably increased his lifespan. I don’t think he ever tripped over her.

There are some things you can do to decrease tripping on your dogs as well as their toys and bowls. Dogs quickly develop habits. Eventually, a dog will prefer favorite sleeping areas throughout your home. Depending upon climate conditions, dogs will seek out warmth or coolness. Sometimes these sleeping areas are in direct conflict with home traffic conditions – like in the middle of a busy hallway or a doorway. I have always found it easier to allow dogs to choose their preferred napping nooks and just be vigilant about stepping on them. We ourselves have favorite sitting locations – why shouldn’t dogs?

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Exercise caution when stepping over a sleeping dog. Like us, dogs settle into very deep sleeping patterns. You’ve seen them dreaming, seemingly chasing squirrels, moving their paws and muttering little sounds. If you suddenly step over a dog she may jump out of a deep sleep – literally – and knock you over. Give sleeping dogs a little warning and try not to startle them as they sleep.

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I like to provide sleeping areas for my dogs. Carefully chosen dog beds can convince a dog to opt for that cozy lounge instead of the busy hallway. Not all dogs are created the same – nor are dog beds. My girls prefer a deep, soft, cushiony bed with a bolster that makes them feel as if they are in dens. Many dogs like elevated beds – no surprise as most dogs adore human couches and chairs. I have my preferences too. Since I have German ‘Shedders,’ I like materials that are easy to de-fur and keep clean. The Canine Kingdom has a large selection of quality dog beds.

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In future blogs I will go into details about how to choose an appropriate dog bed – for puppies, adults, seniors, dogs with health issues, big dogs, small dogs and of course dog parents.

People also trip over dog toys. Consider a toy box. There are many dogs – the vigorous chewers – who really must be supervised with toys. Leaving dog toys around the house can be dangerous. Ingestion of toys accounts for ever so many emergency vet visits, surgeries and even death. Toy boxes can also become a marvelous device to have some fun with your dog. All of my dogs’ toys have a name. The girls have been taught the names and during the cold and rains – when bored dogs become restless – we play toy hiding games. I tell them the name of the toy and they zoom off in search.

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With a little practice you can teach your dog “put away your toys.’ They will have fun, expend some restless energy and save you some housework too.

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