Walking your dog is good for you and has also long been linked to a lower risk of heart disease. It can help increase leg strength in older people and consequently should make them less at risk of falls overall. But beware of dog walking injuries…

However, new research, published by Jama Surgery in August 2019, demonstrated alarmingly that the number of older adults who have been injured whilst walking their dog has increased by 150% over the last 13 years.

Amongst other incidents, the research revealed that people experiencing fractures whilst walking their dog has gone up from 1,671 incidents to 4,396 incidents.

The study, conducting in the US between 2004 and 2017, found over three-quarters (78.6%) of the dog walkers injured were women. The most commonly fractured body part was the hip (17.3%), followed by the wrist (13.7%) and then the upper arm (11.1%). Over a quarter (28.7%) were severe enough to require admission to hospital.

The research particularly concerned injuries resulting from dogs on leashes, however injuries can occur regardless of whether your dog is on a lead. Read our sensible tips to help you avoid accidents whilst walking your dog:

  • Think seriously about whether you can handle your dog – is it too big for you? Does it pull too hard? Is it aggressive? You may need to consider an alternative walker.
  • Don’t walk more than one dog at once, unless you are totally confident in your ability to do so. If you aren’t, consider getting help, or walking with a friend.
  • Think carefully about where you are going and always wear appropriate footwear for the terrain and route
  • Pay attention whilst walking your dog. Try not to be distracted by phone calls, texts or small children.
  • Check the weather to ensure you don’t suddenly need to rush for cover
  • Choose a lead for your dog that is comfortable and supportive for both the animal and owner.
  • Be careful of long retractable leads that can become a trip hazard, or cause injury should they jam or catch your hand.
  • Change your route depending on the weather, depending on increased risk of ice, mud or flooding
  • Ensure you always carry a charged mobile phone so that, if an accident occurs, you can call for help
  • Make sure you are aware of your location, so that you can direct the emergency services to find you, if you have an accident.
  • Make an appointment your GP if you are experiencing pain or discomfort during walking
  • Notify someone where you are going, or have a regular route, so that they can quickly find you if something goes wrong.
  • Be prepared for the unexpected – carry a first aid kit that caters for both your dog and yourself and ensure you have attended both a pet and human first aid course.

Some further things to think about before going on a walk…

Dog walking injuries and the dark

Dog walks do pose additional risks during darker hours. These range from busy roads, pedestrians and other hazards such as potholes which are difficult to spot in poor light.

Tried and tested

Rather than trying new routes in the dark, stick to tried-and-tested dog walks when taking your pet out at night. Stick to well-lit paths and avoid dark unlit parks and commons.

Lead by example

Ensure that both you and your pet both wear highly-visible clothing so you can clearly be seen by others. You can also opt for dog leads and collars which are, or which come with flashing lights to increase your pet’s visibility. These can also help you to locate your pet in the dark.

Carry a torch with you, or use the one on your phone (of course you should always ensure your phone has a full battery)Or better still, wear a head torch so that your hands free to manage the dog lead.

Keep them to heel

It is better to keep your dog on a lead in the dark, especially near traffic. You are far more likely to lose your pet in the dark. Additionally, road traffic accidents involving pets are common and increase during hours of darkness

Stranger danger

If your pet is of a nervous disposition, then coming across other dogs in the dark can be even more stressful for them. Keeping your dog on a lead can help you to manage these unexpected encounters with other dogs.

Hazards in the dark

The dark can mask potential hazards such as potholes, broken glass and sharp objects which could cut your pet’s paws. It can also cover dangers such as sudden drops on the other side of walls, or hidden bodies of water.

There’s no need to stop dog walks or cut them short due to shorter hours of daylight. In fact, it would be detrimental to do so as exercise is beneficial and necessary for both you and your dog.  However, hopefully, you will find that this advice makes your walking that bit safer for both of you.


Written by Emma Hammett for First Aid for Life

We cover common accidents and injuries on all our practical and online first aid courses. Ensure you know how to help in an emergency.
It is strongly advised that you attend a fully regulated Practical or Online First Aid course to understand what to do in a medical emergency. Please visit 
https://firstaidforlife.org.uk or call 0208 675 4036 for more information about our courses.
First Aid for Life is a multi-award-winning, fully regulated first aid training provider specialising in first aid and medical emergency training for Health Professionals. Our trainers are highly experienced medical, health and emergency services professionals who will tailor the training to your needs.
First Aid for life provides this information for guidance and it is not in any way a substitute for medical advice. First Aid for Life is not responsible or liable for any diagnosis made, or actions taken based on this information.

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