The truth is, the best type of dogs for seniors depends on the temperament of the dog and the senior and of course the physical and mental condition of both as well.
The best dogs for seniors to adopt? – There are many different types of dogs, purebreds and mixed breeds (mutts). Choosing the best one for you means finding one that can give you what you need and fits into your lifestyle.
What To Consider When Getting A Dog
Most seniors who have a dog have almost always have had a dog in their lives and they know the kind of companionship and love that they can get from them.
But, being older (I’m talking about the person here) means that there are probably some physical and/or cognitive limitations that weren’t there 20, 30 or even 10 years ago. These limitations help to dictate the type of dog that would be best for you at this time.
So, if you are considering getting a dog and you are in your senior years, I recommend that you review the following information before you go to the animal shelter to select your furry friend.
- Size of the dog – if you have downsized from your home to a smaller place, it may not be suitable to adopt an Akita or Boxer or any other large dog. Also, depending on your strength and balance (many seniors have balance issues) – a larger sized dog may pull and tug during walks causing you to fall.
You also want to think about bathing your dog. Unless you are going to take your dog to the doggy salon for their weekly bath, think about how (and if) you will be able to bathe a large dog vs. a smaller one.
- The dog’s age – just about everyone can fall in love with a puppy. But caring for puppies can be extremely exhausting. Not only are they generally very energetic and require a lot of attention, they also need to be house trained and oftentimes require some behavioral training as well. If these factors are difficult for you then consider an older dog.
Dog shelters are filled with senior dogs (dogs who are 7 years or older) who have been abandoned or their owners simply couldn’t care for them any longer. These are often very well behaved and loving dogs.
- Level of energy – some types of dogs are much more energetic than others. Pit bulls, Great Danes, Terriers and Dachshunds just to name a few. And of course, puppies! All of these types of dogs will require a lot of attention and lots of exercise. If you are unable to provide this for them they could become frustrated and end up with behavioral issues, chewing on furniture, etc.
- Amount of grooming – long haired dogs will require more grooming than short haired breeds. If you are not up to daily brushing or expensive trips to the doggy salon then consider getting a dog that is more of a “get up and go” type. Some of the breeds that require more grooming include Chow Chow, Siberian Huskies, Cocker Spaniels and Poodles.
The types of dogs that require little grooming are Beagles (although they tend to be highly energetic), Italian Greyhounds and Chihuahuas.
- Who can you leave your dog to? – it’s important for any dog owner (but especially older ones) to consider who will care for their beloved pet(s) if something happens to them? It’s not easy to think about (for anyone) but it’s necessary and it’s a wonderful thing to do for those that you love (including your dog).
Choosing The Best Dogs For Seniors
Obviously, the best type of dog to get for older adults are ones that fit their personalities and needs and dogs that can fit into their lifestyles.
There are many lists of “best dog breeds for seniors” that you can find online and each one will be different depending on the perspective of the author who wrote that list.
But, I think that you should create your own list and the best way to do that is to answer some questions and choose the type of dog that fits the profile that the answers of those questions create.
So, let’s get started on that.
The website, Pedigree.com created a wonderful Dog Breed Selector questionnaire on their website. The questions they ask include the following:
- What type of home/living space do you have?
- How big is your yard?
- Where is your home?
- Are you able to keep a dog secure?
- For how long would your dog be alone each week?
- Do elderly or disabled people stay with you?
- What is your age group?
- What is the age of the youngest child living in or regularly visiting your home?
- How active are you?
- How energetic should your dog be?
- How much daily exercise will you give your dog?
- What size dog are you looking for?
- How much money are you willing to spend each week to feed your dog?
- How long do you want your dog’s coat to be?
- How often will your dog be groomed each week?
- Do you want a dog that will protect your property?
- Have you owned a dog before?
To take this online questionnaire, go to their website by Clicking Here.
After taking this questionnaire you will be presented with 6 breeds of dogs that are a match to your answers. You can then click on each breed to get more information about that type of dog.
Note: This questionnaire gives you information on specific breeds. Remember that there are MANY mutts in shelters who can be a wonderful fit for you. I personally have been a pet parent to several mutts and when I compare my dogs to friends who have pure breeds, it does seem that my mutts had far fewer (if any) health problems and behavioral problems.
As far as I can tell, there are no studies that back up either claim, so everything I have to share on this topic is based on 16 years of clinical practice experience. Generally speaking, I think mixed breed dogs (mutts) tend to be healthier and tougher and tend to live longer than many of the purebreds I see in practice. Mutts, in my experience, tend to have lower incidences of inherited disease, such as some cancers, back problems and hip dysplasia.
Should A Senior Citizen Get A Dog?
If the older adult is able to care for (or pay someone to care for) their dog and they have the appropriate type of home and the finances to care for that dog, then the answer is YES!
Because, anyone who has loved a pet of any kind knows the amazing bond that develops between human and animal.
Studies have shown that the bond between people and their pets can increase fitness, lower stress, and bring happiness to their owners. Some of the health benefits of having a pet include: decreased blood pressure, decreased cholesterol and triglyceride levels, decreased feelings of loneliness and increased opportunities for socialization. PetsForTheElderly.org
One of the main problems that seniors face is loneliness, and pets provide great company. Their unconditional love and support go a long way. I know for myself, after my husband passed away a few years ago – my pets were a great comfort to me (and still are) during those very lonely nights and mornings.
Read more about The Benefits of Pets For Seniors here.