When you give a pet a loving home, you get a lot in return. Pets offer their owners companionship, love, and a great excuse to exercise. Seriously, with the amount of benefits they give you, dogs really are man’s best friend. But not every breed of dog is right for everyone, especially as we age. As we get older, some breeds may become too difficult to handle on a daily basis. It’s worth considering the breed of the dog before taking one home, along with considering the pup’s needs.
So, when you are ready to find a new pet to brighten your life, what are some of the factors to consider when looking at breeds? Also, what are some of the breeds that seem tailor-made for the average senior?
First, if you’re not set on a dog, it’s worth considering a cat. We know some people are staunchly pro-dog or anti-cat, but cats are easy to handle for many seniors. Most cats are less intensive to care for, requiring less exercise or playtime than dogs. Being smaller than dogs, they generally require less food. Best of all, cats can usually take care of themselves in many regards, like not needing to be let out to go to the bathroom. Simply put, they can take care of themselves for a lot of things. So, as long as you’re feeding them, giving them water, and keeping their litterbox clean, there’s less responsibility on your plate. This has led to them being compared to roommates instead of pets.
Okay, so you’re set on a dog. We get it — dogs are awesome. When you’re perusing the internet to find one that you’d love, one of the things you should be looking at is just how big this dog will be. As we age, our muscles and skeletal system tend to weaken. This can make a larger dog difficult to deal with, especially if you plan to take your furry friend for a walk. All it takes is one squirrel running away, and you’re tugged to the ground and potentially hurt. That’s not to say large dogs behave worse than smaller dogs, however they can unintentionally do more damage because of their size.
Smaller dogs generally need less food, which can save you money, and don’t need as much exercise. This can make smaller breeds ideal for seniors, who may not have as much energy as they did when they were younger or are on fixed incomes.
Another thing to consider about a dog breed is how energetic they are. While this will fluctuate from dog to dog (just like people), some breeds are simply bred to have more energy. Since only some degree of decrease in energy is common with aging, a high energy breed may not be the best choice for you. In fact, a high energy breed can be trouble for two reasons.
First, high energy dogs need more exercise and stimulation for a number of reasons, but a big one is to keep them from getting bored. A bored dog is more prone to problematic behavior like chewing or barking. You also have to consider that a high energy dog breed is likely to need more exercise. If you’re unable to provide that, it could lead to health problems like obesity and depression. By the same token, if you’re not as fit as you used to be and you try to keep up with your new pup, it could lead to injuries from overexertion.
With those factors in mind, we can begin to discuss some breeds that are the right mix of size, temperament, and energy levels. For a more personalized match, you can try the American Kennel Club’s (AKC) Dog Breed Selector. High up on the list for any prospective senior dog breed is a French bulldog, Boston terrier, or pugs. These dogs are all small and don’t need too much exercise. Basset hounds are also a great mix of relaxed and lightweight and are happier to go for a short walk around the park than an intense hike. If you want a slightly larger dog, check out a Karelian bear dog, which the AKC defines as calm and not needing more than a short walk. Other breeds that are worth exploring include:
Okay, let’s say you love a specific breed of dog, but a puppy is out of the question. This is the perfect chance to rescue an older dog. Just like humans, as dogs age, they tend to be calmer and less energetic. The need to walk and to exercise regularly decreases. (You should still take your old dog for walks and exercise; they just might not need as much.) Older dogs may be less prone to run off or get overexcited. These all make senior dogs perfect for senior humans, whatever the breed. Consider adopting an older dog and giving it a home filled with love, since puppies tend to get picked up quicker (though this is changing).
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Adding a dog to your family is a wonderful way to get the companionship and undying love that only a dog can give. If you’re a senior, it may be tough to find a breed that matches your particular needs and abilities. With the right research and luck, you can find your newest, best furry friend in a senior-friendly breed or a senior dog looking for a new forever home!