Whether you’re a recent retiree, empty nester, or just looking to spend your golden years with a cuddly companion, there are a variety of factors to consider when choosing the right breed. In this article, we will discuss some of those factors that any senior or recent retiree should consider before choosing a dog to add to their family.
Perhaps the most important thing to consider when choosing a pet as a senior is the physical ability to care for your pet. Consider the physical requirements the dog will require. Is this dog high energy? Will it need long walks or require a lot of physical activity? Will it need to be lifted up at times? Can the dog physically overpower you if it pulls too hard on a leash or jumps up on you? Considering these physical demands, there may be certain breeds that are a better fit for seniors.
Make no mistake, a senior is not limited to any specific breed, size, or type of dog but they are limited by the amount and level of care they can provide for the animal. Each breed is unique and some require very different exercise regimens, diet specifications, and grooming/hygiene requirements. Senior pet owners must be able to maintain a regular hygiene schedule for any pet under their care. Maintaining proper hygiene is an integral part of caring for any pet. Grooming, bathing, and regular dental care is key in ensuring your pet has a happy and healthy life. Maintaining this schedule requires organization, mobility, and access to assistance when needed. Senior owners and recent retirees who possess these abilities will make outstanding caretakers for any canine counterpart.
Another critical aspect to consider when choosing a pet is lifestyle compatibility. Potential pet owners must take into account how well the lifestyle of owner meshes with the lifestyle/habits of the pet. Active seniors that exercise regularly, travel frequently, and spend time with extended family and friends are prime candidates for more active and energetic breeds. Seniors who enjoy relaxing at home, and maintain a more low-key lifestyle, would be a better match with less active and relaxed breeds.
Now that we’ve gone over the abilities and lifestyle suggested for breed selection, let’s get into some specific breeds that are an ideal match for seniors and recent retirees.
Small Breed Dogs:
In addition to playing with your dog or using their favorite treats as a distraction, try playing calming music, turning the TV on or even a using sound machine to help drown out some of the loud thunder claps.
The Maltese has been heralded as both a status symbol and fashion statement since the early fifth century. Its elegant looks, silky white coat, and charming personality has solidified its position as perhaps the most famous lap dog in history. A Maltese is a great option for any potential senior pet owner. They are easy to maintain, handle, and can match the energy level of any potential owner.
Much like the Maltese, the Bichon Frise comes from a long line of royal blood. A favorite amongst early 13th century aristocrats, the "Bichon of the curly hair" features a curly white hypoallergenic coat, fit muscular body, and a gleeful but alert demeanor. Bichons are ideal for mid to low energy senior owners looking for a breed that’s well-mannered and relatively simple to care for.
Steeped in ancient Chinese history, the Shih Tzu or "lion dog" is a breed with royal roots. With elegant features and unwavering poise, it is no wonder the Shih Tzu was embraced by centuries of imperial families. The Shih Tzu’s long luxurious coat requires moderate maintenance (bathing every 3-4 weeks), frequent brushing, and regular nail trimmings. The breed’s small size, relatively low to mid exercise requirement, and ability to adapt to the lifestyle and abilities of a senior pet owner makes the Shih Tzu a loyal and loving companion.
Large Dog Breeds:
Originally bred as a working retriever for the outdoors, the world famous Golden Retriever has become one of the world’s most popular large breed dogs. Loyal, friendly, and compassionate, Golden Retrievers make great companions for seniors capable of caring for their needs. Senior pet owners that can physically handle large breeds, engage in mid to high levels of exercise, and provide lots of belly scratches are ideal candidates for Golden Retriever ownership.
Similar to the Golden, Labrador Retrievers were originally bred to work in the outdoors. Frequently used as waterfowl retrievers, labs were also known to provide company to fisherman while out to sea. Labrador Retrievers are very friendly, smart, and loyal canines. Senior citizens interested in caring for a Labrador Retriever should choose one that is gentle, patient, and relaxed.
Mixed breed dogs can also make great companions for seniors. It will be important to meet the potential pet before bringing them home. Monitor their behavior, the way they engage and interact with humans, and consider their size and temperament to decide if they will be a good fit. Again, consider physical ability and lifestyle to decide if the dog will make a good fit.