“No one appreciates the very special genius of your conversation as a dog does.”
Dogs, our 4-legged, tail-wagging friends, are catalysts for joy, with the never-ending ability to make us smile, help us experience unconditional love, and enjoy countless hours of companionship. From the toddler years through the golden ones, there are dogs suitable for all stages of life, ready to deliver affection and friendship, and, as we age, the benefits of dog ownership continue to grow.
How Dogs Can Benefit Seniors
Wet noses and sloppy kisses aside, there are many perks of having a dog at home. According to a study conducted by the Harvard Medical School, owning a pet can lower blood pressure, ease anxiety or depression, and increase activity levels. Man’s (and woman’s) best friend can do all that? The bond with a dog can be a great source of comfort, happiness, and love, staving off feelings of stress, loneliness, and isolation. As well, caring for a dog, with the daily routine of feeding, walking, playing, and grooming, provides a greater sense of purpose and accomplishment for us humans.
In addition to the emotional benefits, the physical rewards of having a canine companion are great – exercising a dog is a motivator to get moving, to stay active, and even more social as you walk the dog and interact with other dog parents. Finally, having a dog in the home can provide a sense of security – even if it’s a small one, a dog’s bark can act like an alarm.
How to Choose the Right Dog
There are a few factors to consider before selecting a dog, such as your abilities and your living environment. While some of the best breeds for seniors are characterized by being loving, relaxed, easy to train, and lower maintenance, it’s important to look at what best suits your lifestyle. Do you like and/or are you able to get outside to exercise the dog? If you prefer or need to stay home, there are playful indoor dogs that require few outings versus breeds that are high energy and require more exercise. If you’re living in an apartment, a smaller, less noisy (read: bark-prone) dog can be a better choice, and if you are wary of puppydom, you can also consider adopting an adult dog, one that is already housebroken, socialized, and calmer.
Popular Dogs for Seniors
As mentioned, affectionate and loyal, dogs make for great senior companions, and can adapt well to a seniors’ lifestyle. Here are some sizes and breeds that are popular for seniors:
These breeds (up to 22 pounds) are compact, cheerful, and affectionate. They usually require only moderate exercise (some of the tiny breeds can even get all the exercise they need by running around your house!), are easy to train and handle, and make for the perfect lap dog. Below are dogs that fit in this category and some of their defining characteristics:
Bichon Frisé: smart, obedient, affectionate, require regular brushing and grooming
Cavalier King Charles Spaniel: quiet, lap dog, smart, easy to train, loving, good temperament, gentle
French Bulldog: good temperament, adaptable, love human contact, low exercise and grooming needs
Pomeranian: tiny (3-6 pounds), affectionate, smart, energetic, considered emotional support dogs, easy to handle, but can be yappy
Poodle: (Toy or Miniature size): good temperament, extraordinarily intelligent, highly trainable, gentle, loving
Pug: don’t bark (but tend to snore), don’t need much exercise, affectionate, minimal grooming
Shih Tzu: bred to be companions, adaptable, low exercise, can be prone to barking
While the list is much smaller than the one for lap dogs, these medium-size dogs (22-55 pounds) can make for great companions, are smart, and easy to train.
Goldendoodle: smart, loyal, affectionate, easy to train
Pembroke Welsh Corgi: smart, lively, easy to train, does require frequent daily walks
Gentle giants, these large dogs (over 55 pounds) have excellent temperaments, can make a dog parent feel more secure, and are ideal if you have room for a dog to stretch its legs indoors and be energetic outdoors. These breeds include:
Golden Retriever: kind, loving, loyal, need a lot of outdoor exercise to release energy
Greyhound: calm, gentle, quiet, easy to manage, friendly
Labrador Retriever: warm, outgoing, love human company, highly energetic and require a lot of exercise
Standard Poodle: good temperament, extraordinarily intelligent, highly trainable, gentle, loving
Whether chasing their tails or snuggling up close, dogs bring with them joy, comfort, and friendship to all…really, what more could we all hope for in a companion?!? Woof.