The Best Dogs For Seniors

I have received several calls recently asking what breed of dog would be good for an aging member of the family.  Here is an article I put together on the subject.

Dog lovers are well aware of the benefits that come from having a dog in their lives.  Whether that dog is a tiny Chihuahua or an enormous Saint Bernard, we all have our favorites.  Just because we get older doesn’t mean we appreciate having dogs as companions any less.  Studies have even shown that having a dog as a pet can improve the health and wellbeing of seniors.  Many nursing homes welcome animal visitors, pet therapists and some allow pets to live with residents.

It is important for seniors to take into consideration some of the changes that occur as we age.  It’s usually not easy for a senior to handle a giant breed or a breed that requires a lot of grooming.  It may be more difficult to exercise a dog with high energy levels.  For these reasons, seniors should consider things like size and temperament when they think about getting a dog.  Smaller dogs often make good pets for older people.  Small dogs with shorter coats are good because they usually require less maintenance and they can be easier to handle than large dogs.  Small dogs can also make wonderful lap dogs.

Here are some of the best choices for dogs for seniors:

Pug – The Pug is everyone’s favorite clown.  A big dog in a small package.  They are small but they have huge personalities.  If you like playful, outgoing dogs, then the Pug may be for you.  They love attention and affection.  They are also very affectionate in return.  You should be sure you have lots of time for a Pug if you intend to get one because they will expect you to give them lots of your time.  They are wonderful lap dogs.  Grooming is easy since they are short-coated, but they do shed a lot.

Cocker Spaniel – The Cocker Spaniel is always a popular pick because of their good looks and sweet personality.  For years they were the most popular dog in the United States.  They are friendly without being overbearing.  They do require some exercise since they are a Sporting breed, but since they are small dogs they will be happy with a good walk.  They are devoted to their owners.  They tend to have long, curly hair so regular grooming is a must.  Many people opt for a popular pet trim from a dog grooming shop.

Chihuahua – Chihuahuas are always popular, and with good reason.  For anyone who likes small dogs these little guys are very cute.  If you like a dog that you can carry with you almost everywhere, then the Chihuahua may be your kind of dog.  Don’t let their small size fool you.  These little dogs think they’re big dogs and may well try to tell off a much bigger dog.  They often attach themselves to one person in a family.  If you’re a senior living alone they are more than capable of letting you know when someone is approaching or at your door.  They are very protective.  They usually weigh six pounds or less.  Watch out for the so-called “tea cup” Chihuahuas and other breeds.  The super tiny versions of breeds may have health problems later on.

Shih Tzu – The Shih Tzu is a friendly, gentle dog with a regal appearance.  They are an ancient breed from China – one of several breeds from that land.  Shih Tzu are said to be the oldest and smallest of the holy dogs from Tibet.  These dogs are sturdy, lively and alert.  They do have a snub-nosed face so they are sensitive to problems with heat in the summer and do best in a cooler climate or in an air conditioned house.  They make a very loving and intelligent companion.  Their long, flowing coat does require some care.

Yorkshire Terrier – The Yorkshire Terrier is not what he appears to be.  With his lovely long coat and small size he looks quite dainty, but this little guy was bred to kill rats originally.  He’s still a terrier inside and there’s quite a bit of terrier vigor still left in him.  He may be a loving lap dog now but it doesn’t take much to get him moving again.  He makes a fierce little companion, alert and feisty.  Yorkies are generally easy to train but they can be a bit stubborn at times.

Scottish Terrier – Scotties, naturally, originated in Scotland.  This is a sturdy little dog, strong and active.  They are brave, alert, playful and friendly as pups.  They grow up to be dignified adults.  Some might say they have a very Scottish character.  They tend to be a bit stubborn and require good training when they’re young.  They do not respond well to harsh correction.  They are around 19-23 pounds and 10-11 inches tall at the shoulder.  They do very well in apartments with moderate exercise.

Toy Poodle – As with all Poodles, the Toy Poodle is one of the most intelligent dog breeds.  They enjoy human company, probably more than they enjoy the company of dogs.  They will allow you to pamper them all you want.  If you want to dote over a small dog, this may be the one for you.
Pomeranian – Pomeranians are a great favorite with many people.  Cute as can be, they are fuzzy with a foxy little face.  Friendly, playful, active, Pomeranians are a tiny Spitz-type breed that originated in Pomerania, Germany.  They were originally much larger sled dogs before they were bred down to their current size.  Dogs today should not be larger than 10 pounds.  They make wonderful companions and are one of the most popular dog breeds.

Boston Terrier – Boston Terriers are considered to be an American breed – one of the few native American breeds.  They originated around 1870.  These dogs are typically friendly and laid back.  They are small but protective and a senior may feel secure with such a dog around.  They are short-haired dogs that are easy to groom.  Dogs should weigh between 10 and 25 pounds.  They are white with black, brown or brindle.

These are a few breeds that tend to make good pets for seniors.  Some of them are shorthaired, while others have long hair.  If you’re interested in any of these breeds, or others, keep in mind that every dog is an individual.  We can make generalities about them but each dog is unique.  You may meet a Cocker Spaniel that wants to run all the time or a shy Pomeranian.  If you are interested in a dog try to meet him or her in person to see what they’re like.  See how they fit with your own personality.  Consider your own circumstances and lifestyle to see if the dog would be a good match.  If you love dogs there is probably a good dog out there for you.  Good luck in your search.

Until next time…….

About the Author: Wayne Booth is owner of Canine Behavior Specialists in Nashville, TN.  Wayne has been teaching people how to become Professional Dog Trainers since 1990 and he is the Training Director of Canine Behavior Specialists Network,

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