For lifelong dog lovers approaching their golden years, sharing their homes and hearts with dogs provides many physical, mental and emotional health benefits. Research has shown that dogs help lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and combat loneliness.
Choosing the right canine companion is a very big decision. You want a dog who provides companionship, but not one who can knock you off your feet during a walk.
So which breeds are best suited for senior citizens? There is no one breed perfectly suited for seniors, but here are some with reputations for making your golden years truly illuminating:
1. Mellow Adult or Senior Mutts
Animal shelters and rescue groups across the country are overpopulated with mature dogs with predictable temperaments. These mature dogs have long graduated from the destructive chewing and house soiling habits that are hallmarks of puppyhood. Here’s your opportunity to match your activity level and give a dog a second chance at a happy home. If you love big breeds like Labradors and Golden retrievers, here is your opportunity to pair up with one who may sport a graying muzzle and a toned-down energy level.
2. Miniature Schnauzer
Yes, this breed is feisty, playful and vocal. For seniors like my neighbor and friend Frum, this is the ideal breed. Not too big, but big enough to protect her and send solicitors at her door back paddling by his barrage of warning barks. When her husband passed away nine years ago, she filled the void of an empty home by adopting Buddy, a 12-week-old miniature Schnauzer. Now, 90, Frum says that Buddy’s comical antics and love of snuggling keep her feeling years younger.
3. French Bulldog
If you loved the swagger and power of an English bulldog in your prime, consider the smaller and easier-to-handle Frenchie. Here is a breed that requires a very manageable amount of daily exercise, say a 15- or 20-minute walk and one you can easily pick up. Most Frenchies weigh between 20 and 28 pounds. They are very social and usually welcome house guests, including grandchildren.
4. Toy Poodle
Here’s an Einstein breed who lives to learn and make you laugh. And, you won’t have to deal with bringing out the vacuum daily because this is a low-shedding, clean-smelling breed. But you will have to budget in your fixed income money for regular grooming appointments to keep your Poodle looking tres magnifique.
5. Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
Nicknamed the Love Sponge, this doe-eyed, long-eared small breed won’t tax your lap during snuggle sessions because he weighs between 10 to 18 pounds. Even better, this breed has a reputation for mirroring your activity level, be it lounging or taking brisk walks.
Caution: don’t select by size alone. Extremely itty bitty breeds, such as the Chihuahua, can be very vocal and may not win you any popularity contests with neighbors in your condo or assisted living residential complex. And, these small breeds move quickly and quietly. You risk tripping over them and causing serious injury to you as well as to your dog’s delicate frame and pencil-thin legs.
Parting advice: paw it forward. Whichever dog you choose to enjoy your golden years with, set up a pet trust that clearly states how your pet should be cared for – and by whom – should your dog outlive you. Click here to learn what a pet trust is and how to set one up in this other Pets Best article.