Pets for the Elderly
Best Dog Breeds for Elderly People
Older people can gain so much from having a pet and a dog is often a very suitable choice. However, the nature and character of the dog needs to be considered carefully. While there are many mixed breed dogs that make wonderful, devoted companions, if considering a purebred dog, some breeds are more suited than others as a pet for the elderly. A well-chosen dog will enrich the life of such a person, providing companionship and affection. The needs of the owner need to be considered. Some people will be happy to have a 'lag dog' on their knees (or under their feet) most of the day while others will not want such constant interaction. Tiny dogs which 'dog' the heels of a person can cause falls or get hurt themselves so try to determine what traits the dog needs to have.
Each individual case will vary but there are some considerations which need to be taken into account in most cases. An older person may not be as mobile as they once were and will not want an energetic dog that is forever demanding walks. However the fact that the dog needs a walk now and again will encourage an older person to stay more active than might otherwise be the case. Mostly smaller breeds tend to need less exercise. Small dogs are also lighter to lift into a car or a sink for a bath. If the elderly person only has a small unit, a small dog will also be a better choice.
A dog that gets on with everyone will save problems if a care-giver needs to step in while the owner is ill or hospitalised. Young dogs and pups may not be the best choice as they will require training, they are likely to become bored and get up to mischief and they will need more exercise and interaction than is perhaps possible for an elderly owner to supply. Whatever breed is decided upon, it should not need to be stated that the owner should always have input into the choice of dog.
The following breeds are all good dogs for the elderly but they are not the only suitable choices.
Boston Terriers are a popular choice for an elderly person. It reaches about 16 inches in height, has very short, fine fur and sheds minimally. It can be sensitive to extremes of temperature so won't mind spending most of its time indoors. It is patient, sensible and invariably well-behaved.
The Yorkshire Terrier or Yorkie is a toy breed with a long, fine coat. It needs regular brushing and is considered a hypoallergenic breed. They average 3 to 7 pounds in weight and are intelligent and can be very protective. They do like a lot of attention but can be a wonderful companion for someone who doesn't mind lavishing attention on their pet.
Another small breed is the toy poodle. Average weight is around 6 to 9 pounds. The coat will require regular care and will need to be clipped regularly so this needs to be taken into consideration. Some owners will love to spend time brushing their dog while others will regard such attention as a chore. They are hypoallergenic and won't shed hair all over the furniture. The downside with this breed, as regards the elderly, is that it is intelligent and can be highly strung. This can lead to behavioural problems when they may attempt to take over the 'alpha' role and become the pack leader. If the owner is used to dogs and knows to retain control, the poodle can be an entertaining companion. They are very loyal and love to show off. They will easily pick up a few tricks but may be too lively for some people.
The Corgi has a largish body on short legs. His fur is soft, silky and easy to care for. He doesn't need bathing often unless he rolls in something smelly or becomes noticeably dirty. He is a dependable, alert dog, a little suspicious of strangers but polite to guests. They can be prone to obesity especially if fed titbits at the table and not exercised at all!
If space is not an issue, some of the hounds or sporting breeds are very laid back and not overly demanding. The Golden Retriever has a wonderful temperament and seems programmed to need someone or something to 'mind'. They are gentle and undemanding and are suited to a great variety of environments. Being a companion to an elderly person would be one of the Golden Retriever's strengths.
Always consider a dog from a rescue centre. Elderly rescue dogs can be hard to re-home but if they have no 'baggage' they may be good dogs for the elderly. They are settled in their ways and don't need to be continually walked or kept busy like a younger dog. And such dogs really seem to know and appreciate that they have been given a second chance at a new life.