Choosing the right dog can be a fun challenge for anyone – and seniors in particular need to consider their needs and capabilities in this journey. Seniors or their loved ones should consider a dog’s size, energy level, temperament, and grooming requirements, as well as any rules their senior living community may have in place.
Size & Energy Level
Try to match the size and energy level of the dog to the senior’s mobility and activity level. Also consider whether there’s easy access to a fenced yard or bark park for the pooch to burn off that energy. While it isn’t necessary to exclude all large or more active dogs, generally smaller dogs are better for aging owners. They are easier to transport and lift, require less exercise and space, and can be easier to manage on a leash. However, a larger dog over 4 years old could still be a good fit, as it will typically be calmer than many younger dogs and should already have some training.
Take care to choose a dog whose temperament and instincts will suit the lifestyle and capabilities of the owner. Herding and sporting breeds like border collies and shepherds, or any high-energy dog regardless of breed, can become destructive or stressed if it doesn’t receive enough exercise and stimulation. Dogs that are aggressive, fearful, or have behavioral issues obviously present a number of challenges that not all seniors will be able to manage effectively. Here’s a description of the temperament test performed on adult dogs, designed by the American Temperament Test Society. Gauging a puppy’s personality is harder, and less accurate, but there are also puppy tests to assess key personality traits.
Consider how much time or money you or your loved one will need to spend grooming your prospective pup. A dog with a long or dense coat that requires frequent care isn’t automatically out of the running, but if you aren’t able to do all the necessary brushing and bathing, you’ll need to take your dog to the groomer every four to eight weeks or so. Dogs that shed a lot will also increase the amount of sweeping and vacuuming required at home, and could aggravate some allergies or health conditions.
Puppy or Adult?
Puppies are almost irresistible and bring so much joy. But they also require a lot of work with house training, obedience training, socialization, and the need for more exercise. When a puppy is teething (at around 4 to 7 months old), be prepared to lose shoes, rugs, and even furniture to their voracious chewing. With a dog over 6 months old, you can more accurately assess temperament and they are likely to already have some training. However, it can sometimes be harder to train or retrain older dogs if they have established negative behaviors.
Community Rules & Restrictions
Even pet-friendly senior living communities often have breed or weight restrictions for dogs, and they may also limit the number of pets in each household. So make sure you’re familiar with your community’s rules before choosing a furry companion. Some senior living communities will only allow a dog that is already house trained and fully vaccinated, which may influence considerations about the ideal age for your pooch. Even if you’re still living in your own home but are considering a move to a senior living community within the next few years, choosing a dog that complies with common community rules might be a smart move.
Owning a dog has a positive impact on both mental and physical well-being. Enjoy the process of choosing your four-legged friend, and the years of companionship and unconditional love that will follow. For more helpful lifestyle tips for seniors, visit our Senior Living Management blog today.