The best dogs for seniors are loyal companions. They want nothing more than some attention, activity, and love from their pet parents. Not only do they make great roommates, but they're known to significantly impact their pet parent's health, too. Pets help to lower blood pressure, reduce stress, and increase physical activity, according to a study published in the journal Circulation.
Older individuals who live alone and have little interaction with friends or family may be searching for a partner with whom to share their lives. Dogs for people in their elder years provide a perfect opportunity for both the pet and human. The adult has a companion; a dog to love and care for, and the dog has a new pack leader, someone who will love him forever.
Why Dogs for Seniors Make Great Companions
There are many reasons for seniors looking for a companion to adopt pets. Dogs, in particular, make great partners. They're quick to show affection, and a bond is almost instantaneous. As long as your new dog understands that you are his new pack leader, a strong connection will be forged.
A relationship with a pet is often easier to maintain for a senior than searching for new relationships with humans. Why? Simple: You don't have to build a relationship with a dog as you would with a human. Creating friendships relies on strong communication skills, common interests, and trust is built up over time. All dogs need from a companion is food, exercise, and affection. They listen intently when their pet parent talks; and even better, they don't talk back–well, most of the time.
It also helps give seniors a new sense of purpose that they might have lost. Many people in their older years have watched their children leave the home, have retired from work, and spend much of their time around the house. For this reason, many seniors like having that responsibility that they used to have. It makes them feel good to care for someone again, and a dog is truly appreciative of that attention.
Understand Energy Levels Before Adopting
Are you extremely active in your golden years or do you take it more slowly? Knowing and being honest about your own energy levels will help you choose what dog is best suited for your lifestyle. If you're a hiker, look for a dog that will enjoy the outdoors with you. If mobility is an issue, a more docile dog will be a good companion. If you travel, look for a dog that will be a good traveler and will behave in a car or airplane.
However, it's important to think long term with age. Dogs have long life spans, and while your energy level might be high now, you may slow down throughout the years. If your dog needs more activity than you can provide, consider bringing him to doggy day care or a play group in a dog park to burn off some energy.
Characteristics to Look for in a Dog Companion
Don't let anyone fool you into thinking that specific breeds make the best dogs for seniors. Any breed can make for a perfect companion. Similarly, size shouldn't determine your next dog. While many assume that small dogs make for better pets, large, calm dogs are great choices, too. A relaxed dog is the best fit for an elderly person. Temperament should be analyzed before adopting to ensure a perfect match. Consider involving your dog in training if there are any behaviors that need correcting. With a little love, attention, and consistency, your dog will make the perfect roommate and confidant.
It's good to know what you're looking for in a new pup before going to your local shelter. Do you want a nice lap dog? Then, a Great Dane probably isn't your ideal companion; the same can be said if you drive a small two seat vehicle. If you're looking for a dog to help keep you mobile and active, dogs like Golden Retrievers are one of many great options. Also, consider if you're willing to put in the time to train a new puppy or if you're looking for an already trained companion. But more than anything, look for a connection. When you're at the shelter, an instant connection with a dog is usually a good sign that you've found your new best friend.
Prepare Yourself in Your Aging Years
It is no question that as we age our lives change. Mobility can often times be more cumbersome and health issues become greater risks, but dogs have an innate ability to revitalize us and make us feel young again. But it is still always a good idea to prepare yourself in the worst of circumstances. If you become ill or unable to provide care for your pup, make sure to have an appointed caregiver set up ahead of time, so that your dog will be cared for in the same way you would care for him. This can include listing a caregiver in a will if necessary–making sure to talk with this person ahead of time to ensure they are up to the responsibility.
Cost is another consideration. If you are retired, you are likely on a budget that you need to work within. Make sure to assess your budget and the average costs of getting a dog to ensure that you can still live comfortably and take care of a dog.
If you're senior and are looking for a little extra love in your life, a dog can be a great companion. You'll appreciate the love they show you every day, and they'll appreciate the care and affection that you provide.
Erin Ollila is a pet enthusiast who believes in the power of words and how a message can inform–and even transform–its intended audience. Her writing can be found all over the internet and in print, and includes interviews, ghostwriting, blog posts, and creative nonfiction. Reach out to her on Twitter @ReinventingErin or learn more about her at http://erinollila.com.