Pets often make ideal companions. They are around when a person needs support, they can provide protection for those living alone, they’re always willing to lend an ear to problems, and many tend to offer unconditional love. Seniors facing an empty nest or the loss of a spouse may find pets can buoy their spirits. Studies have shown that seniors can benefit both mentally and physically from having a pet around. Pets can alleviate anxiety, depression and boredom.
While pets can provide comfort and companionship, they remain a significant responsibility. Seniors should find an animal that will fit in with their lifestyles. This is an important consideration for those seniors who travel frequently or have mobility issues. In addition, men and women living in senior communities or assisted living facilities should determine if there are any pet restrictions in place.
Those seniors who have decided that a dog will be the best fit can choose among several breeds that may be a good match for their needs. When selecting a dog, consider both size and temperament. Smaller dogs tend to be easier to handle and will need less maintenance. They are easily carried and won’t take as long to bathe and groom. Smaller dogs also consume less food than larger breeds, reducing the expense of dog food and the hassle of wrangling large, heavy bags of chow. Temperament is also important, as some breeds tend to be more easygoing than others. Larger breeds may be preferable to a smaller breeds, which tend to be hyperactive. However, always remember there are pros and cons to each breed, and each dog will demonstrate his own personality traits. The following are some dogs that can be especially compatible with seniors.
• Pug: Equally playful and willing to be a lap dog, the pug requires little exercise and grooming. The breed is typically nonaggressive and submissive. Pugs are good-natured and playful; they don’t often bark and are easy to train.
• Shih Tzu: The Shih Tzu lives for attention, but this breed can be dominant and difficult to train. The Shih Tzu will be alert to its surroundings and, despite its small stature, can be a good watchdog.
• Pomeranian: Pomeranians look like big balls of fur and can bring a smile to an owner’s face. The breed tends to be perky, can display dominance and can be difficult to train. Because Pomeranians can be dog-aggressive, they may be best as the only pet in the house.
• Yorkshire terrier: The Yorkie is a diminutive breed in size only, as they tend to have exuberant personalities that dwarf their stature. The ideal lap dog, Yorkies want to lie around and lounge, though some do like to bark. If the fur is kept short in a “puppy cut,” the dog can be easy to maintain.
• Pembroke Welsh Corgi: This medium-sized dog hails from Wales and typically requires only moderate exercise and little grooming. They are easy to train and moderately dominant. They don’t bark excessively, and they often get along with other dogs.
• Schnauzer: Available in three sizes, Schnauzers are good companions and protectors. This is an intelligent and loyal breed and will need to be kept amused to stave off boredom.
• Brussels Griffon: These dogs do not shed, but they will require professional grooming at least once every 3 months. If socialized early, the Griffon can be a good companion but will likely remain wary of strangers. They are good watchdogs and devoted to their owners.