Senior Care Blog Wayland and Weston

August 26th is National Dog Day: Five Things to Consider When Choosing a Dog for a Senior

By Denise Roskamp

August 26th is National Dog Day, day to celebrate those wonderful canines that share our lives. Owning a pet has a lot of health benefits for seniors. Research shows that pet ownership reduces blood pressure, decreases depression, promotes physical activity, and reduces the number of visits to a doctor. If your parent does not currently have a dog, but would like one, here are five things to consider before adding a dog to your parent’s household.

#1 Age
No, not your parent’s age – the dog’s age! Whether you choose a puppy, adult dog, or senior dog will affect how well the dog fits into your parent’s home. If your parent is still pretty lively and is up to the challenge of training a new puppy, getting a puppy can allow your parent to train it in the manner that will make it most suitable to their home. However, an adult dog that is already trained will be easier. Better still, a senior dog who is trained and a little less active, can be a great match for older adults who are slowing down a bit, too. When deciding on the age of dog to rescue, take the dog’s lifespan into consideration and think about what will happen to the dog if your parent should pass away or have a change in living situation. Be sure that a plan is in place for someone to care for the dog in such situations.

#2 Size
Dogs come in a huge range of sizes—from massive Saint Bernards to tiny Chihuahuas. The size of dog that is right for your parent has a lot to do with what they are looking for in a companion. If your parent wants a dog to sit on their lap while they watch television, a Saint Bernard isn’t a great choice. However, if your parent wants a dog they don’t have to bend down to pet or whose sheer size makes them feel safer, look for a larger dog.

#3 Activity Level
Look for a dog that will match your parent’s activity level. A high-energy dog that requires a great deal of exercise may not be a good fit for your parent if they have mobility issues or aren’t terribly active. Instead, look for a dog whose energy encourages your parent to be active, but does not overwhelm them. Walking a dog is great exercise for both your parent and the dog. Your parent’s elder care provider could go for walks with them to ensure both are safe. If your parent is in a wheelchair, they can still help a dog to exercise by throwing a ball. This might also require some help from an elder care provider if the dog is still learning to play fetch and doesn’t reliably bring the ball back!

#4 Purebred or Mixed Breed
Whether your parent wants a purebred or mixed breed dog is mostly just a matter of preference. A purebred dog gives you a better idea of what the dog’s temperament and activity level will be. However, if you’re planning to adopt an adult or senior dog, the shelter or rescue should be able to give you a good idea of what to expect from the dog.

#5 Grooming
Some dogs with long coats require professional grooming, which can be expensive, so take your parent’s budget into consideration when choosing a dog. If your parent does get a dog that needs professional grooming, your parent’s elder care provider can drive them to the groomer or you may be able to hire a mobile groomer to come to the house. All dogs will need some grooming, but short
haired dogs often only need a little brushing and a bath every now and then.