What Seniors Need to Consider When Choosing a Furry Companion
Atlas Senior Living manages senior living communities across the southern United States. Many of their communities are pet friendly to support seniors living their best lives.
What dog breed is best for seniors?
There is no one-size-fits-all answer when it comes to choosing a breed that is best for seniors.
Dog breeds are as unique as their human counterparts. They have unique characteristics that make them right for one person but a disaster for another.
Why should seniors have dogs?
We have seen the magnets and bumper stickers and kitschy signs for our homes. Life is better with a dog. They are everywhere because they are true. Living with a dog makes our lives richer and more fulfilling.
- Companionship: They don’t call them man’s best friend for nothing. As we age, life can get really lonely, but it is always encouraging to be loved unconditionally and greeted each day with a happy, wagging tail.
- Routine and sense of purpose: Dogs are creatures of habit, just like humans. When they rely on you for caregiving, they become accustomed to routines. Loving dog owners don’t want to disappoint their best fur friends, and attending to their needs and routines gives seniors a sense of purpose.
- Exercise/Getting Out: Having a dog is a great way to ensure that seniors are getting out of the house and getting some exercise. Dogs (and seniors) need exercise daily – the benefit goes hand-in-hand.
- Making new friends: Americans of any age love their dogs! Simply being out for a walk or in a park with your dog will attract other dog lovers who seek to connect with you on that very topic. And many times, communities will have dog-friendly events for you and your dog.
- Protection: Protection equals peace of mind. Bigger dogs can be scary, but even the threat of a yappy ankle-biter can be a deterrent to would-be criminals.
- Emotional Support: Sometimes life can be difficult, and seniors are more susceptible to depression and anxiety. Having a dog to care for can be enough to keep you grounded in reality and better able to fight off the negative emotions.
What should you consider when choosing a dog?
Seniors need to consider their own goals and capabilities when choosing a furry friend. You don’t want a dog that needs long walks if what you really need is something small that is content to snuggle in your lap.
Here are several things seniors need to consider when selecting the dog that will likely be with them for the next ten years.
- Size: From a giant English Mastiff to a tiny Chihuahua, dogs come in all sizes. However, it wouldn’t make sense to have a large breed of dog in an apartment. If you want a lap dog, smaller is probably better. Consider your environment and activities you want to do with your dog, and choose a size accordingly.
- Energy level: This is a really important factor to consider. As we age, we don’t have the energy that we once had, and we may not be able to keep up with some dog breeds. Having a high-energy dog like a Russell Terrier or a German Shepherd that can’t properly release its energy can lead to boredom, which may lead to destructive behaviors like chewing or digging. A lower-energy dog like a Shih Tzu or a Basset Hound might be a better, lower-maintenance choice.
- Age: If you have concerns about training and energy level, an older dog may be right for you. By adopting an adult dog, seniors can skip the housebreaking and teething stages and get a dog who already has some manners and needs less exercise. Also, cute little puppies get adopted from shelters easily, leaving behind well-behaved older dogs – you will often have your pick of the diamonds in the rough.
- Temperament: This has to do with a dog’s natural inclination to respond to its environment. According to the American Temperament Test Society, temperament takes into account a dog’s stability, shyness, aggressiveness, and friendliness as well as the dog’s instinct for protectiveness towards its handler and/or self-preservation in the face of a threat. Dogs need to be good citizens in their communities, so temperament is important.
- Grooming and maintenance: Because dog breeds are so unique, their grooming and maintenance needs are unique as well. Some dogs, like Siberian Huskies, have thick undercoats that require daily brushing and still manage to fill your home with fur. Other dogs, like Great Danes and Smooth-coated Chihuahuas, lack undercoats at all, and an occasional brushing is all you need. Other dogs don’t shed at all, which makes them conveniently hypoallergenic, but requires regular brushing and haircuts that can become pricey over time if you don’t have the skills or desire to do it yourself.
And don’t forget to consider other health concerns. Dogs need regular vaccinations to protect them from common diseases, and some breeds are susceptible to other health issues. Dachshunds can have back problems, Lhasa Apsos can develop skin problems, German Shepherds can develop Degenerative Myelopathy, and pugs can develop respiratory problems. In short, it would be worthwhile to do some research.
Are Atlas communities pet friendly?
At Atlas Senior Living communities, we understand how important pets are to seniors. That’s why many of our communities are pet friendly. And for those communities that can’t accommodate residents having their own pets, we are often visited by local therapy dogs and other furry guests.