Author Dean Koontz once said, “Petting, scratching, and cuddling a dog could be as soothing to the mind and heart as deep meditation, and almost as good for the soul as prayer.” To his credit, research agrees. Recent studies show that owning a pet can help lower blood pressure and reduce other risks of cardiovascular disease. Pets can also help address depression and feelings of loneliness. In this blog post, we’ll look at the benefits that dogs, specifically, can provide older adults and highlight the best dog breeds for seniors.
How dogs can benefit seniors
Before we take a look at the best dog breeds for seniors, let’s highlight some of the significant benefits of dog ownership for older adults.
Because dogs love interacting with people and integrating into their lives, dogs provide a special, interdependent relationship to seniors who own them. Plus, walking a dog lends itself to easily meeting other dog owners and starting conversations, leading to greater opportunities for socialization and friendships.
Dogs thrive on a schedule and love accompanying their humans on daily outdoor adventures. And while physical exercise can help dogs release pent up energy, it also serves as motivation for seniors to get out and be physically active. Regular grooming is an indoor activity that also gets the body moving and the blood pumping. As an added bonus, bonding is increased as dog and owner share in these healthy activities.
Owning a dog involves taking responsibility for the well-being of another life. This can be especially rewarding for older adults whose human kids are grown. Feeding, grooming and taking a dog to the vet can help give seniors a sense of purpose.
Dogs also provide opportunities for social interaction. Going to the dog park, seeing the vet, or visiting the dog groomer are all “excuses” for getting out and interacting with other people that come from taking care of a dog.
Dogs have a way of calming us down and helping us live in the moment. In fact, studies show that just having a furry companion around can help lower our response to stressful situations.
As mentioned above, the physical benefits of owning a dog include reduced stress, lower blood pressure, and the health perks of a regular exercise routine. And all this happens naturally in the context of the pet/human relationship without the aid of medication.
7 best dog breeds for seniors in independent living
While there is no formula for finding the best dog for you, some general principles can help ensure a good fit, including energy level, size and temperament. In general, older adults tend to do well with small dogs that weigh 30 pounds or less, are mild tempered, and don’t need a lot of exercise. Older dogs too can be a good fit for seniors as their need for and ability to exercise has usually declined and their disposition has mellowed. So let’s take a look at seven of the best dog breeds for seniors in no particular order:
Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
Bred to grace the laps of royalty, Cavaliers seem most happy sitting with their owners enjoying a mutually beneficial petting. Typically weighing 11 to 18 pounds, Cavaliers are easy to handle and train. They do require some grooming, such as regular hair brushing and ear cleaning, but overall this breed is well suited for apartment living and a favorite of those who love small, snuggly companions.
Miniature schnauzers are very friendly and enjoy moderate exercise such as playing fetch, running in the yard or brisk walks. Shedding is minimal, and their coats don’t require a lot of attention. Most owners visit a professional groomer every five to eight weeks, according to the AKC.
Boston terriers are among the best dog breeds for seniors. They don’t bark much, making them a good choice for seniors in independent living communities. Plus, they love to sit on your lap and require minimal exercise. They also have a short coat that doesn’t require much maintenance other than the occasional bath.
Weighing anywhere from 9 to 16 pounds, Shih Tzus are easy to handle and care for. They’re well-rounded dogs who thrive in independent living settings. A short, daily walk and periodic grooming are important, but overall, Shih Tzus tend to be low-maintenance companions. Plus, their gentle demeanor means they get along well with grandchildren and other pets.
The long, beautiful coats of Lhasa Apsos are their signature feature. Choosing to keep their coat long will call for a bath every two weeks or so and regular brushing in between. But trimming their hair shorter is also an option to reduce required grooming. Tending to the more energetic side of the spectrum, Lhasa Apsos benefit greatly from brisk walks but will also burn off excess energy via “zoomies.” They are very intelligent and are often used as therapy dogs.
French bulldogs are compact, muscular and incredibly cheerful dogs. With a weight of about 19 to 28 pounds they are on the heavier end of the recommended weight for seniors but are still very manageable. And although Frenchies do have a good deal of energy, they tend to lack endurance, making moderate daily exercise just right for this breed.
With an average weight of about 7 to 12 pounds, bichons are extremely easy to handle and relatively simple to train. Periodic grooming is required, but in general, this breed is fairly low maintenance. Bichons thrive on companionship and enjoy moderate daily exercise with their owners.
Pets are welcome at Grand Lodge
If sharing your home with a dog is important to you, you’ll be glad to know pets are welcome in all independent living residences at Grand Lodge. Learn more by filling out the brief contact form below to have one of our sales counselors touch base with you soon.