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Reasons why dogs are good for seniors

Reasons why dogs are good for seniors
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Affectionate, loyal, nurturing: There are lots of reasons why dogs make great companions for seniors. Not only do dogs provide comfort and friendship, but they also help keep seniors healthy and encourage sociability. In fact, a 2019 study found that people who owned dogs were more likely to maintain better heart health and be more active, than those without pets. “Dogs give seniors a reason to get up and move – and walking a dog keeps them fit,” explains veterinarian Dr Anita Kinscher-Juran. Another plus: When you get out of the house for that walk, you have more chances to be social, too, from greeting neighbours on the street to impromptu conversations with fellow dog owners.

But adopting a dog is a big decision. Just like with a human companion, you need to understand what you’re looking for in a dog before committing to a long-term living arrangement.

Some important points to think about as you search for the best dogs for seniors are energy levels (vets often recommend calm dog breeds for older folks), the size of your home (these are the best apartment dogs) and the size of the dog, the breed’s socialness (some breeds, like Pomeranians, make the best emotional support dogs) and a dog’s age and temperament. Health and grooming needs and maintenance requirements (i.e. how often dogs need to be brushed, for instance) are also important considerations. Cocker spaniels, while super cute with their big, long ears, are also known for having frequent ear infections, for instance. And while Havanese, one of the cutest white dog breeds, are very portable, they also require a lot of grooming.

The decision to adopt a pet is not one that should be taken lightly. “Bringing a pet into the household is a lifelong decision for that animal,” says Dr Kinscher-Juran. But after thoroughly considering your situation and needs, it’s comforting to know, as Dr Kinscher-Juran says “that there is a dog for everyone and every age.”

Here are the top 15 best dogs for seniors.

Best overall: Bichon Frise

Best overall: Bichon Frise
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These white powder puffs of a dog are known for their sweet and friendly nature and are perfect for seniors seeking easy companionship – they also make great pets for first-time dog owners. These low-maintenance pups aren’t difficult to potty train and don’t shed much, which is why they are one of the best dogs for older people, Dr Kinscher-Juran says. (But to keep their snow-white hair looking fluffy, they do require grooming every five or so weeks.)

Bichons are gentle and playful and they get along well with other pets and children, so you don’t need to put them in another room if the grandkids stop by! At an average of 5 to 8 kilograms, they are also super portable. Not to mention smart. “One of my favourite bichons knew how to give a kiss in three different languages, one of which was Portuguese,” says Dr Kinscher-Juran.

Like the best toy dogs, they are perfectly content to sit on your lap for hours every morning, as you read the paper or watch the news. Bichon Frise’s don’t require long, five kilometre hikes to keep them happy, rather they’re fine with 20- to 30-minute leisurely strolls. What they crave most is attention, something seniors often have time to give.

Breed Overview

Height:            24 to 30 cms  

Weight:           5 to 8 kgs

Life expectancy:          14 to 15 years

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Best lap dog: Cavalier King Charles spaniel

Best lap dog: Cavalier King Charles spaniel
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If you are looking for one of the best dogs for older people, cavalier King Charles spaniels should be high on your list. It’s easy to fall in love with their big eyes and long ears. And Cavalier King Charles spaniels, in turn, like nothing more than to kiss and cuddle with their owners. Cavalier King Charles spaniels have an eager to please personality, which makes them easier to train. They also only require a moderate amount of exercise, which can be good for less active seniors. Beauty, of course, requires attention. Dr Kinscher-Juran suggests brushing their long luxurious coats once a day, which isn’t hard to do, considering they’re one of the best lap dog breeds!

Breed Overview

Height:            3.5 to 33 cms

Weight:           5.8 to 8 kgs

Life expectancy:          12 to 15 years

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Best apartment dog: Pug

Best apartment dog: Pug
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The pug’s motto is “a lot in a little” and that’s a perfect description to describe this vivacious breed. Small in size (pugs weigh on average between 6.3 and 8 kgs), they are easy to manage and handle. Their expressive faces and amiable dispositions make them great companions for seniors and one of the most gentle dog breeds. Pugs adore their owners and are known for following them around (there’s a reason why they’re sometimes called little shadows). With their tendency to prefer sleep over exercise, pugs make excellent apartment dogs, though they are just as happy in a house. Keeping with their un-diva-like personality, they are easy to groom and care for. When you adopt a pug, you make a friend for life.

Breed Overview

Height:           25 to 33 cms

Weight:           6.3 to 8 kgs

Life expectancy:          13 to 15 years

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Best small dog: Maltese

Best small dog: Maltese
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One of the best small dogs for seniors is the Maltese. These adorable white toy dogs were specifically bred to be companions. Loyal, sweet-natured, calm and adaptable, it’s not hard for a Maltese to quickly become seniors’ best four-legged friend. Though they love following their owners around, all they really need for health is short easy walks. At an average of 2 kilograms, Malteses are also easily transportable (which is a good thing since Malteses don’t like to be left alone too long). Their small size also makes them well suited for apartments or homes with limited space. You can’t mention a Maltese without mentioning their long, silky, white mane, which can be braided or put into a bun. “For the person who wants a living Barbie doll, and loves playing with hair, Malteses are your dog,” Dr. Kinscher-Juran says. But if all that grooming becomes too much, you can have the hair trimmed or shaped down.

Breed Overview

Height:             17 to 22 cms

Weight:           Under 3 kgs

Life expectancy:          12 to 15 years

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Most social dog: Havanese

Most social dog: Havanese
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Sweet, friendly and eager for attention: Havanese make great companions for seniors who find themselves at home more. As a breed, Haveneses don’t like to be alone for very long. (There’s a reason they’re called Velcro dogs). These super social dogs crave affection and get along well with other breeds and strangers. Their high intelligence makes them easier to train and potty train. And at about 5 kgs, they are easy to carry. Walks might take a bit longer with Haveneses because they will want to try to say hi to everyone. But for seniors, looking for sociability, this is not such a bad thing! That’s why Havaneses are one of the best dogs for seniors.

Breed Overview

Height:            22 to 30 cms

Weight:           3 to 6 kgs

Life expectancy:          14 to 16 years

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Best house dog: Miniature schnauzer

Best house dog: Miniature schnauzer
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Miniature schnauzers are one of the most adaptable breeds of dogs. Originally bred as a farm dog in Germany, miniature schnauzers are just as content living in an assisted living facility as they are roaming outdoors. Small, sturdy, hypoallergenic and affectionate, miniature schnauzers are great with, say, rambunctious grandchildren. And their calmness – and attunement to the moods of humans – make them excellent therapy animals. Miniature schnauzers both play hard and relax hard. They need a moderate amount of daily exercise but are also good at simply lounging around, while their owners watch TV or make dinner.

Breed Overview

Height:             30.5 to 36 cms

Weight:           5 to 9 kgs

Life expectancy:          12 to 15 years

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Best large dog: Greyhound

Best large dog: Greyhound
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With their lean bodies, flexible spines, and long legs, greyhounds are known for their athletic ability and for being the fastest dog breed. What is not as well-known is that their gentle and sensitive temperament and minimal grooming needs make them one of the best dogs for seniors. Older, retired racing greyhounds are often the best choice for seniors,. “As racing dogs, they often live on a track without much positive human and social interaction,” Dr Kinscher-Juran says. “When they’re adopted, they’re far more appreciative of the loving home you are providing, and don’t seem to take that for granted.”

And though they do need daily exercise, greyhounds – perhaps surprisingly! – are renowned for their laziness. Weighing anywhere from 27 to 31.7 kgs, these gentle giants, are content to lounge around the house, accepting pets and back rubs.

Breed Overview

Height:            67 to 76 cms

Weight:           27 to 31.7 kgs

Life expectancy:          10 to 13 years

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Best with grandkids: Golden retriever

Best with grandkids: Golden retriever
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Golden retrievers are a large breed with an even larger heart. For seniors looking for gentle dog breeds, golden retrievers are loyal, friendly, intelligent, people-pleasers. They are easy to train, famous for their patience and great with the grandkids. Golden retrievers do require consistent, hard exercise every day, but they are more than content for part of that exercise to consist of finding and retrieving balls in the backyard. Though golden retrievers can weigh up to 34 kgs and more, they still think of themselves as lap dogs. “Golden retrievers are happy to sit with you on the patio at the end of the day, with their head on your lap, watching the sunset,” Dr Kinscher-Juran says.

Breed Overview

Height:            54.5 to 61 cms

Weight:           25 to 34 kgs

Life expectancy:          10 to 12 years

Best hypoallergenic: Toy Poodle

Best hypoallergenic: Toy Poodle
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For seniors with allergies or respiratory issues, poodles are one of the best hypoallergenic dog breeds. Poodles have a single-layer coat that doesn’t shed (though all that beautiful, naturally curly hair requires a lot of brushing and grooming!). They come in multiple sizes, from tiny teacup poodles, that weigh between 1.8 to 2.7 kgs to small toy poodles that weigh between 2.7 to 4 kgs to miniature poodles that weigh between 6.8 to 7.7 kgs to standard poodles that weigh between 20.4 to 31.75 kgs. Like the best sort of human companion, poodles are known for both their beauty and their brains. Their high intelligence makes them easy to train (helpful for seniors) and their affectionate personality makes them easy to love. The smaller toy poodle is a top choice for seniors.

Breed Overview

Height:            25 cms max

Weight:           1.8 to 2.7 kgs

Life expectancy:          10 to 18 years

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