Did you know that there are many emotional and physical health benefits linked to owning a dog? It’s true! Research shows that sharing your life with and caring for a dog can greatly improve a person’s overall health and outlook on life. But being a pet parent to a canine kid can get even better with age. A recent Mayo Clinic study proposes that dogs are also a human heart’s best friend. Canine companionship often gives elderly folks a sense of purpose by giving them something to look forward to each day while developing a healthy daily routine including exercise and eating well. Research also shows that owning a pooch alleviates anxiety, reduces stress levels, and can even prolong a loving pet parent’s lifespan. Are you a senior or do you have a senior in your life who might benefit by owning a dog? In this article we will be taking a look at 5 of the best small dogs for seniors, so if the answer is “yes,” please pay close attention.
Why Should Seniors Consider Getting a Dog?
Most pet owners will tell you that their animals help them enjoy life more and make them feel loved and needed. In my opinion, the canine species just happens to be “top dog” when it comes to domestic pets. They are natural experts at giving and receiving love, making us laugh, and enjoying every waking moment of life.
Dogs can also be a blessing for age-related circumstances in someone’s life. Many elderly folks eventually find themselves living alone, perhaps with not enough meaningful activity to occupy their time. Some have health problems and often loneliness can lead to depression and even physical ailments. Having a cuddly canine companion around can help with all of these issues. Small dogs are best suited for seniors because they are easier to handle, easier to walk, and easier to travel with.
Companionship: Having a friendly and loving pet close by can be extremely comforting for an older person living alone or even an older couple with a need to care for and share a pet. A dog will happily mold his life to fit yours and shower you with love and loyalty and you will soon be taking care of each other.
Stress Relief: We can’t help but get into a better mood when we see a happy wagging tail greeting us every morning, nor can we ignore the loving friendship that has bonded humans and dogs for thousands of years. It’s a proven fact that older folks with pets exhibit less stress than their senior counterparts without pets.
Health: A study by the American Heart Association showed that having a dog, or even just interacting with dogs on a regular basis, can help prevent heart disease. Not only can our cuddly canines reduce stress levels, they can also lower blood pressure.
Exercise: Regular exercise is good for everyone, no matter what age. But most of us know how hard it can be to get into an exercise routine and stick with it. Having a dog is a great way to make a simple walk a part of your planned schedule. You wouldn’t want to disappoint that furry little face now would you?
Protection: Seniors living alone can be potential targets for burglars but most tend to stay away from homes with a barking dog, even a feisty little yappy one. The last thing an intruder wants to do is call attention to himself, so even small dogs can provide significant security.
Change of Focus: Unfortunately, many elderly people have a tendency to focus on loss; perhaps the loss of loved ones, or of physical abilities. Having a pet to care for helps the person change their focus to a living and loving creature who needs their affection, attention, and interaction.
Commitment: To adopt a canine kid means to make a commitment to living. This new adorable creature is totally dependent on the pet parent, elderly or not. This promise to be involved in the life and essential care of an animal who is capable of returning love and affection is a way of saying “YES” to life, no matter what stage of life that is.
Sociability: Having a dog can help older folks stay connected to life. Just a walk around the neighborhood with a cute pooch can be a social event, especially in fine weather when people sit on their front porches. The dog will also need to go to the vet occasionally, or the pet groomers. An excursion to the dog park could also be a special event since ‘dog people’ are naturally drawn to each other, and our pets are great icebreakers.
Best Small Dogs for Seniors
The adorably beautiful Maltese is actually bred for close companionship and knows the meaning of the word “lapdog.” This breed is considered hypoallergenic, making it a good choice for anyone with allergies. Malteses tend to be very affectionate and highly intelligent, which makes them easy to train.
Your Maltese will happily trot along beside you on a short brisk or leisurely walk, and just as happily jump into your lap afterward for a good gentle brushing. At 4 to 7 lbs., your cute new best friend is quite portable and easy to handle.
2.) TOY POODLE
Another hypoallergenic breed, the Toy Poodle sheds its curly locks almost not at all. One of the most popular breeds worldwide, Toy Poodles make affectionate and loyal companions. They are also one of the smartest and highly trainable canine breeds out there. They adapt very well to any household and want more than anything to be a treasured member of the family.
A daily walk or a fenced in yard to run and play in is important for your Toy Poodle since they are lively and athletic dogs. Don’t let the tiny size fool you. Packed into those 8 lbs. of cuddly canine cuteness is your smart, energetic and very funny new BFF.
3.) SHIH TZU
Shih Tzus were bred exclusively for companionship and are friendly and trusting toward everyone, even complete strangers. The breed originated in Tibet and was developed in China to be the companion dog of royal emperors. As small dogs bred to live in the lap of luxury, they are perfect pets for apartment living or if you don’t have a big backyard.
The Shih Tzu is not ranked that high on the canine intelligence scale, but makes up for it in other ways. This 9 to 16 lb. charmer is highly affectionate and will always treat its owner like royalty.
Very loyal and affectionate (not to mention fluffy) dogs, Pomeranians do not like to be apart from their human owners and do best with homebodies, or someone who is home most of the time. They make excellent companions for elderly folks because of their protective and alert nature, and their tendency to bark at strangers.
At 3 to 7 lbs. of body weight, your feisty but affectionate bodyguard will fit nicely in your lap, but needs moderate daily exercise.
5.) CAVALIER KING CHARLES SPANIEL
Extremely easy to handle and train, the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is a favorite with seniors who love small canine cuddle companions. The breed typically weighs between 12 and 18 lbs. Cavaliers are very affectionate and highly adaptable dogs, with a gentle and docile nature.
Although eager to please, this canine breed rarely barks and being a watchdog is not one of its major strengths. Cavaliers are happiest when snuggled up beside their pet parent(s).
A Mutual Caring Bond
The human-canine bond is thousands of years old and not likely to change anytime soon. It’s no secret that dogs are considered Humankind’s Best Friend and every one of us can benefit from this mutual bond, no matter what age we are. Most people have a fundamental need to love and care for others. When we find ourselves at the stage in life when loved ones have moved on or passed on, we can always look to the canine species to fulfill this everyday need and return all the love, care, and affection we have to give.
My Great Aunt Mary had a little poodle named Frenchie. She and Frenchie lived in cozy house on the hill after Uncle Andy passed on. Aunt Mary and Frenchie took care of each for a good many years.
When we’d go to visit, Frenchie would put on a protective feisty ‘barking show’ for Aunt Mary, even though he knew exactly who we were. When he was finished and we’d sit down, he’d jump in my lap. We were family.
I hope you have enjoyed and learned from reading about some best small dogs for seniors. If you have any relevant questions or comments you’d like me to address, please leave them in the comment section below. Thanks for visiting My Geriatric Dog!