Friday, November 5, 2010

Puppies and Senior Citizens. Are they a Good Match?

by Carrie Boyko, CEB
With age comes changes in our approach to life. Some of us mellow and become 'soft touches'. Others become more outspoken and opinionated. I have no psychology training, yet in observing all the senior citizens that have been in my life, I have seen a clear change as they age--one direction or the other.

The point of this article is simply to help you, or a senior in your life, look candidly at their current temperament and consider this when deciding between a mature dog or a bouncy, young puppy, as a new companion.

It seems there are pros and cons to each choice. I'd like to offer a few things to consider to those of you who may be thinking about a dog as an addition to the household of a senior or senior couple.
  • First and foremost, consider the prospective owner's current, not past, energy, health and exercise needs. Does she enjoy a couple of daily, brisk walks or prefer a slow amble around the cul-de-sac?
  • Are the rigors of potty training a new puppy likely to be a fun challenge for this new owner, or perhaps a bit more trouble than they need?
  • Does the prospective owner have the physical ability to pick up and/or restrain the dog being considered?
  • Is this potential owner a confident and ardent taskmaster with a take-charge attitude, or more of a follow-the-leader type of personality?
  • Will this owner have strong opinions about the rules his dog is to follow, or does he plan to baby the pup and take an 'anything goes' sort of approach?
  • Are the prospective owner's finances in good shape to provide a healthy diet, regular medical care, and training classes or sessions to assist with teaching the dog proper manners?
  • Is the new owner able to access areas that are dog-friendly for potty breaks, within close proximity to her front door during inclement weather? 
  • Does the owner have sufficient area for an indoor romp, laser tag game, or other indoor play, when the weather turns bad for days at a time?
  • Is the owner able to drive, or does she have access to dog-friendly transportation to pick up pet supplies, make grooming trips and vet visits?
  • Will the owner be able to adequately socialize the dog during neighborhood walks, pet store visits, dog park trips or other dog-friendly activities?
I'm sure you get the idea by now. A retired adult or senior citizen may find himself lonely and in need an active companion to get him out to have some fun and see the neighbors. The flip side of this is that a lonely widow or widower may simply want a companion to keep him or her company in the home. This, unfortunately, is no life for a young dog. Even a mature dog requires a daily walk with an opportunity for using his nose to explore the world.

Dogs need outdoor play, a chance to take in the sights and sounds of the area, and just as importantly, they need socialization with people and other dogs. Being stuck inside most days will often turn a sweet dog into one with issues, anxieties or even physical health problems, the result of lack of exercise.

Dogs come from thousands of years of history living in packs where one leader runs the show. That leader needs to be its owner. If the dog senses an ongoing weakness in its owner, it may decide to take matters into its own paws. This is when trouble starts.

Before adopting a dog, consider the dog's needs as well as that of the owner. If the energy and ability to train and care for a dog are less than vigorous, consider adopting an adult dog that is already trained, socialized and has learned proper manners. The obvious advantages of this approach are that your only jobs will be to establish yourself as the leader and enjoy the bonding process.

Choosing a medium to small breed with a history of less activity and more submissive behavior would likely be the most successful match.  There are many available through rescues and Humane Societies. Try Petfinder and AdoptaPet online, where you can search breeds, size, sex, age, location and other criteria that will help you find the right companion. Take your time to be sure, and don't ever adopt a dog sight unseen. Visit more than once, if possible, to assess the dog's energy and behavior among other humans and dogs.

Most of all, realize that adopting a dog is akin to taking in a new family member. You wouldn't send back an adopted child if he misbehaved, would you? Of course not! You would seek professional help to correct the problem. Keep this in mind when Fido has a rough day now and then. And if one rough day turns into many, be sure to act quickly and get professional assistance to turn your dog's bad-boy attitude around. 

Let's use this post to assess how many readers out there have a senior in their life that might enjoy a new companion--or perhaps they themselves are the senior. Comments on this post or at my Facebook page, will be entered in a drawing for a "New Dog Kit": a small dog carrier, 2 bowls, a guidebook to Caring for your Dog, a bottle of enzyme carpet cleaner for "oopsies", sample dog food, 1 Greenie, a starter kit of Toki Poki trading cards (just for fun!), a lanyard key chain for your dog walks, and a dog whistle. Sorry; the Scruffy doggie stays here! He's just our spokesDog for today.

(c) Carrie Boyko
Almost Ready for that New
Family Member?

Good luck with your new best friend, and remember, it's all worth it. Oliver will be sure to have a few thoughts on this topic. Drop in at 5 Minutes for Fido to hear his opinions. Finally, don't miss the opportunity to win big doggie and dog-lover gifts in my MANKINDdog raffle at this link. Happy tails!

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Anonymous said...

I have seen all sides of this... Good and bad.. My mom had Taffy which was a seinior herself.. She was a great match to my mom, she loved to cuddle and sit around.. and go for short walks, My mom cant do to much so the cuddling was perfect. My dad got a a boarder collie, and he tryed for 2 months, but the puppy was to much for him. My dad is 76 and has cancer, so he adopted the dog out to a friend of his. Now that pup is on a farm chasing goats.. So Puppies was to much for them, they prefer seniors..
I adopted out a puppy yorkie to a eldery lady who lived on her own, that elderly lady called me months later and said that the puppy gave her a new lease on life. She felt 20 yrs younger. So that little yorkie was perfect for her.
I also let a woman foster a dog who we had at the rescue for a long time, and wasnt seeming to get a chance. This ladys husband was dieing of Lou Gerats , and she wanted something to keep her husband company. She called us a few months later, and wanted to adopt Pete. Her husband had passed, but she had seen how much Pete had made her husband happy in his last days.
My Buttons ( german / chi) has desided to be an old lady.. She is my oldest boys dog, but she has decided to become an old lady and stay in bed with my sons grandmother... Buttons has always been a pillow hog, but this is a perfect reason for her to be one.. HAAA!!! a little old lady sitting with a little old lady..
So I have seen good and bad.. Mostly good, but everyone, no matter the age, should always look at the energy, and temperment of the dogs... Senior doggs need love too.. And I think they are better/ perfect for seniors. But no matter the age of a dog or human, love is unconditional..

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