“We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.” – George Bernard Shaw
One of the only faults a dog has is the fact that his or her lifespan is shorter than ours, their pet parents. For many people, age is a state of mind. I have friends who are in their 60s and have more energy and vitality than their counterparts of the mid 30’s age range. There are specific dog breeds for older people…or to paraphrase, dogs for golden oldies of the human variety.
Fidose of Reality fan, Cindy Romero, asked us to write a piece about the best breeds for older folks, so in writing this piece, I was repeatedly stuck on the word “older.” Generically speaking, we are all getting older; however, a more sedentary 75-year-old senior might not want a very active Border Collie. There are some younger folks who shouldn’t have an active dog who doesn’t get to channel his energy properly, but that’s another blog post.
What makes me qualified: My life and career are in, of, about, and for dogs. I read, I talk to experts, I travel and I meet the dog breeders, the rescuers, and the folks in the know. Twenty plus years of doing this makes me comfortable enough to write this piece.
Questions to ask yourself when selecting a breed to grow old along with you:
Think less about the “breed” and more about your lifestyle, limitations, and time commitment.
Are you more the active or sedentary type? Are you financially able to support another living being? Do you spend a lot of time at work, volunteering, and/or involved in other activities? If you’ve given yourself the go ahead, the next step is a lot of fun.
In general, it takes about 4-6 weeks for a dog to acclimate to a new home; for puppies, of course, that process is much longer. Do you want to start with a new kid on the block, a mature adult, or a super senior?
Does size matter? Are you more the pocket pooch, perky mid size, or big breed type? Once you’ve narrowed it down to the age and the size, the decision of pure bred or pure mutt and where to get your new BFF (best furry friend) enters the picture.
ALL dogs need some form of exercise, both physically and mentally, so if you are seeking a dog who will sit around and be content to do nothing all day, he or she does not exist. Please do not get a dog if you do not have the time to devote to providing healthcare, love, time, attention, physical and mental stimulation, and to make the dog a priority in your life.
Two points we ask that you consider before making any decision:
- Check with your local shelter for the dog of your dreams.
- Consider adopting an adult dog. Puppy training requires its own focus of time and patience, which many adult dogs are long past.
Remember, patience is key with any dog, any breed, and at any age.
If your heart is set on a purebred dog, we highly recommend checking with local breed-specific rescue groups and/or your favorite shelter. Here are five dog breeds for older people, aka those in their “golden years:”
Cardigan Welsh or Pembroke Welsh Corgi: Originally bred to herd cattle, two varieties exist today: the one with the tail (Cardigan) and the tailless version (Pembroke). Loveable, playful, and adaptable to many living situations, the Corgi is happiest with his family. He learns quickly, is enthusiastic, and the average life span is 12 to 15 years. They do need brushing and grooming to maintain a thick double coat. Due to their low-to-the-ground status, the Corgi should be watched for disc problems. Males can be as much as 38 pounds, with females maxing out between 25 and 34 pounds.
Small does not mean no energy. In fact, some of the smaller breeds are tiny pistols in a furry body (i.e., the Jack Russell Terrier).
Greyhound: Indeed, they are larger in size but they adapt quite well to a variety of living arrangements and are dubbed “couch potatoes” by some of the folks I’ve met at the dog park who share life with a Greyhound. ALL dogs need some form of exercise, but the Greyhound is a breed that wavers on the low-to-moderate exercise spectrum. A 20 or 30 minute walk once a day along with indoor play time is fine for this regal breed. Though they do love running, they are generally docile with a fun sense of humor. Average life span is 10 to 12 years and they require minimal grooming.
Maltese: This small dog packs a large personality. A member of the toy group, the Maltese is happy to spend time with his pet parent, and happy to play with toys indoors while engaging in daily walks. Their coat is long and does require professional care, and many folks opt for a “puppy cut” instead of the traditional long, flowing coat seen in the dog show ring. With an average life span of 15 years, the Maltese was bred on the island of Malta as a comforter and companion for people.
Pug: With their heritage stemming from China, the Pug is a well-rounded dog in a tight package, wrinkles and all. Clever and mischievous, the Pug should not be exercised strenuously. As one of the brachycephalic (flat-faced) breeds, care must be taken not to overheat the breed. According to the American Kennel Club, “The Pug’s reason for living is to be near their people and to please them, and their sturdiness makes them a family favorite. They are comfortable in small apartments because they need minimal exercise, but the breed can adapt easily to all situations. The Pug sheds, but its short coat requires little grooming.” His life span averages 12 to 15 years.
Schipperke: Years ago, I was privy to help place a Schipperke from a woman who was clearly overwhelmed by the breed into a more suitable home: One where he would be doted on, exercised, but live his life with a less active family. Though he is energetic, alert, and curious, the Schipperke (aka “little captain”) is a devoted family dog who is interested in everything happening in his world. Willful but eager to please, the Schipperke is happy with moderate exercise, walks, and plenty of TLC indoors with his pet parent. Living 13 to 18 years, he is a unique member of the non-sporting group.
Regardless of the age or pedigree, all dogs need some form of exercise best suited to them. They all need love, care and attention, vet care and maintenance. If you are anti-slobber, avoid the dogs with larger jowls. Does snoring bother you? Best avoid a Pug or Boston Terrier. And the good ole American mutt can be identified these days, too, thanks to DNA testing. A simple sample from the dog’s inner facial cheek and 6-8 weeks later, breed identification delivered to your mailbox.
Don’t let celebrity dogs from the movies or television determine your choice—those dogs are highly trained and nothing like the “real” dog would be at home. It’s important to determine what your expectations for the dog are before you bring them home so you don’t end up wondering what you’ve gotten yourself into. Many dogs end up at shelters because the owner didn’t do their research before they committed to a specific breed. Also remember that cute puppies do grow up into bigger dogs. Understanding the nature of a dog and how to raise one is critical.
If your life is ready to accept the responsibility and years of love, fun and zest a dog will bring to it, go forth and seek the furry friend of your dreams. Be realistic in your expectations and goals, but most of all remember your dog’s life and well-being depend on you.
Did we miss your favorite breed you might recommend for folks in their “golden years?” Let us know in the comments below.