Now that my dad has gotten older, he spends a lot of time looking for ways to feel useful especially since he no longer drives and can’t run daily errands. One of the things he enjoys most is looking after Ring, a beautiful German shepherd from the same litter as my own shepherd Bella. Ring is a fine dog, but she was not socialized early in her life (we didn’t get her until she was nearly a year old) and she does not get along well with other animals, so she is not an indoor dog. Daddy makes sure he takes her for walks on her leash daily and feeds her twice a day. Taking care of her gives him a sense of purpose.
Many senior citizens these days live independently even into their late 80s and 90s. For those who live alone, a dog can provide not only a great deal of companionship and purpose, but also can act as a deterrent or watch dog alerting their owner’s to potential threats. There are a lot of things to consider when getting a dog for a senior. First of all, the dog should have the right temperament to match the energy level and stability of the potential owner. An active senior who enjoys long walks or even a morning jog should not be paired with a sluggish dog with little energy such as an English bulldog. By the same token, a mature person who uses a walker and is tethered to an oxygen tank probably wouldn’t want to deal with a blue heeler who likes nothing better than a morning run. Medium sized dogs with even temperaments such as the Chinese shar-pei, Weimaraner or Wheaton terrier are a good place to start when looking a pet companion for a senior, and as always, you can find some really great mixed breeds at animal shelters and through animal rescue sites. The rescue sites have the added benefit of being able to tell you a good bit about each dog’s personality.