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Seniors can enjoy various health benefits from owning a dog – as found in a 2016 study by researchers at the University of Missouri Health. The study, which focused on adults aged 60 and over, found that people who have dogs benefit from the bonds they form with their furry BFFs, but also have a lower body mass index, do more exercise, and visit the doctor less. It’s all got to do with that one thing that all dogs need – a good walk or two per day.   You can also choose a pet that chooses to be a lap dog or require less exercise.  And of course there’s the benefit all people receive which is the cherished role of care provider- getting to dote over a pet and receiving all that unconditional love back. The question when it comes to finding the right dog for a senior is – how to reduce the amount of work involved while ensuring that owners and dogs stay happy and fit.

Cost Considerations

The first-year cost of owning a dog exceeds $1,000 – as reported by the ASPCA. This total cost includes spaying or neutering, training, the initial medical exam, etc. Around six to eight million cats and dogs enter America’s 3,500 shelters every year; giving them a new lease on life costs next to nothing. However, if you want to take home a pedigreed dog, know that some cost more than others. Some of the most expensive breeds to buy are the Tibetan Mastiff, Black Russian Terrier, and Portuguese Water Dog.

However, when factoring in costs, ensure that grooming is included in your calculations. Breeds like the Boston Terrier, French Bulldog or Beagle, for instance, will hardly require any more grooming than bathing and nail cutting, while a Bichon Frise will require regular pampering and preening. If you work or leave your home a few hours a day, a dog nanny can make Fido’s day much easier at a very reasonable cost but this, too, should be included when calculating total costs per month or year.

Behavioral Traits that Suit You to a Tee

If you decide to give a breed dog a miss and choose to adopt instead, make sure to visit nearby shelters on more than one occasion, to find a dog that suits your activity level and temperament. Terrier type dogs like the Jack Russell or Spanish Podenco require much more exercise than Poodles, for instance. Dog that shed less fur are also of interest, especially if you are not able to clean your home yourself.

Many seniors rely on Medicaid for services such as cleaning, but don’t expect these services to extend to the kind of deep cleaning necessitated by pets. If you have a dog that sheds, investing in a powerful steam vacuum is one day to keep fur levels down and to improve your indoor air quality. Frequent cleaning will also reduce the chance of hair building up on surfaces such as sofas and other soft furnishings.

Size Matters

If you have limited mobility or are battling a condition like osteoarthritis, the size of your dog (and its weight) should be taken into account. Think of scenarios in which it may be vital for you to carry your dog – for instance, if it is ill and you need to take it to the vet. For those with joint, bone, and other problems that may make them more fragile, a smaller dog will be easy to handle for simple tasks as well – including bathing Fido and cutting his nails. A lighter dog may also be easier to handle on a leash. Of course, a bigger dog that is well trained should pose no problem while walking.

Dogs can bring major benefits to seniors – including companionship and the greater probability of doing exercise. Factors to watch out for when choosing a furry companion include cost, size, and behavior. If you can, get to know your pal before you commit to him, observing how he walks on the lead, if he obeys when you call him, and whether or not his temperament gels with your needs. If a dog steals your heart and he doesn’t tick all the boxes, investing in dog training will go a long way towards making his transition to your home all the smoother.

This article was contributed by Jane Wood. If you’d like to share some content about pets, please email

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