Skip to comments.The 5 Best Dogs for Your Golden Years
Posted on 01/16/2014 9:00:37 AM PST by afraidfortherepublic
Like many people in late middle age, I find myself wondering if my next dog will be different. I have long shared my life with retrievers active, field-bred dogs who throw themselves with joy into every situation (and every puddle of water bigger than a dinner plate). Their boisterousness is infectious: My dogs make me happy. But in 10 years, or 15, or 20, will I be up to the demands of dogs like these?
Or will a nice, quiet little spaniel be the dog I need?
My answer may be different than others, even among people of similar age (55), health (reasonably good) and activity level (decent, could be better). I live in a rural pocket near an urban center, and I can always walk out my back door and engage a bored retriever in a heart-thumping game of fetch in my horse pasture. But I wont always be able to lift a sick or injured 70-pound dog, and thats an unchangeable truth. These types of concerns explain in part the increased popularity of small dogs as baby boomers like me approach retirement age.
Smaller May Be Better
So, yes, size does matter when you're choosing a canine companion for your golden years. But so do energy level and health history. Energy level is important, because if you choose a small dog thinking hell be easier to keep exercised and entertained than a large one, chances are you dont know anyone who has a Jack Russell. And the health history is important in choosing any dog, but especially so when youre on a fixed income, as most retirees are. The health history may tell you about any preexisting health conditions that your dog may have, but of course, it's not a guarantee that the dog won't develop health issues in the future. An easygoing or at least kid-tolerant temperament is also a must, especially if you have grandkids over regularly.
Before I start suggesting specific breeds, I have two other recommendations. First, get an adult dog. With an adult dog, you are more likely to have a good idea of health history and temperament, and youre past the time and money involved in raising a puppy. Second, check out shelters and rescue groups to get a great pet breed mixes may often have fewer health problems than their purebred counterparts. If you want a purebred puppy, be sure to find a reputable breeder, because if you dont, you may end up with a poorly socialized dog or a dog with health issues who doesnt measure up to the full potential of the breed. (You may also be supporting puppy mills if you choose the wrong source for your pup, and you dont want to do that.)
Martha Stewart is one of an A-list of celebrity fans of the French Bulldog, a stylish small spark plug of a dog with a solid disposition. While the Frenchie is a brachycephalic breed with all the baggage that comes with that, if you take the trouble to avoid casual or puppy-mill breeders, youre likely to have fewer health problems. (And do take the trouble: Poorly bred French Bulldogs can have their respiratory systems so compromised by their flat faces that they need surgery to survive.)
A healthy French Bulldog is a solid companion, especially if he can be with you all the time. While not exactly known for their athleticism (they tend to overheat easily), if kept fit and trim, the Frenchie is a wonderful walking partner. Sharing the bed may take a little getting used to, though, since these dogs tend to snore. But in the eyes (and ears) of those who love them, that just makes the Frenchie more endearing.
Theres a reason why Poodles have remained popular decade after decade, especially with older people. Theyre personable, easy to train and have a lively sense of humor (they laugh with you, not at you). They are also relatively clean, low-shedding dogs who are easy to maintain as long as you keep regular grooming appointments (or learn to maintain a short puppy clip yourself). The Poodle is part of the original popular crossbreed, the Cockapoo, and the poo influence is seen in the names of many others, including the Labradoodle, the dog that kicked off the modern cross-breed craze.
The Toy Poodle is very popular with people who want a fun tiny dog, but the miniature may be a better pick if you need a dog whos a little sturdier and more capable of a good long walk. Trick training is usually a breeze with these dogs, and once trained, Poodles seem to live to keep you laughing.
One of the more long-lived dogs, the Schipperke is a sturdy little breed with an easy-care coat and shoe-button eyes that are always asking, "What next?" If you live with a Skip, the answer could be, Anything. Take up kayaking, or buy a sailboat heck, move onto a sailboat and head for an around-the-world adventure. Equipped with a life-preserver in case he goes overboard, your Skip will love you, because after all, this breed was developed for onboard living, as a ships ratter from Belgium.
Want to stay on terra firma? Thats fine too. Put in a dog door so your Skip can patrol the perimeter, and plan some long hikes. The Schipperke may be small, but hes indefatigable. But always keep the leash on: Hes fast, and always ready to show the squirrels just how fast even if theres a busy road between him and them.
If you want a dog who sheds the least, get a small, long-haired dog and keep your pet clipped short. The Maltese fits the bill here perfectly. Although the Maltese in the show ring is a perfectly groomed, shimmery wave of floor-length white fur, the same fur goes easy-care when the dog is kept clipped short.
Thats not the only benefit of the breed, by far. Maltese are in the same general family as many dogs developed solely as companions and lapdogs, such as the Bichon Frise, Havanese, Bolognese and Coton de Tulear. The Maltese and its related breeds (as well as cross-breeds with these breeds in them) are incredibly attentive and tuned in to their owners. As one of the smallest breeds on this list, Maltese are also the most portable and fragile.
Pembroke Welsh Corgi
If youre on the more active side, and comfortable with a dog whos smart, determined and strong-willed, a Pembroke Welsh Corgi might be a good fit. Long known as the dog favored by England's Queen Elizabeth (who also fancies her Dorgis, a double dose of short-leggedness thats the offspring of a Corgi and a Dachshund), the Corgis strong will is kept somewhat in check by the limitations of those little legs.
They dont seem to be aware of the problem, though, which means you have to do your best to keep your Corgi from injuring that long back. That means stairs for the bed or couch, and ramps for the car. And yes, lifting: Although the Corgi is a relative small dog, hes no lightweight, especially if you dont watch his diet. But a better companion for an active life is hard to find, which is why Corgis are the darlings of the equine set, along with the hard-charging Jack Russell.
Again, these are just some general suggestions to get you thinking before you choose a dog whos no longer a good fit with your current circumstances. We all age differently, with different abilities and expectations, and just as there will be people who take up mountain climbing in their sixties, there will be people in their seventies who do just fine with German Shepherds and Labrador Retrievers. But most of us will probably be happier with a smaller, less demanding dog to keep us company in the final decades of a dog-loving life.
More on Vetstreet.com:
Doggie and Corgi ping
The other guys dog. We have a pick up your poop law here. That’ll be the day....
This article is one woman’s opinion, or course. Nothing could have been easier to own and care for than my latest (large) Golden Retriever. And harder to lose when he passed at age 12. I did adopt him as an adult, but he was a gem. I sure miss him. It’s been almost a year now since I lost him to Pancreatic cancer. Just d—n!
My corgi mix is the world’s dumbest dog.
I swear she spends her days trying to figure out what she can do to get the other dog to kick her butt.
Drooly, low endurance, not that bright.
Best to find a young retriever adult at the low end of weights and keep them that way.
Thanks for posting the picture. Isn’t that a face?!
A poodle or poodle mix >40 lbs would be OK too.
And if you miss being bossed around get a dachsund
Is that a Jack Russell?
Is that a rat terrier. We had one (who had to be rehomed when she moved.) She now keeps the floor clean for a family of 14 plus grandma. Great dog for kids and old folks. Not to bright, but means well. Fits in lap.
Jack Russell. Big dog in a small package.
I don't know about that. The teacup variant is fragile, but my two normal-sized Maltese are pretty tough.
Very low-energy, relaxed, low-maintenance dogs. Most sleep 16-18 hours a day and don't require anything more than a simple walk every day. They are quiet and rarely bark. Retired racers are highly socialized and get along most most breeds and all people.
Their best diet is raw meat, which costs no more than regular dog food. When they're fed a raw-meat diet, their teeth, gums and digestive system remains very healthy.
.....regardless he is an adorable little rat-dog with no teeth and his tongue hangs out. I'm beginning to love him.
My golden retriever/brittany spaniel was three when I adopted him two years ago. He was getting sick in the shelter environment. He healed very quickly at home, and he's a perfect house pet. He's a bit headstrong about walking behavior, but that challenge is good....for me and him.
Summary....if a dog is right for you, the dog will let you know. If you're a dog person, having a perfect dog companion will keep you young!
...our 13 year old Lab/Aussie mix has been the BEST dog...didn’t get her till she was 2...we are likely in her last year right now, as she has cancer (they operated, but couldn’t get it all as it’s right next to her trachea)....no small dog for us as we age...but, no hyper one either.
I sympathize with your loss. I too am a golden retriever fan. We are on our third generation of goldens spanning more than 30 years. The breed represents not just versatile bird dogs; they are also fun, sweet, kind and all one could ask for in a canine companion. I guess the author didn't like dogs that are hard to pick up an sit in one's lap. IMO- a dog ought to sit at your feet not on top of you and should know its place in the family pack without insisting on running the place.
We have 2 Golden Retrievers. The best dogs on Earth. I hope you get another.
Shetland Sheepdogs are the way to go. They were previously known as “Shetland Collies”. Collie dog owners complained to the AKC that Shelties are not of the “Collie” species so that the AKC changed the name to “Shetland Sheep Dog”. Shelties are still the best house dog for older people. They are not as active as Border Collies and are self-disciplining. The only problem with them is that I heard a rumor that they are going to take over the world next week! ;-)
I have a 95 yr old neighbor who had two Labs until 6 months ago. Her kids made her get a couple of cats ilo another Lab or two.
I’m waiting to fully recover from my recent knee replacement to adopt another dog. It has to be a Golden, I think. That is the breed that melts my heart every time. And, it will be an adult dog from a rescue org.
But, my memories of my last Golden will have to fade a bit because he was the perfect dog. Even though he’d been found as a stray and was a wild child when we got him, he quickly calmed down and went to work with us every day. He knew the bounderies of our property and never left. He exercised himself. He didn’t even shed much (they have different kinds of coats). He never barked, or whined. When he wanted something he nudged you with his cold nose and fixed a soulful, brown-eyed gaze upon you! We still look at each other when we leave the office for the night and ask, “Should we take the dog home before we go out to dinner?” (Of course we know that there is no dog to consider any more, but it is an ingrained habit.)
:-D Well, we know who your favorite is. (They are adorable)
Good for you. He sounds adorable and I hope you get many years of pleasure out of him.
My wife and I own two Chihuahuas......life is never dull as they have successfully house trained us. The dog whisperers’ head would explode as they as pets are pretty much everything he advises against as is we as owners....spoiled rotten and proud of it!!!
Are you confusing “dumb” with masochism? :)
Our old girl is a Golden Retriever/Australian Sheppard cross. I would not trade her for anything. The only concern I have is falling because she has a way of blocking me out of where I intend to go if she wants more lovin’. Funny too! And low key but not lazy which is a necessity for me.
Rat Terrier. I’ve had them all my life and the ones I’ve had have been VERY smart. They also have no congenital (breed) health problems. And unlike Jack Russels, they have an “off switch.”
I thought the author was thinking more along the lines of being able to carry a 70 pound dog back to the house, if something happened to it out on a long walk. I have an old golden (14), and we go on long walks out in the back country often. I know I have wondered how I would get her home if something happened out on the trail, so that she couldn’t walk.
I wouldn’t want to leave her, but there is no way I could carry her more than a few feet.
I have no idea what “PFL” means. Please enlighten me.
And if you miss being bossed around get a dachshund
Bichon Frise - adorable, non-allergenic, small (15-20 lbs), not whiney.
There is an edited version of EBWhite’s writings about dogs which is essentially about daschsunds.
A few years ago, my son found a Yorkie in a soybean field. Poor guy was covered head to toe with cockleburs. We looked for lost dog ads and placed an add w/ a pic . No one claimed him so, we kept him. He was a good dog and recently passed on. Smart, playful.
I rescued one of those (like the one on the left). He was my first dog and a real pain. I truly think that someone “threw him away” in our neighborhood knowing that some dummy (me) would take him in. Not an easy dog to live with — willful, sneaky, etc.
I used to confine him to the kitchen when I was out of the house and he could sneak through the baby gate so that he could poop and pee on the rugs. So, I would block his exit with my typewriter case. That little devil actually jump up on the kitchen table and pooped on the keyboard of my typewriter when I had to dash in to the newspaper to turn in my “copy” before deadline.
After he died, I had to have the bottom 8 inches of all of the mahogany furniture, including the piano pedals, refinished do to his “accidents”.
But, he was cute, as long as he was the center of attention.
One of the cutest dogs and very smart- but outrageously expensive
I agreed to look after someone’s dachsund for a week one time.
I was told in no uncertain terms to let him sleep in the house — only outside in his crate.
First night he howled outside all night and kept the entire neighborhood up.
Second night he slept in the kitchen doors closed and howled all night and kept the whole house up.
Third night he slept in a bedroom with someone but then spent all night trying to get up on the bed.
Fourth night he slept in the bed but kept demanding more space and pushing the other sleeper out.
Fifth night he had 3/4 of the bed but kept pushing for more space.
Sixth night he had the whole bed to himself.
Seventh night he went home and next morning I received a phone call asking: “What the hell have you done to my dog”.
He never slept outside again or anywhere else except a warm comfortable bed.
Needless to say I don’t get any calls to look after their dogs anymore.
For ease of maintenance I would recommend a spade short hair dachshund. For politeness and gentleness, but higher maintenance, a spade long haired dachshund.
However, small dogs are contraindicated if there are visual problems with looking down.
This is what I’m thinking of doing when our living situation can better accommodate a dog. I’ve read great things about greyhounds and I think they’d be a good match for us. But then, I know I love Goldens.
If you or someone else here is experienced with greyhounds, I have some questions:
How hard is it to find one that’s good with cats? I never worried about our kitties around the other dogs we’ve had. Would it always be a concern with a greyhound?
I understand that they aren’t watchdogs, but are they inclined to at least alert when strangers are at the door?
They don’t have a lot of meat on their bones. In a home with mostly hardwood floors, would a dog bed and a few area rugs suffice?
If there are any negatives to the breed, what would you say they are?
Approaching seventy-three, my concern is that I will die before they do, particularly the Akita mix, Princess. She is the most devoted. She seems to recognize my declining physical condition and tries to help. Every morning, when I have to descend three steps to go turn on the internet in my wife's adjacent art studio, Princess is there to help me. She stands still so that I can lean on her shoulders. I can still get down the stairs without her, but her efforts to help are comforting.
Should something bad happen to one of our dogs, whom I would be unable to carry to the car, we have a worker who could do so. Also, there is a vet with a truck full of medical and lab equipment who could come and render assistance.
Oh yes. Got one of those myself. Super genius and I can take him anywhere without a leash. He can sort of read my mind.
Yours is very cute!!
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