Independent Living

10/1/2020 | By Annie Tobey

A dog can have many, many benefits for its owners. But, in particular, many seniors benefit from owning a canine. From stress relief to joy to even longevity, we’ve reviewed the best reasons to look into the adoption of dogs for seniors; and things to look out for when you get the ball rolling!

The Healing Power of Pets

Besides the warm fuzzies from having a loyal companion by your side, science has discovered genuine health benefits in owning a dog. The American Kennel Club (AKC) reports:

  1. Dogs relieve stress. Playing with or petting a familiar dog lowers blood pressure and heart rate, slows breathing, and relaxes muscles.
  2. Dogs are good for your heart. Post-heart attack, pet owners had a higher rate of survival than non-pet owners.
  3. Dogs make us happy. Staring into a dog’s eyes raises the level of oxytocin, the “love hormone.” Owning a dog can alleviate depression, especially for older adults. Specifically, notes the AKC, “As social ties loosen and family members live farther apart from each other, seniors are at risk of becoming isolated and lonely, which is a cause of depression.” According to a study reported in Psychology Today, people 60 years and older who lived alone but had a pet were less likely to be diagnosed with depression.
  4. Dogs make us more social. From talking to people when we’re out with our dogs to simply feeling more connected with other people, dogs encourage our social tendencies.
  5. Dogs keep you in good shape. Walking your dog is good for you, too!

What should you look for?

In determining the best dog breed for you, consider both your needs and the dog’s. As with a matchmaking service, both parties should meet each other’s expectations and needs.

  • Time constraints and lifestyle. Any dog needs and deserves time and attention, but some are needier than others. A companion that wants frequent love may be ideal if you’re retired and living alone. And if you frequently visit dog-friendly businesses and homes, be sure to get a friendly breed and socialize him early on.
  • Physical activity level. A dog that needs moderate exercise can be a great motivator for your own daily walks, but beware of an overly energetic dog if that doesn’t suit your lifestyle.
  • Grooming needs. Dogs’ fur coats and their grooming needs vary greatly: dogs who shed a little or a lot, dogs that need frequent brushing, and dogs that require regular trims.
  • Temperament and other considerations. Ask yourself what traits you appreciate and need in a dog. (You may indeed feel like you’re on!) Is your ideal dog:
    • Friendly?
    • Independent and aloof?
    • Intelligent?
    • Cuddly?
    • Great with kids?
    • Great with other dogs and/or cats?
    • Adaptable?
    • Stubborn?
    • Eager to please?

Overall, if you have the time, patience, and energy – the benefits of dogs for seniors are endless! Get yourself a friendly Fido!

Annie Tobey

Annie Tobey has been a professional writer and editor for more than 30 years. As editor of BOOMER magazine, she explored a diversity of topics of particular interest to adult children of seniors. When she’s not writing, she can be found running the trails or enjoying a beer with friends.

Annie Tobey