I’ve written several articles on the importance of companion animals for people who live alone and people with disabilities including this AC article.
For senior citizens, having a companion animal has many benefits, some you may not have even thought about before. A small, loyal companion dog can help relieve boredom, encourage good physical and mental health and even add a degree of protection to older people by being great watchdogs.
The first consideration is choosing a compatible breed–a dog to match your personality, living situation and lifestyle. A small dog is usually best for a senior, and is generally easier to handle. A small, quiet ‘lap dog’ (toy breed) loves to lie in its owners lap providing affection and company.
A small breed dog doesn’t require much space for adequate exercise. It appreciates short walks but is content to stay indoors near its owner too. These small dogs can easily be trained to use ‘piddle pads’ if the senior cannot take the dog outside regularly. For more active individuals, walks encourage healthy physical activity and a ‘pal’ to do it with.
One excellent little companion dog is the Shih-Tzu. They are known for their very sweet dispositions and are quiet, gentle dogs who are extremely loyal and truly enjoy the companionship. of their owner. They require some grooming but can easily be trimmed by the owner. They are also good dogs for people with allergies as they are hypo-allergenic.
Another suitable companion dog is the Pug, who is lovable, very loyal, even-tempered and loves to please its owner. The Pug requires little grooming and is content to stay indoors much of the time.
The Yorkshire Terrier (Yorkie) is a very good companion dog. They are small and don’t require much space for exercise. They are playful but also enjoy naps and cuddling in their owners lap. They are extremely intelligent little dogs with very big personalities. They do require regular grooming and they are hypoallergenic.
The miniature Schnauzer has a pleasing personality and are great watch dogs. They have minimal exercise needs and have a strong desire for companionship. They are very intelligent and easy to train.
The Scottish Terrier Is a loyal companion, a good guard dog and very loyal. They enjoy being outdoors but are content with minimal indoor activity also. Only minimal grooming is required.
The Chihuahua is a small, intelligent companion dog. They are best known for their small size and spunky personality. Chihuahuas are ideal inside pets, even in a small environment. They love to bond with one adult and due to their intelligence, are fairly easy to train. A Chihuahua makes an excellent watchdog for a senior due to their natural instinct to bark at noises and strangers.
The miniature Poodle is an intelligent, friendly and good companion dog. Poodles get along well with other pets and people. They are good for allergy sufferers because they do not shed. Because of their small size and minimal exercise needs, Poodles are a good choice for a senior companion animal. Poodles love to be showered with attention and pampered, making them an excellent pet for seniors.
The Maltese is a friendly, gentle companion dog. They are best known for their small size (4-6 pounds) and flowing, white coats. Maltese are ideal inside pets, making them a good choice for seniors. Their coats do not shed but they do require daily grooming, and they usually enjoy the pampering. The hair can be easily trimmed by the owner and are hypoallergenic. The Maltese has a docile personality, and are extremely affectionate and crave human companionship.
The Pomeranian is a small, intelligent companion dog. They are best known for their beautiful, double-coated manes and coats, which make these little dogs resemble a cuddly teddy bear. They make an excellent lap dog for seniors. The Pomeranian can be easily trained due to their keen intelligence. They are ideal inside dogs for seniors due to their low need for exercise and small size. Grooming is minimal.
In the past several years, many of these small companion breeds have been cross bread to produce what is now known as ‘designer dogs’. Most of these breeds are to produce positive traits such as non-shedding and hypo-allergenic qualities. These dogs come in many colors, sizes and weights and are intelligent, loyal, alert, easy to train companions, especially for seniors.
Pets are good for emotional and physical health and especially for sick and elderly people. A companion dog for a senior helps provide love, companionship and laughter. A dog companion can offer the senior a sense of well being, a sense of encouragement and even a reason for living.
Dogs give the elderly owner the chance to get outdoors into the fresh air and sunshine and to meet other people. We know from research that a companion pet helps seniors live longer and healthier lives by lowering blood pressure, decreasing stress, reducing bone loss, lowering cholesterol levels, and improving blood circulation. Studies and research also indicate a link between dog ownership and an increased survival rate for cardiac patients.
If you are a senior, especially if you live alone and find life a bit lonely at times, consider a dog companion. You will be pleasantly surprised at how much love and companionship a little furry friend can give and at how much the quality of your life will improve.
Source: Doreen Bradley Satter, RN