Choosing the right dog is a big decision, particularly if you’re getting up in years. But with so many breeds to choose from, maybe it’s worth starting off the search by considering which dogs to cross off the list.
Cleanup, house-training, visits to the vet, food budget, and daily-exercise needs are just some of the factors a potential dog owner should be aware of before choosing a canine buddy.
They might look small and sweet as puppies, but they will get bigger and start wrecking things in a hurry.
We spoke to dog trainers and veterinarians to determine what breed of dogs older adults should consider steering clear of in the name of personal safety and quality of life.
Think about your own energy
Before choosing a dog, older people should assess their own energy level and physical limitations.
Jennifer Gailis, a certified professional dog trainer based in Montreal, warns that people often underestimate the physical needs of certain breeds, and in particular warns against young dogs that aren’t yet out of their frisky adolescence.
As Gailis explained to us: “In general, avoid working breeds with high energy needs who often make for unruly teen dogs. I know a few adolescent shepherds who have tossed someone down the stairs or broken a senior’s leg when they excitedly clotheslined their favorite human.”
Working breeds have been cultivated over time to perform specialized services, including assistance in hunting, guarding livestock and property, aiding in search and rescue efforts, and helping people with special needs.
Some of the more common working dog breeds include German Shepherds, Boxers, Huskies, Border Collies, Rottweilers, Bloodhounds, and Akitas, and they tend to be larger in size and require lots of regular physical exercise and activity or else they go stir crazy.
Even if you’re in good shape, don’t underestimate how much exercise it may take to keep your dog happy and healthy.
“Even if you are energetic, most people underestimate the exercise requirements for a working breed,” Gailis said. ”A 30-minute jog once a day doesn’t cut it.”
Some quick thoughts on Labradors and Golden Retrievers. It should be noted that while these breeds do indeed perform a variety of services and jobs, they are not listed strictly as “working dogs” by the American Kennel Club, and are two of the most popular breeds for American families.
But while they are insanely cute and known for their loyalty and warmth, they can get quite large, need plenty of exercise, and should spark similar considerations that other working dogs would.
Consider a grownup dog
If you are keen on a certain dog but don’t think you’re up to the task of training and physically keeping up with a puppy, Gailis recommends another option: “If you are interested in a particular breed, consider an older rescue that has already matured and gone though the puppy and young adult phase.”
Beyond exercise, a large dog’s needs for physical space (as in, they need a lot of it); appetite (they eat more); and upkeep (more hair, more slobber, more mess) must be factored in.
So if you live in a small house or apartment; don’t want to be bothered with additional sweeping and vacuuming; and can’t afford (or carry) large amounts of dog food, a large dog doesn’t make much sense.
And of course large dogs are bigger and stronger, which can lead to dangerous situations that can result in various injuries.
Pick the right walking companion
According to Dr. Jim Carlson, veterinarian at Riverside Animal Clinic & Holistic Center in Illinois, “For a person with mobility or strength issues, getting to know a dog is very important. Seniors may want to look at smaller breeds that aren’t as strong while leash walking.”
Additionally, even with smaller dogs you should be careful while using a leash.
“Owners who wrap their pet’s leash around their arm are at risk of skin abrasions, cuts from the leash and falling,” Carlson said. “You should just hold the leash in your hand but not wrap it around your wrist.”
And what about allergies?
Allergies should also be factored in.
Carlson continued, “No dog is truly hypoallergenic, but some small breeds shed less hair and dander than others. Talking to your allergist about the severity of your allergies and medication requirements is a good idea before bringing a dog home.”
Both Carlson and Gailis recommend at least consulting with a dog trainer before choosing a breed, and using their services if training and acclimation are an issue.
Taking all those factors into account, here are our experts’ list of 10 breeds older adults should avoid:
- Border Collie
- German Shepherd
- Alaskan Malamute
- Jack Russell terrier
- Australian Shepherd