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Should I Get a Dog? Expert Advice for Retirees

Gina Narramore

Gina Narramore

Author

Lifestyle

There are many benefits of owning a dog in retirement but getting a four-legged friend isn’t a decision to take lightly. This is why we’ve put together this guide using the advice of experts to help you make a decision. 

While having a dog can bring great benefits to retirees, there are also some considerations to think about, including which dogs are most suitable to ensure both the owner and dog get the most out of their companionship.

In order to fully understand the benefits of owning a dog in retirement, and to understand what retirees should consider before they get a dog, we spoke to a couple of experts.

Pet Ownership in Retirement: Living at a McCarthy & Stone Property

If you’re considering relocating to a McCarthy & Stone property and you already have a furry companion, then the great news is that you can bring your dog with you.

At McCarthy & Stone, we understand that your pet is a family member, and this is why we’re more than happy for your well-behaved pet to come and live with you at one of our developments.

Keeping your pet with you in your retirement can give you a new lease of life, and all the attention from residents and their dogs on the development can also keep your pet happy, too. But, don’t just take our word for it, see what a selection of our residents think.

Should I Get a Dog? The Benefits of Owning a Dog in Retirement

There are many benefits to owning a dog in retirement, but the top three are:

Exercise

Come rain or shine, your dog will always need a walk. While some owners see this as a negative, it’s a benefit for many owners who love the regular exercise. Plus, even those little walks can create significant health benefits. Some studies have shown that, over a 12-year lifecycle, dog owners will walk 23,700 miles while out with their dog. Plus, on average, dog owners walk 22 minutes more per day (around 2,760 additional steps) compared to people who don’t own a dog.

Companionship

Humans and dogs have been together for 18,000 years, so it’s no wonder they’re known as ‘man’s best friend’. Dogs love to be close to their humans and you’ll love spending time with your canine companion. Plus, not only will their attention help prevent loneliness in retirement, but you’ll also make new friends while out walking and you could even become part of a dog walking community.

Routine

For most of our lives, we have routines and dogs are routine-oriented creatures who can help you get back on schedule and instil a sense of normality. They’ll usually wake you up at a similar time every morning (although you can train them so this isn’t too early), they’ll want regular walks and they’ll eat their meals on a set schedule.

Pet Ownership in Retirement: The Expert Point of View

To help us understand the benefits of owning a dog in retirement and which dogs might be best to consider, we spoke to blogger for Farmpally Akin Chaktty (AC) and the Animal Trust (AT), a not-for-profit veterinary company.

What Benefits Can You Gain from Getting A Dog in Your Retirement?

 AT: There have been a number of studies showing that owning a pet is beneficial to people in later life. These studies have shown that being responsible for a pet encourages a healthy daily routine, which is often lost after employment has finished.

In addition, a dog requires daily exercise and this encourages owners to get out and about. Not only does this have obvious benefits for mobility and general health, but it also increases social interaction and decreases loneliness.

Owning a pet is also associated with reduced stress levels, lower blood pressure and healthier cholesterol levels. Pet owners have also been shown to recover from illness more quickly.

On A General Level, What Are the Overall Benefits?

AC: It has both physical, mental, social and emotional benefits. For example, you will improve your physical health while out walking with your dog. Plus, dogs are very creative and your mind will have more positive things to process from their activities. 

In addition, owning a dog will take away boredom. You can even go to the beach, take trips away or start new hobbies with your dog to help you feel socially connected. 

What Are the Best Breeds of Dog for Those in Retirement?

 AT: There are hundreds of different breeds of dog available, all of which have been bred for different purposes. Of these, some are more suitable than others for older owners and there are a number of considerations to think about:

  • Size: While a well-trained dog should be able to be handled by anyone, a large dog can inadvertently knock over someone who may be frail or less steady on their feet. Similarly, as the dog also gets older or if they’re injured, they may need assistance themselves, which can prove difficult if the owner already struggles on their own feet. 
  •  Travelling: It can be difficult for a young, fit adult to lift a large dog in and out of a car, or down a staircase, let alone an older person. Ideally, having a dog under 15kg will avoid these problems occurring in future.
  • Exercise requirements: Every breed of dog will have different exercise needs and generally, older people are less likely to want to walk or run long distances. A dog that enjoys shorter walks and one that is happy to relax in a cafe instead of tackling windswept hills would be better suited.
  •  Temperament: Many older people have thinner skin and a tendency to bruise easily, so a dog that likes to rough and tumble in play may inadvertently cause damage.
  •  Good with children: If grandchildren are likely to be visiting the home, a dog that is gentle with them and less reactive would be more appropriate.

The smaller breeds of dog generally fall into two types — terriers and companions. Although terriers are small dogs, they are usually high energy dogs that can become frustrated if they don’t get enough exercise.

Conversely, the dogs that have been bred as companions tend to have reduced exercise requirements. These breeds include the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, the Shih Tzu and the Pug.

What Are the Best Breeds of Dog for Those in Retirement Who May Have Mobility Issues?

AC: Not being able to move around the house is one issue that becomes common as we age. If a retiree is having mobility issues, dogs that are not too energetic are good for them. 

The following are the dog breeds that will mostly stay with the owner at home and be calm: Shih Tzu, Soft-coated Wheaten Terrier, Dalmatian, Whippet, Saluki, Shiba Inu and the Rhodesian Ridgeback.

What Are the Best Breeds of Dog for Those in Retirement Who May Have Young Grandchildren?

AC: For those who are retired and have young grandchildren staying with them, small dog breeds will be ideal. 

Dogs that don't bark too much will also suit this desire, and the following breeds would make a good companion: French Bulldog, Pug, Japanese Chin, Shiba Inu, Italian Greyhound or Boston Terrier.

Where Can Those in Retirement Look to Get A Dog? Are Rescue Dogs A Good Option?

 AT: The main decision is whether to get a puppy or an older dog. If you get a puppy from a reputable breeder, then there should be a good health history, and you get to start with a clean slate in terms of training and behaviour.

However, a puppy takes quite a lot of work in the initial year, so some people may prefer to get an older dog from a rescue centre that is already house-trained and more settled. However, a rescue dog may have an unknown health history or problem behaviours.

In either case, it is worth spending some time doing research. If you’re going to a rescue centre, make sure you discuss your requirements. You should also ask if it’s possible to return the dog if they are not suitable.

Try not to buy or rescue dogs from adverts on the internet. You will be getting an unknown dog with unknown issues, and in many cases the seller may be more interested in making the sale rather than ensuring that you and the dog are a good fit for each other.

What Advice Do You Have for People Looking to Care for A Dog in Retirement?

 AT: While everyone should ensure they are able to meet a dog’s needs before they get one, there are ways of making life easier for yourself.

Obviously, there is a financial commitment to owning a dog, and this is frequently underestimated by new dog owners. There is the general cost of food, toys and bedding, but there is also regular veterinary treatment such as vaccinations and worming. It is also advised to consider pet insurance, as sudden vet bills due to an accident or illness may be difficult to manage on a pension.

Dogs can also create quite a mess in a house, whether it is house-training accidents with a young puppy, mud in winter or shedding fur in spring. Crate training your puppy can help with house-training, and having towels in the porch or hallway in wet weather definitely limits mud being tracked into the house.

Regular grooming or clipping, depending on the breed, can minimise shedding. Dogs also need regular companionship. If you often need to spend time away in hospital, then arrangements will need to be made to ensure your dog is not left home alone.

It is also important to consider that tasks that are manageable when you are 70 may not be so easy to manage when you are 80. Being able to pay for regular grooming or a dog walker, for instance, can enable responsible dog ownership even if your own health is not so robust in later years.

Feeling Younger with Your Pets at McCarthy & Stone

 To summarise, if you’re considering getting a dog in retirement, then you should remember that it has social, physical and mental benefits. Plus, your canine friend can also provide you with companionship and create structure in your life. But, you should also remember that dogs can be hard work and, if you’re getting a puppy, it will require a lot of training.

Most of all, having a pet in your retirement years can definitely make you feel younger, but so can living in a McCarthy & Stone property. We’ve recently launched ourGrow Young with Uscampaign, which highlights how living in a McCarthy & Stone property can help you feel 10 years younger*.

To help make this a reality for you, we’re running a couple of offers, so you can save £5,000 or get one month's rent free, on selected properties.

*Based on a selection of national well-being criteria such as happiness and life satisfaction, an average person aged 80 feels as good as someone 10 years younger after moving from mainstream housing to housing specially designed for later living.

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