Dogs And Seniors
Like Cake And Ice Cream

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It has been my opinion for many years that dogs and seniors were made for each other. Older people have a lifetime of love to give. They tend to be lonely and have a lot of time on their hands.

At the same time, dogs have a natural need for human companionship and need attention. A dog gets bored easily and needs someone to lift his spirits with some idle talk, play, some cuddling and a walk.

This is obviously a perfect match. A lonely senior and a loving dog that needs human attention.

Never underestimate the power a dog can have over a senior citizen. A dog can easily raise the spirits and attitude of a senior, can get the person out walking in the sunshine and busy in the kitchen, happily cooking food she or he wouldn't have cooked had the dog not been there.

I have witnessed it with my own grandparents on both sides of the family. From sitting half-dead in a rocking chair to standing in the kitchen... preparing a home cooked meal for his beloved Boston Terrier, “Binkie.” My 88 year old grandfather, not previously a cook, got up and twice a day cooked for his dog that he loved more than life itself.

His blood pressure decreased, his heart slowed, his attitude reversed and he became stronger and actually smiled again. He went outdoors and walked Binkie, something we thought couldn't happen. He lived on to 97, walking and cooking for that little dog. Dogs and seniors. A miracle combination.

A senior citizen with his protection and companion

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Dog rescue groups and some shelters such as the SPCA and Humane Society may offer a “Seniors for Seniors” or "Dogs and Seniors" program in your area. This program allows a senior citizen to adopt a senior dog (over 9 years old) for FREE or at least at a reduced rate.

Purina sometimes runs a Seniors for Seniors program with selected kennels across the USA. Purina chips in a percentage and the senior pays a small fee or maybe no fee, depending. We got one of our dogs at a local (participating) SPCA in 1996 and paid only $20. Purina paid the rest, as the company recognizes the amazing benefits of dogs and seniors. The $20 included all vaccinations, a complete health checkup, and a leash and collar. Check around and see if anyone offers a Seniors for Seniors program where you live.

Elderly gentleman
showing off his best friend.

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These kennels and rescue groups even get purebreds in. Sometimes up to 30% of their inventory will be purebred dogs that were bought as puppies, raised and then the owners got tired of the dogs, got divorced and the dog was baggage, the spouse went to jail, they were in a bad auto accident, for some reason could no longer care for the dog, and so on.

In every case, there was nothing wrong with the innocent dog. In divorces, the couples often do not fight over custody of the dog like they do the children so the perfectly healthy dog ends up in a kennel.

Adopting an older dog is a good idea. Mature dogs are house trained and way beyond that adolescent “chewing” stage. They tend to be calm, quiet and easy to manage, compared to younger dogs. Older dogs prefer to take moderate walks, sniff around a bit and come home to curl up for a nap, either on your lap or at your feet.

This little dog is giving the senior
just what she needs - a reason
to be outdoors walking in fresh air!

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Just the mere presence of the dog in the house is comforting, in that the house doesn’t seem so empty. “Someone else is in the room” which can be rewarding to a person all by herself.

The fact that an older dog with a shorter amount of life left has been selected has the advantage of possibly allowing the owner to have several dogs, depending on his/her longevity.

We know the new dog is going to give the senior a real sense of purpose and a renewed drive at living.

The senior citizen is by now separated from her children and family. Here spouse has probably passed on and the kids have moved all over the country.

She’s going to be healthier and her whole outlook will improve. This has been proven and written about time and again. This is what companion dogs do for elderly people.

Get rid of loneliness and depression and watch the person flourish. I’ve seen it work first hand. There are some communities with kennels that offer a Dogs and Seniors program where an older dog is adopted by qualifying senior citizens and the adoption fee is waived. Ask if you have one such place in your area. All kennels should set up a Dogs and Seniors plan. It's a great idea.

An older gentleman in the
park training his shepherd dog.

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    WARNING:
    What you DO NOT WANT TO DO is get a dog for grandma or grandpa without their knowing it.

  • Not everyone likes dogs (or even cats)

  • The senior citizen might not be ready emotionally or physically for a dog.

  • The recipient may not have the money (or might not want to spend it) on needed items to care for the dog.

  • Never surprise a senior citizen with an animal. A dog must be THEIR CHOICE! Always talk the proposed dog over with the recipient first, and then take them to the dog kennel to pick out their own choice of dog.

  • Be sure when choosing a dog that you select one that fits the lifestyle of the senior citizen. Ask the kennel staff for guidance.



Don’t get a hunting dog that needs to run outdoors for a senior citizen mostly confined to the house. You’re asking the dog to be a couch potato when it is not one.





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