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Many people believe they cannot have a dog because of a certain element of their life, whether it’s work or a health concern. I believe that there is a dog out there for most people, even those who cannot be highly active themselves. Low maintenance dogs are a great solution for those who cannot expend a lot of time or activity with their dogs, and these dogs are very happy in life without all that activity. Senior dogs may have more health maintenance, but can be low maintenance dogs when it comes to activity level.

As long as a person has love and the resources to meet a dog’s needs (love, food, health, warmth), then there is a dog out there with the right temperament and energy level for them. The trick is being able to find that dog, and with the number of dogs in shelters that meet most descriptions, it’s pretty likely that a search will unearth a good match.

The question

I’m not as active as I have been for reason of weak kidneys. At times I haven’t much energy or strength to go out for walks like I used to but I miss companionship with a dog.

I’ve been thinking about a rescue older dog that has hair instead of fur. Why rescue? Well most of their dogs are house trained already and the grooming of hair is easier for me that having extra labor of cleaning shedding fur.

What type of older dog would you recommend for me or should just drop the whole idea and just go to the pound and try my luck/fate? Or forget the idea entirely?

My advice

Bless you for considering an older rescue dog. We went out for an older rescue dog as our first “grown up” dog because we also weren’t sure how much we could do with the responsibility of having one – we were nervous about our schedules, so thought a less-active dog who is senior would be perfect. And it’s true, they do need less exercise. Our first guy was perfectly content with a short walk around the block. Heck, I bet he would have been happy with sniffing our back yard. He was a shelter-find. I had a shortlist of dogs, and he happened to be the first we found. Mikey’s story is here.

And there are actually many indoor activities that can entertain, and tire out, a dog that does not involve going for a walk. Any training activity will provide mental exercise that is often just as exhausting as a walk. But honestly, my two are young and if I’m sick they know that today they’ll be couch surfing – and dogs can manage that too if they’re well cared for and understand they need to roll with the punches.

So I think that you can definitely find a dog that fits your lifestyle, and provides wonderful companionship. Type? There are so many that could fit the bill. Many mutts, retired greyhounds, “family” labs (that is, not a working line of labs where are very high energy), pits, you name it. Mix any of those with a dog with hair (ie: a lab/poodle mix), and you’ll get your grooming needs. Some dogs have fur that’s so short, like velvet, shedding wouldn’t be a concern for them either. You might want to seek a senior dog rescue, and simply chat to them with your set-up and they will be happy to match you with a low-drive, low/no shed dog. You could even do foster-to-adopt to make sure it works out.

A happy English Shepherd, who happens to be a couch potato

Don’t judge a book by its cover! English Shepherds are usually highly active dogs, but according to breeders there is usually a “family dog” (couch potato) in a litter. Our Tig definitely fits that description. She would be happy with only a potty walk on occasion (we force her to be more active than that).

This is definitely her preference over a walk (she does love some off leash time, but even then is glued to my hip 80% of the time!)

My say is definitely don’t forget the idea. It can be done. And it can be the most rewarding, wonderful thing – for you, and the rescue dog. Why? Well this is what I learned about life when Mikey died.

And finally, and this goes for anyone with a dog regardless of activity level, always make sure you have a plan for someone to care for your dog in the event of an emergency or some reason you can’t get them out to do their business and so on. Emergencies can happen to anyone, and we should all have a plan for our dogs in the event of one.

This question and answer originally appeared in a Yabbly AMA that I hosted.

About Author

Jen deHaan is graphic designer, small business owner, and dog person living in Bay Area, California. Jen enjoys learning about dog training and behavior, and has taken several courses and seminars since 2010. She also contributes articles to leading websites, such as Victoria Stilwell's Positively . It all started with a great dog called Mikey (aka "dude"), loved and lost but remembered forever. Jen also runs a freelance business focusing on graphic, web, and UI design at FoundPixel, and a small business creating hand crafted dog products at Stylish Canine.

  • I agree that there is a dog out there for everyone. Some of the shelters around here offer “Seniors for Seniors” adoptions, dogs and cats that are older than 7 or 8, and at a reduced adoption fee to senior humans.

    • I love those kinds of programs! I really hope they catch on to all shelters.

  • There are certainly low-maintenance, couch-potato dogs out there! My Ruby is not one! I think Basset Hounds fit the bill breed-wise, as do Pugs and the like. My boyfriend has a Chug who is content to laze around on the sofa most of the day, and worn out after five minutes of play or a short walk!

    • I think Ruby and Mort are kindred spirits! Mort does have an off button, but boy is he happy to power on (look at him sideways and he\’s ready to GO!).Love the idea of a \”Chug\” (I just had to look up photos) :)

  • I totally agree that adopting an older dog from a shelter is the way to go! They are usually the last to get adopted, and there is a good chance that they already have some training and will offer unconditional love. I recently adopted an older dog, and it was the best decision that I could have ever made! He was already house broken and is a lot less demanding than a puppy.

    • Aren\’t they the best? Our senior adoption Mikey was like that – super zen, happy doing whatever, loved everyone, best kind of stress reducer you could possibly have :)

  • Great advice. I remember an elderly neighbor telling me he missed having a dog. Although he was active, he worried about what would happen to the dog if something happened to him.

    I love seeing community programs that match senior dogs with senior people. Built in is a system to help with caring for the dog if his person needs extra help.

    I wonder who many people who want dogs don’t get one because of concerns about their health or age?

    • That\’s a great question! I bet there are quite a few. It\’d be great to shine a light on the kinds of programs you mention, where there\’s a system in place for help. Hmmm… that might be a good blogging topic or even hop to highlight local services from all over…. (I would have to research! I have heard of adoption programs, but not the associated services! Great to know they exist.)

  • Sue

    Great article! When my mom’s dog passed away it took her a long time to decide to get another dog because her health was failing at that time. Perfect solution was a little senior Lhasa Apso from the shelter. Andy required very little exercise and their 2-3 daily walks were the perfect exercise for my ailing mom. Win – win!

  • Great post and great advice, seniors are the way to go.