TOP DOGS – Choosing a canine later in life

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The warmth and companionship dogs can provide may make all the difference to their owners’ quality of life. As their tails relentlessly wag with unconditional love at the mere sight of their human friends, it’s no wonder they’ve been linked to a boost in their owners’ emotional wellbeing and overall activity level – both of which are key components to healthy aging, making dogs the perfect choice for those over 50. In addition to delivering lots of adoration and affection, dogs are also a lot of work – so it’s important to choose the breed that is right for you. To help you make a wise choice, here are a few of our “top dogs.”

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Cavalier King Charles Spaniel (above)
The dog that won’t let you feel lonely.
Often referred to as one of the friendliest breeds around, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels are the sweetest of the sweet. At only a foot tall and usually 13-18 pounds, they’re an easy size and quite restful by nature. Hardly high-strung, they require little exercise, so they’re an ideal choice for those looking for a low-maintenance pet. Best of all, they have endless adoration for their owners – a Cavalier will follow you around the house with eyes that will never leave you lonely.
Keep in mind: While the breed’s exuberant friendliness offers great company, it’s not without its downsides – such indiscriminate displays of affection doesn’t make for much of a guard dog. They also shed seasonally, but with their sunny personality, you probably won’t mind.

Maltese

Maltese (pictured above)
Shed-free, allergen-free, aggression-free
The Maltese is a great choice for mature pet owners – both because of what they are, and what they aren’t. They don’t shed, they’re hypoallergenic and they don’t become very large – all big advantages for older folks. Those seeking companionship will be happy to know a Maltese usually lives a good, long life – roughly 12-15 years – and at under ten pounds they’re perfect lap dogs. Well-mannered, loving and extremely people-friendly, it’s a wonderful breed for all.
Keep in mind: Although they don’t shed, Malteses do need grooming, but to some owners, choosing a new style can be a source of great fun.

West Highland White Terrier (below)
Bright and independent: a watchdog.
Originally bred for hunting and a classic (now illegal) gambling game, “Westies” are strong, independent creatures. Self-entertaining and self-assured, you won’t have to worry about this dog howling with anxiety when you depart, but you can count on the terrier to bark if he suspects any danger is near. Even with an eye for danger, Westies still maintain a calm demeanor and are now primarily inside dogs. And of course, if you’re looking for an intelligent pet, Westies definitely deliver – the breed is known for picking up training very quickly.

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Keep in mind: Although originally bred for hunting, Westies don’t require much exercise, so if you’re looking for a dog who will motivate you to get out the door and hit the ground running, choose a more active breed.

DON’T FORGET: Adoption is always a great option. Purebreds may come with fancy names and predictable traits, but they’re also usually more prone to health problems – anything from breathing problems to hip dysplasia. Besides, “rescuing” offers benefits all its own – including the personal satisfaction that you’re saving a life. It’s also a way to avoid the stress of training a new puppy – adopting an older dog may mean adopting a calmer one. Besides, you get just as much love from adopted pets, who are often every bit as loving, loyal and intelligent as the highly sought-after purebreds. Whatever kind of dog you choose, just remember, as much as you’re taking care of it, it’s taking care of you!

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