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The Benefits of Having a Dog in Your Golden Years

There’s a reason why dogs are called “man’s best friend.” They’re fiercely loyal, up for endless snuggles, and always able to put a smile on the faces of their owners. Canines are particularly good pets for seniors who've entered their Golden Years. This is typically a time of transition when life-long caregivers are becoming the recipients of care and therefore navigating entirely new waters. A pup can help ease the transition. Here are a few perks of having a dog in your Golden Years.


Companionship

Seniors may have a tough time coping with the loss of friends and family as they age. Pooches can help to fill the void. Often, after a loved one passes away—such as a significant other—a dog can provide comfort. The love and affection that a pet requires and gives in return is an extraordinary help in healing after a death. Even those who haven’t recently suffered a loss may feel a newfound sense of purpose when they have a pet to care for, as they did for their families for many years prior.



Exercise

It can be difficult for folks in their Golden Years to stay in shape, but this is when it’s most crucial. It's much easier to land in the hospital as you grow older and your immune system weakens. A dog can help turn that around, however. Since dogs need regular walks, their owners have an automatic source of built-in exercise. Even when they aren’t feeling particularly social or active, they’ll need to take their canines for walks, and the endorphins released from that activity will make them happy they did!


Routine

Dogs tend to wake up, use the facilities (AKA the backyard), eat breakfast and go through the rest of the day in a fairly regimented way. A sense of routine is something that many people lose after they retire, and often they crave it. When you have a pup in tow, you’ll have to get into a new routine in terms of feeding him, walking him, etc. This helps seniors to establish a new normal that may carry them through the sometimes-stressful transition of retirement and growing older with relative ease.


Heart Health

We’ve already established that owning a dog can help to keep you active, which will translate into better all-around health. But pooches may have innate health-boosting benefits, even without the added bonus of exercise. Several studies have shown that those who own a pet tend to have lower blood pressure and less stress than those who don’t. So any senior who struggles with heart health may reap some benefits of owning a pet from the moment the tail-wagger arrives.


Travel Buddies

Any senior who likes to road-trip to see his or her family probably wouldn’t mind having a four-legged friend along for the ride. If you find a pup who doesn’t mind tagging along in the car, he could be the perfect travel companion for a trip across the country or even just down the road. A long drive will seem much shorter when you have a furry friend smiling up at you and dancing along to the radio along the way. Dogs will also encourage more outdoor outings and vacations. There are plenty of pet-friendly campsites that seniors can vacation at with their dogs. With all the new sights and smells, their canine companions will definitely encourage getting up and moving.


With so many perks of owning a dog in your Golden Years, taking the plunge should be an easy decision. Seniors will probably want to opt for lower-maintenance breeds like French bulldogs, beagles, poodles, shih tzus and cocker spaniels. Regardless of the breed, these four-legged companions should be laid-back and flexible in order to smooth the transition from life as an employee and caregiver into those carefree Golden Years.

Bio:

Emily is a freelance wildlife conservation and pet blogger. To check out more of her work, see her blog, Conservation Folks, or follow her Twitter account @emilysfolk.


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