This article appears in Spring Boomers magazine.
Dogs aren’t just man’s best friend — they’re woman’s best friend, too. While dogs provide companionship and love, security and an exercise partner, the best pet will also match your lifestyle, finances, energy and activity levels.
What dog is right for a woman living alone?
“Don’t just go with the cutest pup you find. I’ve seen many Australian shepherds end up at shelters or with behavior issues because owners choose them for their great looks without considering the breed’s high energy needs and at times frustrating herding instinct,” said Meg Marrs, senior editor at K9 of Mine (k9ofmine.com).
“Overall there are a lot of things to think about when choosing a new pet, but current lifestyle should be among the top considerations,” said veterinarian Aaron Vine, vice president of Central Veterinary Associates in New York. “If a person is fit and active, choosing an active breed of dog would be best. If a person has medical concerns, such as arthritis, or has difficulty getting around, a smaller-breed dog should be chosen. A woman who is older and not in the best of shape should only choose a smaller-breed dog. The larger-breed dogs such as Rottweilers, Golden Retrievers, Labradors and others can require a lot of strength just to take them for a walk, but they do also make great jogging partners.”
“There’s a reason that so many German shepherds are used as police dogs,” said Benjamin Nelson, co-editor of the Super Whiskers blog (superwhiskers.com). These imposing and strong dogs have a physical presence that will help you feel safe at home and out on your own, plus they’re intelligent and easy to train, Nelson said.
“While almost any dog may help deter a burglar, breeds like Rottweilers and Dobermans look intimidating, and no one will think twice about messing with you if you have one of these dogs at your side,” Marrs said. “Despite their reputation, most owners will attest to how sweet and gentle these dogs really are. They actually make great family dogs.”
The most famous characteristic of the English bulldog makes these dogs perfect if you live in a small space: They’re lazy.
“Short walks will keep them happy, and for the rest of the time they will just be happy with you on the couch. … They don’t get particularly big either, and combined with a very funny personality, they will be the perfect dog for a small space,” Nelson said.
Other low-maintenance dogs with minimal exercise requirements and few grooming needs include pugs, Chihuahuas, Boston terriers and Malteses, Marrs said.
Get a fit friend
If you are looking for an exercise partner, a retired greyhound “will be a better motivator than any personal trainer,” Nelson said.
Greyhounds range from 50 to 80 pounds “yet they are known as little big dogs, because they are extremely happy in small spaces,” said Lisa Sallie, president and founder of the nonprofit Grateful Greyhounds (gratefulgreyhounds.org). “Retired racing greyhounds generally come off the tracks around age 2 and a half, and live to be about 13; so, you do not have the puppy years or habits to endure, but generally a decade with a lovely dog.”
Other high-energy breeds include Golden retrievers, Labradors, shepherds or terriers, Marrs said.
Small dog, big investment
“I think the easiest breeds for older women are the smaller breeds who do not need the level of activity that larger dogs do, like Yorkies, Morkies, Maltese,” said Lynette Whiteman, executive director, Caregiver Volunteers of Central Jersey.
A small poodle “is a perfect match for more sedentary women who are after companionship, and a hypoallergenic breed,” said Lazhar Ichir, founder of BreedingBusiness.com, a resource for dog breeders.
For a less-mobile woman, a Shih Tzu is a great choice because they don’t need a huge amount of exercise and they’re very light shedders, Nelson said.
Crossbreeds “make great pets and often have less inherited diseases,” said Marina Cholakova, spokeswoman for Cloud 9 Vets, which specializes in at-home end-of-life veterinary care. “Also, consider getting a rescue dog rather than buying a puppy. There are so many dogs in charities and rescue centers that just need a second chance of a happy home, and these centers will assist in finding the right dog to match your situation.”