Should You Get a Puppy as a Senior Adult?

You’ve been thinking about getting a puppy for a while, but something keeps holding you back: your age. Now that you’re a senior adult, you wonder if you have the mental and physical strength to care for a young dog. You worry about your travel plans–would the extra time and care a puppy needs hinder them?  More important, you’re not sure you have the resources to raise a puppy at this life stage. While puppies come with unique challenges for seniors, there are plenty of perks to bringing a puppy into the home later in life too. Should you or shouldn’t you? Here are eight truths to chew on before making a decision:

The Costs Can be High for Seniors

If you’re already living on a tight budget as a senior adult, be prepared to practice even more frugality to accommodate a new dog, especially a young one. Puppies aren’t cheap. Besides the initial cost, you’ll need to pay for shots, equipment, chew toys, food, and obedience training–all of which add up quickly. A puppy deserves a good start in life, and money is necessary to make that happen. Working a puppy into the budget may require careful financial planning, along with a willingness to sacrifice other non-essentials you’re counting on to enhance the retirement years.

Puppies Require Energy and Stamina

Just watching puppies at play will reveal how rambunctious they are. Without supervision, they can do damage to your furniture, carpets, clothing, you name it. They can also get loose in the house or outdoors very quickly. Plus, there are potty and crate training duties, obedience classes, and regular feedings to tend to. You will likely experience fatigue and interrupted sleep, at least in the first few months. Let’s face it, the rigors of puppy ownership are real, and you’re not getting any younger. Make sure you have the energy and stamina for the undertaking.

Senior Living May Not be Pet-Friendly–or Safe

Your living situation can play a big factor in whether to bring a puppy into the home. If you live in an apartment or senior living community, the complex may not allow pets or may limit pets’ size, which could be a problem as a puppy grows. Also, puppies need easy access to walking paths and outdoor spaces. The inside of the home matters too. Could a busy, active puppy scurrying about be a hazard for falls? Are the floors easy for you to clean when accidents occur? Safety and convenience should be top priorities for seniors contemplating puppy ownership.

You’ll Need Backup Pet Sitters

You may be able to care for your pet by yourself or with a partner, but who’s going to take over when you’re away from home for extended periods of time? Puppies can’t be left unsupervised for hours on end. If you travel or have an active social life, you will need to find a willing pet sitter to help out–and not just anyone will do. Puppy sitting is much more demanding than pet sitting an adult, trained dog. You should have reliable puppy caretakers to call on, whether they’re trustworthy friends or neighbors with puppy experience or a professional pet sitter.

Now that you know the cautionary truths of puppy ownership for older adults, there are many reasons why getting a puppy can improve the senior years. In fact, the following four realities might just seal the deal:

Puppies Boost Senior Health

Studies have shown that older adults who have pets enjoy many health benefits. According to Mayo Clinic, owning a pet, especially a dog, can improve heart health, mood, and diet for seniors. People who own dogs tend to be more social too and more apt to strike up conversation with other dog owners. Most older pet owners also report better sleep, reduced pain and stress, and an increased ability to cope with physical and emotional symptoms. While puppies require work in the early days, the fruits of your puppy-raising labors can pay off big in long-term health and well-being.

A Puppy Makes a Great Exercise Partner and Motivator

Older adults come up a myriad of reasons to avoid exercise, from aches and pains to fears of injury to age insecurities at the gym. But owning a puppy means all excuses for moving your body are off the table. Puppies don’t just have to go outside to do their business; they need to expend their energy, explore the outdoors, and learn how to behave on a leash. And you’re just the one they want to do it with. Puppies have a knack for motivating you to get off the couch and get moving. The best part? Their enthusiasm to be physically active is contagious.

Puppies Give You Purpose Later in Life

A common complaint of senior adults is they feel their purpose in life has passed. Without a job or childrearing to do anymore, many older adults look for new meaning and direction. Puppies are one way to satisfy that search. Puppies help alleviate boredom and give you something to care for that’s worth your time, attention, and devotion. Watching a puppy grow into a mature, obedient dog brings enormous satisfaction and pride in your role as master. Besides that, puppies are loyal pals who can help diminish feelings of emptiness and isolation common among seniors.

A Puppy Offers More Years of Companionship than an Older Pet

Many senior adults who want a dog in their lives consider adopting a senior pet, mainly because older dogs are typically more laid back and require less work. It can be an ideal partnership between aging companions. But keep in mind that acquiring an older pet means you will have less time together and a quicker good-bye. A puppy, on the other hand, will likely give you ten or more years of companionship and more opportunity to form a deep bond. Depending on your health status and place in life, this could be a better option than adopting an older pet.

Bottom line? There is much to weigh before taking the puppy plunge later in life. Consider the above truths when deciding. It’ll make all the difference to your success and happiness–and your pet’s.

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