I’m considering getting a new dog, but don’t know whether I am too old. Do you think anyone is ever too old to get a dog?
Firstly, credit to you for putting the welfare of your potential pet first. Many people – young or old – give in to the temptation of owning a dog without really thinking about whether it’s the right thing to do.
I don’t think there is a defined age when you shouldn’t get a dog, but as you get older there are certainly some considerations you should take into account.
Pets are proven to provide wonderful benefits to older people. Aside from the regular benefits of owning a dog, pets can potentially reduce blood pressure, lower the chances of depression, provide social opportunities and increase activity levels. They also help to fight loneliness, which is a common problem for elderly people.
The main question is whether you’re able to provide a wonderful life and home for your dog. This is less about your age and more about your capabilities and health.
Are you able to give your dog a daily walk? If you get a puppy, are you able to take it outside multiple times a day during house training? Are you at home enough to give your dog the attention it needs? And can you afford pet insurance, food, vet bills and the other costs associated with owning a dog? These are all questions that only you can answer.
If your physical condition prevents you from giving your dog enough exercise then this could also be a problem.
You certainly don’t need to be highly active to give a dog a great life. Some dogs need more exercise than others, so if you adopt a low-energy breed or older dog you wouldn’t need to walk it for as long each day. But it’s important to be honest about whether you’re in a position to properly care for a pet.
At TheDogClinic.com, we think adopting a rescue dog is an amazing thing to do – but we appreciate not everyone wants to miss out on the puppy stage.
If you decide to get a puppy, however, you need to be able to deal with the endless energy they bring to the house. New puppies require constant attention, training classes and house training.
Also, the main problem if you get a puppy is not your age now, but in 10-15 years time. Will you still be able to give the dog the exercise and attention it needs? The average dog will live to over 10 years, so this is something you should consider carefully.
That’s why you might want to consider adopting an older dog from a shelter. Dogs in shelters are desperate for new homes, and they are generally much less energetic than puppies. As they are already part-way through their life, they may also be more suitable.
Unfortunately, some dog shelters have a blanket ban on people above a certain age adopting. I can see the logic behind this, but I also think that age alone is not a good way of judging whether someone is suitable for adoption. You’ll need to contact individual shelters to discuss their policies.
Ultimately, if you feel you can care for a dog properly (including financially) for the rest of its life then they can provide great companionship. It really doesn’t come down to age, but your own physical condition and circumstances.
Hope that helps!
Richard is a journalist who specialises in dog behavior. He's written hundreds of articles and books related to dogs, including for the Continental Kennel Club, Dog Fest (the UK's biggest dog festival) and various veterinary surgeries. When he's not spending time with Jess and Rudy (his beloved Labrador and Golden Retrievers), he enjoys reading, hiking and watching sports. You can find him on Facebook or Twitter.