Dog for grandparents?
May 8, 2012 5:39 PM   Subscribe

Dog recommendation for grandparents?

I'd like to get a dog for my ailing grandparents. They are getting up in years and their friends/family are dying. I think a dog would help them exercise and get out of the house. Assuming I get the clear from them to get them a dog, what kind of dog would you recommend? Grandma needs to get out and walk for exercise but is tiny (5' <100lbs) so I don't want one that will drag her down the street. I would like to get a dog not a puppy from a rescue group and would get him/her trained with my dog trainer. What's a mellow breed for grandma and grandpa?
posted by jmd97 to Religion & Philosophy (29 answers total)
Soft-Coated Wheaton. Very friendly and easy going. They have hair so they don't shed all over the place. Males are around 30-40 lbs, females about ten pounds less. They like to play but don't demand as much physical activity as a lot of other dogs. Also very smart and trainable (though a bit stubborn like all terriers).
posted by WhitenoisE at 5:46 PM on May 8, 2012

Sorry, that's spelled "Weaten."
posted by WhitenoisE at 5:47 PM on May 8, 2012

Wheaten. Okay I'm done now.
posted by WhitenoisE at 5:47 PM on May 8, 2012 [3 favorites]

Bichon Frise dogs will always have a special place in my heart. They are small dogs with hypo-allergenic coats, they are adorable, need daily walks, and have great personalities-lively, yet independent according to this site.
posted by livinglearning at 5:51 PM on May 8, 2012

I think a rescued greyhound. I could be wrong but they walk like a dream on leash and seem to like nothing but hanging out on a couch.
I haven't had one and maybe experienced rescued greyhound owners could weigh in.
posted by beccaj at 5:52 PM on May 8, 2012 [2 favorites]

Boston Terriers make great companion dogs. They have limited exercise needs and are fairly low-maintenance. Or, their exercise needs after puppyhood can generally be taken care of with some running around the house. Also, they're hilarious.
posted by smalls at 5:59 PM on May 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

I believe there was an experienced rescued greyhound owner who commented here that they are actually quite a bit of work because they have never learned to be pets - eg they are hard to housetrain etc.

I was going to suggest Shih Tzu. You can get their hair cut regularly and then you don't have to brush them. They're quiet, attentive, smart, small enough to be easy to handle, but not fragile-feeling.
posted by LobsterMitten at 6:00 PM on May 8, 2012

Pugs are a wonderful breed -- loyal, funny, smart, extremely affectionate, do not need a whole lot of exercise, love to cuddle. That said, if your grandparents are indeed ailing, I'd really consider whether they can handle any dog -- vet visits, providing walks even in inclement weather, handling feeding concerns, etc. Will you or someone else be able to provide backup?
posted by Wordwoman at 6:02 PM on May 8, 2012 [5 favorites]

I'm not a dog person, but I find Cocker Spaniels an appropriately active-yet-not-exhausting dog. My teeny-tiny grandmother (4'11") loved them; they're known for being good with kids. They definitely like being around people, being part of the group, etc., and don't like excitement (or, at least, don't like noise.)

I've met jumpy Cocker Spaniels and mellow ones - I think you'd do fine with one you'd seen be mellow, but you'd definitely need to hang out with them a bit to be sure. Supposedly they're calmer the more they hang around their owners.
posted by SMPA at 6:06 PM on May 8, 2012

Not to be crass but how long do you think your grandparents will be able to care for the dog? Smaller dogs can live up to 15 years or more. If they pass before the dog does, what plans do you have for the dog? Will you be adopting it yourself?
posted by violetk at 6:12 PM on May 8, 2012

My grandparents love their Bichon Frise, although it's harder for them to take care of her since they've started having more serious health issues. I'd make sure your grandparents are really ready for a dog.
posted by MadamM at 6:16 PM on May 8, 2012

Response by poster: We've got a lot of family in the area, so taking the dog to the vet etc won't be a problem. I'm willing to take in the dog if anything goes awry. He/she will be living with me for about 4 months while he/she is being trained and going to day care every day.
posted by jmd97 at 6:18 PM on May 8, 2012

Some elderly friends of my parents (now long passed on) used to have a sheltie or Shetland Sheepdog. They're about 12 lbs and pretty calm for a working breed. Unlike many smaller breeds they don't live very long, about 12 years or so. They're easy to train, unlike terriers and doxies, and there are many rescue groups you can contact about getting an already trained adult dog.
posted by fiercekitten at 6:44 PM on May 8, 2012

maybe think about a middle aged or older dog. they've already worked out their rambunctious puppy-ness but would still be in need of exercising and companionship.
posted by violetk at 7:09 PM on May 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

Westie...i.e. West Highland Terrier. Coolest dog ever, eminently trainable, minimal shedding, brushing keeps it in good shape, needs grooming a couple times a year...or you can cut its 'bangs', and groom less frequently. Westies live for 12-14 years, and weigh from 14-23 pounds. They are affectionate, personable, and enjoy attention. They like time outdoors on leash, or in a yard but know how to relax...which, I hasten to add, the above-mentioned Sheltie does NOT. Having owned one, and known several, Shelties are inveterate herders and frenetic by nature...great on a farm where they can be out running circles around sheep, deer, or the barn. At home with G'ma and G'ma, well, they'll run circles around them and herd them to exhaustion.
posted by mumstheword at 7:15 PM on May 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

I think a middle-aged small dog is a good way to go - you might even put word out with your local shelter and rescues that you are specifically looking for a dog given up by an older owner (ideally not because the dog was too much trouble, but moved into assisted living etc).

Here's my concern with older people and dogs: are your grandparents sturdily mobile? A dog is a trip risk, and will require a certain amount of bending. I think if my mom was to lose her mind* and get another pet, I would be uncomfortable with her having one too heavy to lift/big enough to hurt her, so I think very small is the way to go.

*My mom had to put her 7th or 8th adulthood pet down about 10 years ago, and said she could not stand having her heart broken like that again, and she meant it. I didn't get it then, but I've been through a few myself now and I totally get it. Make sure that a dog is really what they want and won't just be a source of stress and anxiety.
posted by Lyn Never at 7:44 PM on May 8, 2012

My elderly dad and his wife have a Bichon Frise that is completely lovely. A Shih Tzu or Lhasa Apso is also a good bet. Our dog Wilson is a Lhasa/King Charles mix and is seriously the most mellow dog I have ever known.

You might consider an adult dog with a known temperament from a breed rescue. Maybe 4-6 years old and well past the puppy years.
posted by Glinn at 7:44 PM on May 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

An older rescue toy dog might be a good choice. That approach has worked out well for some of the older folks in my life.
posted by box at 8:41 PM on May 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

Here's a vote for an older rescue dog. Ages five or six is settled, and sometimes you can find a 'one owner' dog that is very nice to work with. Our old dog (now 15) was that age, was housebroken, neutered, and trained, and has been a joy from day one when we adopted him. Sadly, the old boy is extremely arthritic, and the time is coming. Meanwhile, he still eats like a horse and farts in his sleep. Life is good.
posted by BlueHorse at 8:55 PM on May 8, 2012 [2 favorites]

You can get a lot of older rescue dogs, they tend to be a lot quieter than some of the younger ones and their temprements are established so it will make sure there are no surprises. Any of the traditional lap dog breeds would be a good bet, they have been bred basically to like sitting quietly, they can be a little yappy if badly trained, but are surprisingly smart and do respond well to training. Papillions are great dogs, very pretty and very smart and easy to train.

The only thing you have to be careful with is that small dogs can be a tripping hazard, my mother is legally blind and the best thing we did for her was help her get a dog, the dog got trodden on a few times and then learned to keep out of the way. Also don't get a dog the same shade as the carpet, my mother tends to trip over my silky that is the same golden brown as our carpet. My mother got a spaniel, and while the dog is very pretty she is definitely of the not easy to train breeds
posted by wwax at 9:43 PM on May 8, 2012

There are a lot of chihuahuas in rescues. There are a lot of very sweet ones, and you will likely be able to find an organization that specializes in the little critters. That can be a good way to find one with the right temprament.

Also - Corgi?
posted by azpenguin at 10:41 PM on May 8, 2012

An elderly relative of mine got on happily for many years with his elderly Scottish terrier. I haven't met many Scotties, but this one was calm, not very sociable or energetic, and the only thing that got him excited was food. So I'm going to nth a mellow, older, smaller dog.
posted by Ziggy500 at 4:00 AM on May 9, 2012

As an owner of a Bichon Frise I will nth it as a recommendation for the reasons others have given. I will add that our bichon has allergy problems that have cost us lot to diagnose and fix - not unusual for white coated breeds apparently. If you have the option of getting hold of mutt that combines the breed you are interested in with something else - then I would consider that on the lines that it might have better health than a pure pedigree animal.
posted by rongorongo at 4:47 AM on May 9, 2012

My grandmother has a standard dachshund who was rescued from a puppy mill as an adult female - I believe she adopted Heidi from Almost Home Dachshund Rescue Society. Heidi is very very placid and kind of shy, but she and my grandma get on well, and she's small enough that my <5' grandma can take her for walks without any problem.
posted by ChuraChura at 5:58 AM on May 9, 2012

A rescue dog/puppy is always the best place to start.

But if that isn't an option, I second the Softcoated Wheaten Terrier. We got one five years ago because my son has some allergy issues; Sully (the dog) has never caused a sniffle. He's turned out to be the best all around dog I've ever owned. He's super-smart, exceptionally friendly, and very chill - although he can play or roughhouse with the best of 'em. Wheatens also make great watchdogs. They aren't big enough to be guard dogs (although they have those awesome terrier "fangs"), but they will let you know when something is amiss.

They need some consistent grooming, but if you keep up with it it's no big deal. Because they have a single coat of hair, instead of two coats of fur, they also don't have a strong dog smell.

Wheatens are just about the perfect dog, IMO.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 6:51 AM on May 9, 2012

Also, no shedding. NONE.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 6:55 AM on May 9, 2012

One point to note about Bichons, Wheaten Terriers and other dogs with hair rather than fur: it grows and needs to be cut every 6 weeks or so. If your grandparents have enough time and are willing to learn some techniques then they can do this themselves- otherwise they will need to take the dog to a professional groomer at about $40 per session. Either way you need to budget for the time and/or money involved.
posted by rongorongo at 7:35 AM on May 9, 2012

My grandmother got a middle-aged mini dachshund, who would hop up on her lap every time she sat down (which she loved). It was a perfect match. I think the dog did end up outliving her, but the dog had several fans in her retirement community and she was re-adopted quickly. Fur, not hair, so there is shedding, but you don't need to get it groomed, and the short hair isn't too terrible to live with.
posted by chowflap at 9:44 AM on May 9, 2012

I'm unsure of what you mean by "I would like to get a dog not a puppy from a rescue group" -- I can't tell if you're leaning towards rescue/shelter animals or not . . .

If you are inclined to adopt, in an ideal world, I would try to find a volunteer at the local shelter and tell them what you're looking for. It's possible they'd suggest something just to try and save a dog, but more likely they'll think long and hard and keep an eye out for you.

As a rule, I would advise against small dogs -- for a bunch of reasons, they tend to have bad manners and the toy breeds can be hard to house train.

Good luck.
posted by MeiraV at 5:26 PM on May 9, 2012

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