please recommend a mid or small dog breed for 70 year old woman
January 9, 2013 7:15 PM   Subscribe

I'd like to help my mom get a new dog. In the past she had a lab and then a pointer, loved them both to death, but this sort of dog is just too big and requires too much exercise for a 70-year-old woman living alone. Trouble is: she hates most small dog breeds - doesn't like the lap dog type or the Paris Hilton type dogs. I tried to convince her a Boston Terrier would be a good compromise, but she doesn't like the pointy ears and the bug eyes.

So, the question is, is there some smaller dog that would be the equivalent of the pointer or lab types that she loves but in a smaller body? She has already ruled out cocker spaniel, mini doberman, italian greyhound, king charles spaniel, mini poodle. Brittany is too big. Vizla is too big. She does not like any terriers, and does not like any "girly dogs". Yeah, so this is one mom that's hard to please - try growing up in a house with her!

Anyway, I'd like to help her find a dog because it would be a great companion. Should be one that doesn't require too much exercise and that won't tear up a yard (because she lives in a condo). Any ideas on what has the personality and looks of a big dog but in a smaller package?

Is there anything like a Miniature German Shorthaired Pointer??? Mini Weimaraner?
posted by cmp4Meta to Pets & Animals (44 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I've said it before on AskMe when similar questions were asked before: you can't necessarily choose a dog for personality based on a specific breed or mix. There are just as many sweet Chihuahuas as nasty ones, lovely labs as dumb as brick ones.....

My recommendation is to check out local RESCUE groups who have fostered dogs and have gotten to know them well and can recommend individual dogs based on personalities, not breeds. They are more likely than shelters to work harder at matching lifestyles of owners to dogs.
posted by HeyAllie at 7:24 PM on January 9, 2013 [20 favorites]

What about a corgi? Cccoooorrrrggiiiiii.
posted by phunniemee at 7:24 PM on January 9, 2013 [5 favorites]

We are lab-mutt people and we just adopted a chihuahua puppy, not sure about the father but she's in between the bald-looking regular ones and the long haired ones. She has a ridiculously playful personality and is very cool. We are surprised at how much we're enjoying her, she really is like a regular dog. The prima Donna stuff is totally on the owner, not the dog.
posted by headnsouth at 7:27 PM on January 9, 2013 [2 favorites]

There are mini dobermans that look exactly like a scaled down doberman. Italian greyhound? Shih-tzu (I totally want one of these)? Bedlington terrier (doesn't act like a yappy terrier, can be clipped to look a lamb). But all dogs are going to want some exercise, maybe she'd prefer a friendly, playful, Burmese cat instead?
posted by thylacinthine at 7:29 PM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

I would start going to the pound and looking. There are so many mixes out there, that I often find dogs that just look like tinier versions of large dogs. The mixes are great specifically because you can find any combination.

For example, my Marie is basically a black lab-type, but is a perfect mid size dog for me. She's about 45 lbs, just small enough for me to be able to pick up. Not that a 70 year old woman should do that, but you get my point.

I would stop looking at dogs that have been 'bred' and start looking at individuals. Put her on Petfinder and let her browse. She'll find one that she is drawn to, and you can go from there.

Also, think of behavior in addition (or over) looks.

Lastly, would a senior big dog maybe work?
posted by Vaike at 7:29 PM on January 9, 2013 [5 favorites]

A corgi was my first thought, too, with the caveat that they're natural herders and do tend to have have a lot of energy. My elderly mother-in-law loves and adores her corgi (it's whip-smart, very sweet, and a great watchdog), but because she can't give it much exercise it's gotten pretty obese. Maybe a corgi mix with a mellower breed that will bring down the energy level a bit.
posted by scody at 7:31 PM on January 9, 2013 [2 favorites]

off to the shelter! the dog will pick her...
posted by HuronBob at 7:32 PM on January 9, 2013 [13 favorites]

How does she feel about beagles? I grew up with labs and to me beagles have that "real dog" feel to them. They come in a few varieties, they tend to be smart, not too aggressive, sometimes weirdly noisy, don't tear things up too much and are nice loyal animals. There are some great beagle rescue places and I suggest the Daily Beagle for inspiration.
posted by jessamyn at 7:32 PM on January 9, 2013 [4 favorites]

Nthing the idea of going to the pound and looking. There are so many little (and slightly larger) dogs that she might really bond with. I recently fostered a chi-weenie for a time before she went to her new home, and thought that she'd be a good one for an older person.

Couple of possibilities:

Dachshund (either normal or mini version), or a mix with some Dachshund.
Miniature poodle mix.
Fox terrier or rat terrier (or a mix, maybe)
Jack russell terrier

I hope you and she find a good match. Maybe a slightly larger senior dog would be a possibility, like a poster above suggested. Go to the pound, or even talk to rescue organizations of some breeds that might fit her lifestyle and likes.
posted by wolfgirl at 7:36 PM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

Hell, just get a mutt. An older mutt, so it's a little more mellow.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:42 PM on January 9, 2013 [4 favorites]

Jessamyn: I have two beagles that seriously challenge your ideas about beagle intelligence.

How about a standard sized dachshund? There is nothing girly about them, they tend to think and act like they are much bigger dogs, and with their short legs they don't need much space to get plenty of exercise.
posted by COD at 7:42 PM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

I wonder if she would like a small british bulldog? They are pretty lazy and usually have a gentle and loyal disposition. Apartment living generally suits them because they like climate control. The only downside is possible health complications.

You disregarded big dogs but keep in mind quite a few of the larger size dogs are lazier than you can imagine, I am thinking of great Danes and newfs. You should look into getting her an older dog to avoid the tiring puppy phase.
posted by saucysault at 7:44 PM on January 9, 2013

How does she feel about beagles?

I was going to suggest this. I'm biased, but work with beagle rescues a bit and there are lots of beagles needing homes who are older - 8, 9, 10, 11 years old - that are over the young beagle craziness and sleep a fair bit, but still have the personality and heart and snuggles and can be picked up. They are definitely doggy dogs, as Jessamyn says, over bostons or pugs and many live happily in condos. You would have to check with the shelter they are not a howler, with a condo, though. I was a retriever person my whole life until meeting my first beagle.
posted by jamesonandwater at 8:00 PM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

I came in here to share my love for corgis, but here's another thought: is your mom into cats at all? Some cats are active and outgoing with very doglike personalities, but they're lower maintenance and don't need to go outside.

If your mom won't consider cats, you can disregard my advice, but if it's an option, head to the shelter and spend some time playing with the cats.
posted by Metroid Baby at 8:06 PM on January 9, 2013

Can't get her to rethink a cocker spaniel? We're fostering an adult right now. He's super-cute, well trained (great thing about many rescues!), and I've been surprised to find that he's plenty doggie enough (even for someone like me who likes bigger dogs) -- all in a small/medium package.

A more specific pitch: Kobie's last owner passed away, and he needs a permanent home. If you happen to live near DC, you can come meet him! MeMail me, or check out this link.
posted by rdn at 8:15 PM on January 9, 2013

Dachshunds are pretty fragile. They are prone to intervertebral disc disease which causes back problems that range from minor discomfort to paralyzing -- read here about IVDD in dachshunds. Corgis, Basset Hounds and other dogs are also prone to these kinds of injuries. Your mom will need to carry a dachshund up & down stairs and (if they're allowed on furniture) train them to wait to be lifted on & off furniture rather than jumping up and off on their own. Playing with dogs much bigger than they are isn't a great idea either because they can get trampled.

My mini-dachshund had surgery for her first slipped disc last year and once one slips the occurrence of others is dramatically increased. She is presently on 8 weeks crate rest and medication for a second slipped disc (and we're not yet sure how well she'll recover this time around). I didn't realize how fragile they were until that fragility made itself known to me, which is why I'm sharing my experience with you. That said, my dog is only 13 pounds so carrying her around isn't difficult for me -- would your mom be willing & able to lift & carry a 10-15-pound weinerdog when necessary? My weinerdog is lovey and does silly clowny things and has just the best personality but if I were to choose again I'd get a non-long-bodied mutt instead. (By the way, the most expensive phrase in English is "emergency canine neurosurgery.")
posted by macadamiaranch at 8:22 PM on January 9, 2013 [2 favorites]

Stanley Coren's dog breed quiz may be useful to give you more ideas of breeds /dog personality types that might work.
As others mention, Rescues & perhaps looking on Petfinder can help reduce the impulse adoption urge that often comes from visiting a shelter or pound - the sadness & frustration of owners and dogs who just don't mesh after an impulse adoption (to save the dog) is something rescues regularly see. Reputable rescues usually have a requirement that the dog be returned to the rescue if the adoption doesn't work out (most shelters and pounds don't have that luxury).
Some rescues may prefer to adopt older dogs out to people in their 70s.
Good luck!
posted by wa12345 at 8:22 PM on January 9, 2013 [2 favorites]

Great Dane. Big, but friendly and low energy, typically.
posted by jeffamaphone at 8:25 PM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

We're pretty sure our former stray is Havanese. Technically, she is a terrier and mine is definitely a hunter. However, she is the laziest dog I've ever met. She sleeps in with my partner when I leave for work. She doesn't yap. She's a therapy dog because her mellow nature is suited for the job. But she does kill small animals (mice, birds) and that can be tough for some people to deal with.
posted by kamikazegopher at 8:26 PM on January 9, 2013

Shetland Sheepdog?

My neighbor had a smallish longhaired ( I think doxy and spaniel were somewhere in there)mix after her Lab died.
posted by brujita at 8:36 PM on January 9, 2013

I'm not a beagle or hound fan; they're quite stubborn. I was never a small dog fan, but I got a Jack Russell Terrier at a shelter, and he is totally awesome. Can be put on a line, but does need daily exercise. Loves, in an addictive way, to catch a thrown ball, and likes to be active and zany, but when I tell him I'm done playing and sit down with the laptop, he curls up next to me on the couch, very patiently. Greyhounds are couch potatoes and sweet, but must be leashed; they are bred to catch a moving target; this includes cars. A Golden Retriever or normal-sized poodle that is 2+ years old would be a great pet; adult dogs are much easier to handle, especially with training. Your veterinarian may be able to help re-home a dog who needs a new home.

Go to the dog shelter, there are lots of mellow dogs, of a variety of breeds.
posted by Mom at 9:06 PM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

We have a miniature poodle plus, Ronnie; the plus could be terrier but we don't know. Miniature poodles are medium-size, so Ronnie is about 14 lbs., not so small as to be fragile (toy poodles are the tiny ones) nor so big as to be expensive to keep or hard to fit in. Ronnie is very cuddly and has a relaxed and pleasant temperament; he likes walks but he's not high-maintenance. Ronnie has the poodle advantage of not shedding, along with it's other side of needing haircuts every couple of months (which we do ourselves.)

In my experience, mutts are much less stupid and more important less prone to genetic abnormalities than pure bred dogs.

Go see what the pound has, as many have said already...
posted by anadem at 9:07 PM on January 9, 2013

What about a senior greyhound? They're (mostly) quite mellow and don't require a ton of exercise, despite the whole "racing dog" perception. My friend had one and he was seriously the best dog ever. There are greyhound rescue organizations all over the place, and I'm sure they'd love to find a home for one of their seniors.

In my experience, Dacshunds, beagles, and Boston terriers are stubborn and extremely energetic. Maybe not the best choice unless your mom has time to devote to training. The worst-behaved dog I have ever met was a young Boston terrier.

EDITED to add that some friends had a whippet/German shepherd mix from a shelter. Maybe your mom would like something like that - he looks and acts like a "real" dog but is much more manageable size-wise.
posted by easy, lucky, free at 9:14 PM on January 9, 2013 [6 favorites]

Manchester terrier. The sweet and shy aspect of a sight hound coupled with a bouncy and vibrant love of life. They are easily trained IME, love walks or time off-leash, are heat-seekers (with short hair, they don't shed much but tend to be lean and need soft beds) and have all the heart of a Big Solid Dog. Bark like a .30-.30, too. They're initially cool to strangers but never, never cringe or beseech and they have gravitas.
posted by jet_silver at 9:29 PM on January 9, 2013

Affenpinscher? Pug? I'm not a small dog appreciator but those two are cute to me. Affenpinschers look a little like terriers but aren't, apparently.
posted by needs more cowbell at 9:51 PM on January 9, 2013

What about a corgi? Cccoooorrrrggiiiiii.
Shetland Sheepdog?

Pretty much any herding dog is going to have exercise needs far in excess of the stated desires. Also shelties can be pretty barky for a condo environment.

I think she's going to have to get over herself to some extent as I don't think there is any breed that will tick all her boxes, especially given the long list of breeds and breed groups that she's said no to.

On the one hand, if the dog's appearance is the most important thing, she could get a smaller dog that has higher exercise needs, like a corgi or sheltie, and hope for the best. What's the worst that could happen besides coming home to a dog that's eaten the furniture?

Or, if you can get her to agree that a dog's appearance is less important than its personality and character, there are any number of small dogs that have reasonable exercise needs. Many of them are going to be the lap/Paris Hilton/girly dogs. I mean, she's looking for a companion dog... she could do worse than check out the dogs in the UKC's companion group. By reputation, I'd suggest the coton de tulear or papillon, or maybe havanese. Or cavaliers, but they have endemic and severe heart problems, and I'd suggest that she might not want the heartbreak of losing a beloved pet who's been her daily companion when she's 75.

Alternately, she could cruise pounds and rescues for adult individuals of pretty much any breed that have laid-back attitudes. Not seniors, for the same reasons as cavaliers, but grownups. With the caveat that a dog that's lazy in the small confines of a kennel might not be in a home.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:06 PM on January 9, 2013

How about a labradoodle? When mixed with a miniature poodle they can be around 25-30 pounds. In general they have little to no shedding and are smart and friendly.
posted by obol at 11:11 PM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

Lhasa Apso?

A friend of my mom's had one and she (the dog) was pretty much a normal dog in small form. They do tend to have crazy hair but if kept with a short coat, it wouldn't be too bad other than you'd have to keep trimming it. They do NOT have a lab-like temperament though.

Shelties are like little collies, with all that goes with that. They don't live long, however.
posted by fiercekitten at 11:33 PM on January 9, 2013

Do you live near a guide dog organization? My folks have adopted several retired guide dogs over the years — labs in our case, though other breeds are typically available too. These dogs have been... hella chill, for lack of a better term, and have been wonderful companion pets for older people in my family. It varies dog to dog, but we've definitely had pooches who can't do long walks due to arthritis (to the point where doggie and grandma were on the same joint-pain medication). In my experience, a really relaxed senior large dog has been more in-line with my older relatives' lifestyles than a younger, smaller dog.
posted by Charity Garfein at 11:50 PM on January 9, 2013

I think a Keeshond would meet all of your requirements—small, not girly, bred as a companion dog.

I would avoid all hounds and terriers because they are very active both indoors and out. They will tear up a yard or condo if they don’t get enough exercise.

Greyhounds and Great Danes are both calm and require very little exercise but I suspect that the Greyhounds are too girly and Great Danes are too big for her.
posted by Gringos Without Borders at 1:18 AM on January 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'm going to nth the suggestion of beagle. Part of that is because there are quite a lot of them available for rescue and there are well-organized rescue organizations throughout the country. This means that if you need a particular type of beagle within the broad beagle spectrum (quiet, calm, biddable) it shouldn't be too difficult to match her up with the right beagle.

Anecdotally, our last beagle would have been a great companion for an older person. She was practically silent, calm, modest exercise needs and very submissive. Also anecdotally, I've known a couple of senior gentlemen in our neighborhood who had dear beagle companions that worked well with their lifestyles.
posted by drlith at 3:16 AM on January 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

We've adopted senior dogs in the past -mostly labs and they're great. Right now we have 3 dogs all over the age of 9 yrs but all were adopted around 6 yrs. 2 are huge and one is a chihuahua who's 10. The chihuahua is a great dog but yappy even in old age. The 2 big dogs are pretty easy going (lab mixes) and don't even need a big walk. They just run around our property when its cold and are pretty happy with that. I advocate an older dog. Puppies are cute but tons of work.
posted by lasamana at 3:54 AM on January 10, 2013 [2 favorites]

That first comment says it all - contact a few rescue groups, tell them what you are looking for, and they'll be able to show you a few adult/older dogs that might be a great match. Can't hurt to talk to a greyhound rescue, too. Even though they are big dogs, they might be a really good option.
posted by belau at 4:46 AM on January 10, 2013 [2 favorites]

Answering this question is really impossible, given the out-of-control dog "breeding" that goes on in the US (which is all I know about). I volunteer in rescue, and without even thinking too hard, I could provide counterexamples to every single recommendation so far. Unfortunately, that's the state of things, despite any one person's anecdote.

Seconding (AND PLEADING WITH YOU) to please just contact rescue groups near you, tell them the traits you're looking for, and let them match you up with some possible dogs. Offer to foster for a little while if you're not sure.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 6:11 AM on January 10, 2013 [5 favorites]

Our four year old Puggle would be a perfect dog. Pug/Beagle is a good mix. A bit smaller than your standard Beagle, but all the attitude, snuggles and athletic ability (assuming you stave off their tendency towards fat). A puppy will run you ragged, but they start to mellow around 3 years old.

We also researched the Havanese, and could easily have ended up with one if we'd found one instead of our second dog, who turned out to be a Chiweenie (Chihuahua/Dachsund). She's sweet but has a truly shrill and grating bark. Maybe not what your mom is looking for.
posted by rocketpup at 6:54 AM on January 10, 2013

Getting a pet is like dating -- do you want a partner for looks or for personality?

I would strongly, strongly, strongly, strongly suggest contacting local rescue groups (particularly those that foster doggies in a home-type situation, rather than just a shelter) and explain what sort of personality and activity level you're looking for. They will match you up with a wonderful dog who fits right into your home.

Bonus: Not only will a personality match be easier/smoother, but you'll save 2 lives: the adopted dog, and the dog who will take his/her place in the foster home.
posted by muirne81 at 7:10 AM on January 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'd recommend a Yorkshire terrier. My mom in her 70's loves hers.

She once felt she didn't spend enough time with it due to work so she gave it to a loving family. The dog kept escaping the family and making her way back to my Mom's house.

So my Mom finally took her back. This dog knew where it wanted to be and now they are inseparable.
posted by Max Power at 7:28 AM on January 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

+1 on a rescue/foster dog because (1) if you get a slightly older one, it will be less active than little puppies, (2) you can pick one that's already potty trained and doesn't chew up shoes/furniture/whatever, (3) you save a doggy's life and that's just good juju.

Weiner dogs are pretty awesome.

Good luck!
posted by Neekee at 7:44 AM on January 10, 2013

Rescue a dog. Purebred dogs are fine, but expensive and problematic.

Rescue dogs are awesome! Don't go for a puppy. My MIL got a Shih Tzu and it's a hyper little mess. (Her not training it is about 98% of the problem)

Go to the shelter, walk around, mix and mingle with the dogs and eventually there will be one that will grab your mom's heart.

She may be resisting because she's not done grieving her first dog. Give her time. When she wants a dog, there are plenty out there.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:56 AM on January 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

I tried to convince her a Boston Terrier would be a good compromise, but she doesn't like the pointy ears and the bug eyes.

It sounds like your mother knows what she wants, or at least what she doesn't want. I would suggest you stop trying to convince her of anything, and just let her know that if she's ever ready to get a dog again, you're enthusiastic about assisting her.
posted by davejay at 8:19 AM on January 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

Check out the rescues as you can get older dogs with known personalities as others have suggested I really think this is a good way to get the best match and also a quieter dog.

I'd highly recommend a Rat Terrier, while they are terrier by name they are very laid back dogs. I swear as long as ours has a warm blanket he is happy to sit by my and sleep 23.5 hours a day if I wanted to sit that long. They are "working dogs" so don't have that whole lap dog feel to them, they love to sit near you but are happy with just next to you not all over you like a traditional lap dog. The exercising needs are well within the realms of what a 70 yo woman could handle, and if you need to miss a day or 2 ours is happy with 15 minutes of playing tug of war or fetch. We have had ours in an apartment and he was easier to fit into the whole apartment living thing than our silky terrier.

I know my mother really wanted a dog for years and kept putting it off, it was only when I reassured her if anything happened to her that my husband and I would take in her dog and love it like one of our own that she felt she could get one. That might be an issue you'd like to bring up with your mum.
posted by wwax at 8:34 AM on January 10, 2013

My mum is 65 and has a Jack Russell. She found it difficult to begin with, as they do require attention and have a lot of energy - but despite having asthma, she still manages to walk her daily and that's with also living somewhere hilly. I think her main difficulty to begin with is that she's a nervous dog, but I think that's a personality thing and hard to know until you get to know the dog at home.

I see a lot of people walkign pugs around my central London office, and I presume that's because they're a good fit with small apartments.
posted by mippy at 9:20 AM on January 10, 2013

My first thought would be to adopt an older dog from a shelter. She could get a dog that is in the 40-50 lb range, but because they're older, they tend to move a little slower, need less exercise/more rest, and their manners are often already set (i.e. not jumping on people). Some older dogs still have manners issues, of course, but there are so many very sweet older dogs in shelters that don't get adopted simply because they're past their cute puppy/teenage years.
posted by crunchysalty at 9:23 AM on January 10, 2013 [2 favorites]

How about a rescued Basset?
posted by dilettante at 2:31 PM on January 10, 2013

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