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Forever Friends

Forever Friends

My mom is in her seventies, lives alone in an apartment, and recently mentioned she would love to have a companion dog. In determining what breed, size, exercise, and grooming requirements would be best for her in a dog, we also had to think about the expense of it all, as she is on a fixed income and needs to consider her budget. We discussed a puppy versus an older rescue dog, and decided the puppy would take too much of her time, energy, and finances.

The advantages of adopting an older dog can be significant. In general, an adult dog tends to take less time to train, can adjust rather quickly, and is likely to have some manners and impulse control. Also with an older dog, you know what you’re getting: they are full-sized; the personality is developed; and grooming needs have been determined. All this information can help you find the dog that is the right match for the senior in your life who wants a companion pet.

There is also a huge advantage in adopting from a reputable rescue organization. These organizations make sure dogs are temperament-tested, up-to-date on vaccines, spayed or neutered, and have a clean bill of health (or they will divulge all medical conditions). These dogs typically live in foster homes (as opposed to a kennel), have a lifetime return policy, and prospective owners have a thorough application process to make sure the right pet is matched with the right person.

As we searched for some dogs to meet, we also assessed my mom’s activity level, how she pictures spending time with a dog, and we analyzed her budget. My mom is active, likes to walk daily, has a great neighborhood to walk in, and lives near a few parks and a dog-friendly shopping center. All things she could picture herself doing with a dog in tow. She also likes to read, work on her computer, and sleep in every once in a while. We determined a Low to medium energy dog would be a good match.

In looking at a budget for a dog, the consensus seems to average around $700 to $1,200 a year, which is about $60 to $100 a month. Expenses for smaller dogs are typically lower and large breeds can be more. Included in these costs are medical care (both routine and preventative), emergency care, grooming, supplies, training, boarding, and food and treats.

I recommended that we begin by searching online for various dogs, reading lots of descriptions of the behavior of the dog. This helped determine what personality traits my mom can train, live with, or improve upon. We discussed what behaviors were easier to modify – such as jumping on people, pulling on the leash, or reacting to distractions. We also discussed behaviors that are harder to train away – resource guarding and aggression, for example. We also discussed the differences between obedience training that would be handled in a class setting (sit, down, stay, come) and behavior training that is typically dealt with in a private lesson. If she finds the right adult dog, there is also a chance that no training will be necessary.

As a mother, helping my mom find a likely match for her has been a fun and rewarding process. We have realized it does take some time, but the right one will come along and we will all know it when it happens. There are lots of resources in Richmond for pet adoption, so please reach out for help if you or your parents need some help finding the dog for them.

Jennifer Kyzer has been training dogs and their humans since 2005. Owner of 2 Speak Dog and a mom of two, she and her family live in the city. She works wherever the dogs take her.

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