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Mom Wants a Dog


My parents are dog people.  They have always had a dog, usually big ones.  Their last dog died about a year before my father passed.  My mother is now 78 years old, and she misses the companionship of a dog.  With Dad gone, I understand her desire.  I just worry about her ability to care for the dog.


Your mother’s desire is quite understandable.  If she always had a dog, she likely has a strong desire for that bond she is used to having.  Added to the loss of her spouse, life may be quite lonely.

You have good reason to be concerned about her ability to care for a dog.  As we age, there is a very real possibility that our ability to care for a dog will diminish. Dogs need exercise, training, feeding, grooming, and someone that can pick up what they leave behind.  Believe me, I have a six-month-old puppy and it was a big decision at our house to bring a new dog into our home.  Together, let’s walk through the decision making process for you and your mother.

1. Study the Breed

Since your mother has always had a dog, she has likely thought about the breed she is most interested in.  She may gravitate toward the breed she is most familiar with, which may be good or bad.  If she is considering a large breed, it is only fair that her activity level for the next 10 to 15 years match that of her dog.  Unless she is planning to hire someone to walk the dog daily, she may not want to get a dog that needs more than a short walk.  Not providing the needed exercise for a dog is unfair. 

It is important to research all the needs and characteristics of the breed she is considering.  Talk to responsible breeders of the breed.  Make sure she learns as much as she can about the animal that she is considering assuming responsibility for.  She should try to match her energy level to that of the breed she is considering

2. Consider the Age

When I say consider age, I am referring to your mother’s age and the age of the dog.  Puppies are lots of fun and a tremendous amount of work for the first few months when you bring them home.  She will likely be getting up at night for weeks.  She will be house training.  She will need to train the puppy to come, sit, respond to strangers, and all of the other tasks associated with an infant.  She has likely been through this before, but oftentimes our memory dims on how much work puppy can be those first few months.

It is important to consider the age of both your mother and the dog.  Does she want the new dog to outlive her?  Would a trained three-year-old dog be a more reasonable choice?

3. Plan Care for Life

Bringing a pet into your life makes you responsible for planning the care of that animal for the rest of its life.  If your mom is going to get a dog, she needs to have a contingency plan for who will take the dog if she goes into a facility or dies before the dog does.  Wouldn’t it be nice if she were the co-owner of the dog with one of her children?  The dog is then part of both families, spending time with each.  It should provide her comfort to know that the pet will be cared for.  She may also need to make financial arrangements for the dog’s care if it outlives her. 

If she selects the appropriate dog and plans carefully, your mother could have many wonderful years of fun and companionship with her new dog.  I believe there is more to consider than just her age when making the decision of getting a dog.  With proper and realistic planning, it may be a wonderful experience.