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Downsizing – Don’t Forget Your Dog

Category: Family and Retirement

October 21, 2105 — Many of us baby boomers are talking a lot about downsizing, in fact some of our most popular and commented upon articles are on that topic (see further reading below). But there is one aspect of downsizing that doesn’t get mentioned as often – your dog.

Americans love their pets, especially their dogs. But as we enter retirement it is worth some time thinking about whether or not you want to have a dog when your current one goes on to Fido heaven, and if you do, what type and particularly, size. We know that many people, including your editor’s wife, could not face living without apet (in our case a dog and a cat).

There are many good reasons to think about finding a smaller dog if having one is your decision:
Trips and falls. A big dog could knock you, or someone else, over. Or pull you over via the leash. One-in- three adults over 65 will fall every year, according to the CDC. The last thing we want at our age is a fall and the problems that could cause.

Tonka - Banned in Ft. Myers

Tonka – Banned in Ft. Myers

Rules and restrictions. Most active communities and HOA’s have restrictions on the size, number, and breed of dogs permitted. We know this personally, as Tonka, our 60 pound Australian Shepherd, was dis-invited from our mother’s Ft. Myers community a few years ago – he was deemed 35 pounds over the limit! So look around at the restrictions that might apply where you are thinking of living – most limits are in the 25-30 pound area. Having too many dogs, the wrong breed (pit bulls are usually verboten), or one that is too big could severely limit where you live.

Finding your new pet
The American Kennel Club and other organizations provide plenty of information about how to select a pet. Don’t forget the pound or one of the many Rescue operations that most breeds have. It is a humane and kind thing to provide a good home and organic food dogs love for a pet that needs a good home.

Further Reading:
Jane Gross, writing for, has a great article on this topic, “Time for a Smaller Dog
Downsizing Checklist (A multi-part series)

Comments? Have you had issues relating to your selection of pet when it comes to where you retire? Please share your experiences in the Comments section below.

Posted by Admin on October 21st, 2015


  1. My late mother, who never met a dog she didn’t like, resisted getting a smaller dog up to her death. Her dog then was a Viszla/Malinois mix who pull on the leash and caused my mother to fall and break an ankle, and both wrists within months of each other. She was a great dog, but too hyper for someone in her 80s, even with long walks with my brother. Now at 65, I have a 1.5 years old Great Pyrenees who is hyper in the yard, but on a leash, sedate. He knows that on the leash, he must behave like a gentleman dog.

    I have 5 dogs, and as they pass on, I will not be replacing them until I get to one dog. I may get a 2nd dog, but maybe not. There are many opportunities to adopt older dogs who are calmed down, although health expenses may be higher than for a younger dog. I read that little dogs (0-15 lbs) are harder for some older people to see, particularly in the dark, and can easily be tripped over, causing a fall. My mother brought this up whenever we would suggest her next dog be smaller. I think medium is a good size: easy to see, actually useful for protection, keeps one active, and certain breeds tend to eat less than others. Anyway, I don’t have to worry about this for about 10 years. BTW, Tonka is a beauty and SHAME on any place that would ban his presence.

    by Elaine C. — October 21, 2015

  2. I’ve always ALWAYS had pets. A couple of years ago my last dog died at 15 yo. I and my children assumed I would get another but changes began happening in my life dictating changes in my housing. Now renting, as noted in your article, there are so frequently limitations by landlords. Knowing I am not yet in a more permanent situation, I dare not get a dog until I know what restrictions might be on the books in my future. Yet being without has been an emotional strain. I so terribly miss the companionship of a good pet.

    More and more it is becoming accepted advice that having a pet positively influences one’s physical, mental, and emotional health … especially in the latter years. I can’t wait to get settled in to a more permanent setting where I can then acquire a new best friend. I’ll certainly seek through pet rescues, public pounds, or similar to help relieve the over abundance of homeless animals. I’ve had pound puppies before and they all were absolutely wonderful. I’ve also been a breeder of show dogs in the past, but feel these specialized puppies need not be the focus for most of us who just want a companion pet.

    by Barb T — October 21, 2015

  3. I am very interested in this topic and my husband and I will soon be facing the same dilemma, as we begin to think of downsizing. There is no way we will go anywhere without our beloved golden retriever, who thinks she’s a 70-pound lap dog. By any chance do you have a section here that offers recommendations/info on retirement communities around the country that accept larger dogs? Perhaps people can weigh in on this?

    by Joanne C — October 22, 2015

  4. A smaller dog isn’t really the answer. I have two small dogs. One is a miniature Poodle and is 15 lbs. We got him from a breeder when he was about 12 weeks old. He is the wildest, craziest dog you can imagine. Years ago when my Mom was alive he was out in her yard and came charging across the yard, jumped on her and knocked her down! She weighed probably 110 lbs. Lucky she only got minor abrasions and nothing broken. The dog is now 11 years old and is a maniac in many ways. When he gets excited he runs around the coffee table around 20 times at high speed like a race horse. He will watch out the window and when he sees my Hub drive up the driveway he lets out this horrific shriek and keeps it up. Sometimes I imagine the neighbors think I am torturing the dog with hot pokers! He is very demanding and will bark to go outside, bark for his dinner, barks at the neighbors dogs and anyone he sees outside. He hates everyone and I have to be careful he doesn’t bite someone. However, he can be as sweet as an angel at times too! The other dog is around 20 lbs and is a Pomeranian. We got him from Petfinder. He was about a year old when we got him and he is as sweet as can be. The Poodle beats him up every day! I have to break them up. The Poodle does not shed, the Pomeranian sheds a lot and drives me nuts! My Poodle would NOT be a good dog for an older person due to his hyperactive personality. Personally, I think getting a dog from a pound is a good idea. You can assess their personality as an adult dog. You never know what you will get when the puppy grows up! And for those of you that think Poodles are wimps, think again! The next time you see one, do NOT underestimate that fluffy floo floo dog standing in front of you!

    by Louise — October 22, 2015

  5. a lot of dogs of appropriate size (depends on your size) can be trained as mobility assist dogs that can help you if you fall and need to get up or steady you when you walk. They are not just for folks in wheelchairs. If your needs are simple, you can find a good trainer and need not go through the programs. breed is less relevant that temperament and trainablity. Hearing loss run in the family…consider a hearing dog, etc, etc. They may be working dogs, but still can be great pets.

    Louise brings up great examples about what dog is right for you and it often has nothing to do with size or breed

    Remember, they have needs too and pet sitters and dog walkers may be in your future…and do not forget tp plan for them in your will or trust.

    by elaine — October 22, 2015

  6. Seven years ago, my 110 pound Alaskan Malamute died unexpectedly due to bloat. It was tragic for me and had to be rectified immediately even though we also had a 10-yr-old female mixed breed. This seemed a good time for my wife to get the small dog she had long wanted, so we inadvertently down-sized — but as sometimes happens, little Dante adopted me instead. 10-yr-old Kasey died a few years later and then we adopted Mia through Affenpinscher Rescue (Dante is also an Affen).

    The two little dogs are the joys of our daily lives. We had no idea that time and age would catch up with us in our sixties the way it has, and having the small (14/15 lb) dogs is a huge benefit. Such wonderful entertainment, much lower cost to feed, much easier to care for and they also travel with us everywhere in the US (Dante has logged more than 30,000 miles).

    BUT — be careful what you wish for. All little dogs are NOT simply lap-warmers as Louise suggests. Affens, Poodles and most terriers are well known for hyper-activity, being demanding and requiring a strong-minded owner to be able to fit in well. It’s a sad household that has a dominant little dog because the owners thought the puppy was “so cute” and did not know how to properly manage what grew to be a willful dog — even if only 10 lbs.

    With pets, in addition to the risk of falls, you should also consider the state of your health — including lung/breathing issues. Affens, Yorkies and other dogs are hypo-allergenic — they have hair rather than fur and will not excite your allergies. Perfect for those of us who use inhalers daily — no danger of dog dander from fur.

    I have owned at least two dogs at a time for over forty years. Most were large dogs and the very first thing I taught them all was that pulling on a leash is not acceptable. For some dogs, like Malamutes, this defies their instincts and can take a lot of time and patience. But it can (and MUST) be done. (A good training book or trainer can teach you technique.) All dogs MUST be socialized early in their puppyhood. Visit lots of places, meet lots of people and take an intro puppy training course. Keep working on the training well beyond puppyhood (it’s the work of a dog’s lifetime). All dogs are able to learn to sit and come — and without continued training (also called conditioning), they are able to learn that they only need to obey when they feel like it. Training makes it become part of their psyche through continuous refreshing. Training is a game that should never stop.

    I’ve bought purebreds and rescued dogs from the roadside and from pounds. They all have the ability to be your best friend and a true blessing in your retirement and as you age. Without proper training and understanding, they can also make your life miserable. Invest yourself in your dog as you would have it invest in you. And be sure there is a plan to care for it after you are gone.

    by Rich — October 22, 2015

  7. For people who have parents who have exuberant dogs that could cause and injury, hiring a professional trainer is a way to keep this from happening. A pro will have more clout with the humans training the dog than a group training session at a local club. Go individual//private lessons if you can afford it.

    PLEASE make sure that the trainer trains ALL the people who handle the dog as well as the dog. CONSISTENCY is the key to making the training stick.

    by Shumidog — October 22, 2015

  8. I don’t know about Louise’s dog, but she sounds like she would be a riot to hang around.

    by deb — October 23, 2015

  9. If your looking for a small dog consider a Shih Tzu. Very loving dogs. They don’t shed and are hypo allergenic. We recently lost our Shih Tzu of 12yrs and miss her very much.

    by Jim C — October 24, 2015

  10. Sorry to hear that Jim about your dog. Losing a pet is not easy as we all know. Are you planning on bringing another dog into your life? There are Rescue groups for just about every breed. You might consider looking for a group that specializes in Shih Tzu dogs. We got our Pom from and it was a fantastic experience. They were so organized in every aspect of the adoption process. He was kind of messed up though. He had fleas and his hair was matted. We got him to the Vet on the Monday after we got him on Saturday. He was okay and we got the flea medicine. Then about a week later he was groomed. He was so scared and confused with his new situation. Now he rules the roost! My girlfriend belongs to a Cocker rescue. Her group just took in a new Cocker and she may be adopting it. She lives a long distance from where they are and if she doesn’t make the trip to get it they will arrange transportation and the dog will be spayed before she gets it.

    I have had 4 Poodles over the years that didn’t shed and appreciated that for almost my entire life. Then we got the Pomeranian. Didn’t know they shed and ended up with tumble weeds of hair throughout the house. My dark clothes always have some hair on them no matter how careful I am. I can be driving alone in my car and sure enough, hair is in my car, on the dashboard or floating in the air. It is a good thing I love this dog because the hair situation is insane! I take both dogs to the groomer every 6 weeks and she shaves him down and leaves a ‘beard’ and a very full tail of hair but it doesn’t matter, he is a hair machine! LOL! I have a Dyson Vacuum cleaner that really pulls the hair out of the carpet but…it is still hiding everywhere!

    by Louise — October 24, 2015

  11. Louise,
    Thanks for the information. We probably will get another dog. I’m volunteering at the local Humane Society and am hoping to find a dog through that organization.

    by Jim C — October 24, 2015

  12. That is great Jim, good luck!

    For those of you who are thinking of adopting, consider I was told that down South there is a high kill rate for dogs that can’t be placed. My Pom came from Arkansas and I am in CT. Petfinder told me that they have good luck placing dogs up North. When we adopted our Pom the Petfinder people arranged in advance to come to certain commuter parking lots to deliver your dog. We had quite a few choices of where to pick him up. They came with two trailers and made stops along the way from NY to CT. I am not sure but maybe they stopped in PA and MA too.

    by Louise — October 25, 2015

  13. Louise, yes, the South, with all its charm, has some downsides. One of the main reasons we moved out of TN is the general treatment of animals.
    Starving horses, roaming pregnant dogs, puppies on the side of the road…you name it.
    Sure, some areas are better than others, and within gated communities you may find strict rules. But as soon as you are outside the gate, you will see the suffering on daily basis,
    “Our” town had a one spay per family per year for free program, but sadly, even that was not enough. We talked to people, offered to take the animal to participating vets etc, but most of the time we were not well received. The standard answer was “it is just a dog”, or ” she’ll get run over anyways”.
    My advise is this. If you don’t have a thick hide, be very careful were you move to.

    by godsgirl — October 26, 2015

  14. Godsgirl,
    Very sad! I would hope that’s not true of all of Tennessee. I guess that’s one reason why my friend from Paducah, Kentucky keeps warning me not to live in a ‘redneck’ area. In my opinion, your report on the lack for animals’ well-being is pure redneck.

    by ella — October 26, 2015

  15. Regarding (Louise’s post), i just want to warn others that often the posts are not kept up to date. While looking for a kitten, the amount of times the cat was gone, upon my making a call, was staggering. When i finally found the kitten of my dreams, called the foster mom and found out he had been adopted out, i dropped the matter although the post remained up. I later called a second time and found the adoption had fallen thru the cracks and the kitten was still available. By that time, i had adopted a second cat. Had Petfinder’s track record been better, i would have called weeks earlier. My loss was due to the inefficiency of the website. So to all who plan to use Petfinder, do so cautiously

    by ella — October 26, 2015

  16. A PS on Petfinder. I notified Petfinder that the dates listed for the posts needed to be updated, rather than the posts being left indefinitely. Perhaps they’ve done this. I adopted my cat three years ago.

    by ella — October 26, 2015

  17. My cousin fell and hit her head on the floor when her miniature poodle jumped on her as she was rising from a couch. She died of a brain bleed 18 days later.
    I don’t think the size of the dog is the issue. I think it is a balance and strength issue with the elderly person.
    Large dogs aren’t s much of a tripping hazard, but they are strong pullers and knock over hazards. Small dogs are tripping hazards the most as are scatter rugs.
    Perhaps a cat would be a better companion!!!

    by Susan Iverson — October 26, 2015

  18. Read godsgirl’s post this morning and can’t get it off my mind 12 hours later. How can this be? Was considering a move to TN when I turn 65 and am Medicare-eligible in April 2017. Only have my social security and a small pension from a previous employer so I have to find a super-affordable place for my shih tzu and I to live. Could not consider going to a place so unkind to animals – such a disappointment but better to know now before i would get there. Any ideas about affordable places that are animal friendly? Thanks!

    by Karen — October 27, 2015

  19. My wonderful 12 year old dog is in heart failure due to an enlarged heart. While his quality of life, so far, is pretty good- he’s on 4 medications, I cannot bear the thought of losing him. He’s keeping myself and hubby pretty close to home as I wont board him and his diet and medical routine can be overwhelming. We have given up a lot of freedom to take care of him. Maybe one day when we’re older and grayer and not so so interested in travel and other activities, another pet might be a consideration.

    by Staci — October 18, 2016

  20. Interesting post!! My husband and I live in California and are looking to retire because it’s too darn expensive!! Thing is that if we didn’t have 3 large dogs ( one is on her way out sweet girl) we could maybe move to a condo here BUT we do have dogs and they are family!! Been looking in North and South Carolina, even looked in Florida and Puget Sound. Trying to find that perfect place that has the right size home, right size yard and affordable……been quite a journey!! Have always had dogs ( and cats) and can’t imagine living without an animal in our lives!! All three of our dogs are 50 to 65 ibs and are rescues ( one is from Tennessee where my daughter works in dog rescue)…..sweet dogs all. We travel but with sites like Dogvacay and we can leave them home with a sitter and go!! I am 66 and my husband 68 so we are still able to keep up with our pack…..wish landlords and elderly housing were more open to pets….they bring us such joy!!

    by Jean — October 19, 2016

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