On Friday Moira wrote about some of the factors to consider when adopting a dog. As well as all of these, another thing to think about (and which she covered under the general heading of “breed characteristics”), is size and hence lifespan.
When people come to the refuge to adopt, they often tell us about their previous pets, and how long they lived. It is always interesting to note at what age a dog died. Whereas surprise is seldom expressed when a small dog lives to the age of, say 17, everyone is amazed when a German shepherd lives to this age.
In general the smaller the dog, the longer the lifespan.
The temptation may be to adopt a small dog in order to delay the inevitable grief for as long as possible. But not everyone likes small dogs! On the other hand, if you are a lover of Great Danes, can you bear the grief that will come way before you are ready to say goodbye to your beloved pet (not that losing a dog is ever easy)?
A small dog may be more suitable for an elderly person, as they are less likely to pull strongly, and can snuggle up on a lap. But of course a small dog can live to their high teens or even longer. What happens to the dog when his elderly owner passes away? At the SPA we see far too many dogs whose owners have sadly died or gone into full time care, leaving behind an elderly pet whom none of the relatives is prepared to look after. Of course the same applies to cats, but there is less disparity in terms of size and lifespan than with dogs. Thus although there is a huge problem of elderly people leaving cats behind when they die, it is not relevant to this blog.
On the other hand, homing a big dog to an elderly person is not the solution either, as the strength of the dog is often too much for his owner, and disaster can follow.
Sometimes we have the perfect match. I love it when an elderly person is happy to take an elderly dog. Or when a family with young children takes a dog who will be around until the kids leave home. It is great to see people thinking ahead like this.
Of course not everything can be predicted. Dogs die of things other than old age. But please, when thinking of adopting a dog, think also about size. It does matter!