Whether it’s a lapdog for a senior citizen or a small dog for a retiree, the best dogs for seniors make priceless companions. They provide a sense of purpose and have multiple health benefits. Dogs for the elderly not only make seniors healthier but feel better, too, as dogs help release serotonin that wards off depression.
Retired owners are good for their dogs, too, since they don’t need to be away all day and can spend more of their time with their pets. But it is essential that seniors get the breed of dog that is best suited to them, their capabilities, and their lifestyles. So with that in mind, we take a look at some of the best dog breeds for seniors and why they should consider getting one if they can.
In this article:
Why seniors should get a dog
There are several reasons that dogs are fantastic for people over fifty. We will list a few here:
- Dogs are great for heart health. Not only are pet owners at a lower risk of heart attacks, but they have a better chance of surviving heart attacks too.
- Dogs reduce stress, another factor that improves overall health.
- They lower blood pressure.
- They raise serotonin levels or the “feel-good chemical” in the brain.
- There is also some evidence that they lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
- They provide companionship and can increase social interaction with other pet owners.
- They encourage exercise.
- They require routine and consistency, which can motivate retirees to make sure they keep to a schedule and take care of their own health and exercise and their dog’s.
- They can enrich life in the moment.
- They have been connected to prompting better memory recall.
What to look for in a dog for an older person
Dogs for seniors need to be even more closely considered than dogs for most other age groups. For example, a huge bounding dog that can knock a person over when excited is usually not the best choice for most older people. This is especially true if the dog is still young and exuberant.
Neither are dogs with a high work or prey drive, who need excessive amounts of exercise and training. Older seniors in their sixties or seventies may also struggle with the demands of a puppy, as housetraining, socialization, etc., can be a bit much to handle. In these cases, older, settled dogs from a shelter might be better options.
Another consideration is the general health and needs of the breed. For instance, seniors are often on fixed incomes. As a result, they can struggle with the excessive vet bills that often come with breeds like the Great Dane or the Neopolitan Mastiff.
Excessive grooming can also be challenging to maintain, so some older people may struggle to keep up a dog’s coat like a Bichon Frise.
So with keeping this in mind, what are the best dogs for seniors?
#1 Service dogs for seniors
Most people over fifty do not need a service dog, so this certainly isn’t for everybody. But they can be a game-changer for older people struggling with frailty or mobility issues.
Although they cannot replace caregivers, specially trained dogs can help the elderly with many daily tasks such as:
- Bringing their phone to them
- Taking laundry out of the dryer
- Opening and closing the fridge
- Turning lights off and on
- Picking up dropped items from the floor.
Added to the benefit of companionship, a service dog can make a tremendous improvement in an elderly person’s life. You can find out more about service dogs for seniors at US Service Animals.
#2 Older dogs adopted from a shelter
Provided a dog is adequately evaluated before adoption, an older dog can provide an elderly person with many benefits. They tend to be more relaxed and less prone to destructive behavior such as chewing and digging.
Older shelter dogs have the added benefit of being more settled and happy to nap, rather than zooming around the house looking for ways to amuse themselves.
Provided the right dog is chosen, an adopted dog also benefits by living with an older person. Especially if their owner is retired. A retired owner has the time to be home with their dog most of the time. This can provide the security and attention a shelter dog may be desperately in need of.
Our third dog of choice for seniors is the Pug. Their short coat means they have low grooming needs. They are also not the most active dogs but will benefit from either one 40-minute walk a day, or two 20-minute walks, which is enough to get their owners up and about and moving.
They can be kept in small spaces such as apartments or retirement homes. Pugs also have calm, dignified temperaments and love to cuddle and comfort. They are friendly and generally good with other animals like cats, provided they are socialized with them.
In general, the Pug is one of the best breeds a senior can own. Their only downside is they do need some extra veterinary care as they are prone to several health problems.
Like the Pug, the Dachshund is a relatively low-maintenance breed. The short-haired variety needs minimal grooming, and they only need slightly more exercise—about 30 minutes twice a day.
The Dachshund is fine with small spaces and even comes in an even cuter miniature size. However, they can be a bit more active than the Pug, they need some special care, and they are prone to barking. The latter can annoy neighbours, so keep this in mind before purchasing a Doxie for an older person in your family.
The Maltese is an excellent dog for seniors. These are sensitive and empathetic dogs that make perfect companions. In addition, they are affectionate and brave, making them excellent watchdogs.
They can be kept in small places and only need about 30 minutes of exercise a day. They are also low shedders, making them less allergenic than other dogs, saving you the hassle of having hair everywhere. Finally, the Maltese dog is ideal for small spaces.
The only con is that a Maltese needs a bit more grooming than the Pugs or smooth-coated Dachshunds.
#6 The Toy or Miniature Poodle
A more hypoallergenic breed like the Maltese, the smaller Poodles are ideal for slightly more active seniors. These are energetic dogs need between 20 and 60 minutes of exercise a day. They are also one of the most intelligent breeds globally and are highly trainable, making them a delight to own.
These dogs enjoy plenty of mental stimulation and playtime, so they are great for active seniors who want to stay motivated to keep busy. They require regular grooming but are usually relatively healthy and long-lived. Like most other small breeds (including the Maltese), it is vital to take good care of their teeth.
#7 Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
One of the ultimate lap dogs for seniors, this spaniel is one of the few that doesn’t require excessive exercise. Instead, they are playful and trainable little dogs that make excellent companions. In addition, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels are generally quiet and don’t bark much, making them great for apartments.
They don’t require much exercise, although they will enjoy up to an hour of walking and playtime per day. The King Charles also has moderate grooming requirements but are mostly just excellent little companions.
# 8 Clumber Spaniel
For seniors who want slightly bigger dogs, they can try the Clumber Spaniel. Although rare, the Clumber is a sweet and gentle dog. They are easy-going and great for novice owners as well as apartments.
They are quiet and friendly dogs who are generally easy to train. Though an eye should be kept on their weight. They will need at least an hour of exercise a day, and their medium to long coat will require some maintenance and care.
#9 Italian Greyhound
An Italian Greyhound can be a good choice for seniors since they are lightweight dogs who sleep for over 20 hours a day. They have little fur, so they are low shedders, but they do need to be bundled up in the cold.
These are quiet companions who adapt well to small spaces. However, they can need quite a bit of exercise and time to run about a dog park. But an hour or so of zooming around a dog-friendly park is usually enough to settle them down for the day.
Although not strictly a breed, this designer doggy is the ideal companion. When a Cocker Spaniel is mixed with a toy or miniature poodle, the result is not only a gorgeous dog but a delightful companion breed. Highly sensitive to their owner’s needs, great for cuddles, this mixed breed is also playful and reasonably active.
They need a bit more exercise than some of the other breeds on this list and may need to go for two walks a day for about 30 to 45 minutes. They will also enjoy playtime and games like fetch. Cockapoos can also be shy, so it’s good to socialize them from an early age.
This is an intelligent dog for the elderly but will need a little more active owner that can keep up. An early retiree is a good option for a Cockapoo.
Another excellent option for somebody who has just retired and wants to stay relatively active is the Greyhound. Despite their size, these are exceptionally gentle and dignified dogs that enjoy napping the day away. They are not highly demanding and are usually happy with a brisk 30-minute walk twice a day.
They do have a high prey drive, so they should be kept on a leash unless they are in an enclosed, safe area with nothing for them to chase. This includes smaller dogs.
#12 Bedlington Terrier
A rare and unique medium-sized dog, the Bedlington Terrier is a great choice for seniors because of its all-around friendliness and sociability. This is a generally healthy dog that adapts well to small places and is fairly undemanding.
However, it will need a bit more grooming than most dogs. Luckily, it doesn’t shed much. But, these are quite energetic dogs, and they will need at least an hour’s exercise a day.
They are highly intelligent, but like the Greyhound, they still retain much of their hunting instinct, so they should be kept on a leash unless it’s safe.
#13 Biewer Terrier
The Biewer Terrier is a fine choice for most senior citizens. It is essentially a Yorkshire Terrier that has been bred for its recessive piebald gene. These are playful, affectionate, and devoted little dogs that make fantastic pets.
They need regular grooming but only moderate exercise. Two walks a day should be fine. Because of their tiny frames, they won’t be able to cover long distances. Biewer Terriers are sensitive and intelligent dogs who do not shed much. Finally, they are great for small spaces.
Commonly known as a “velcro” dog, the Havanese rarely leaves their owner’s side, so they are a good choice for a retiree. Their small size also makes them easy to travel with, and they do well in apartments.
Two drawbacks for the Havanese are that they are prone to barking and do have some extra grooming needs for their long coat. Luckily, like the Maltese, they are not big shedders and so are relatively clean dogs to keep.
Aside from grooming, the Havanese is generally easy to keep and train. These are happy, playful little dogs that only want to spend all their time with their pet parent.
#15 Sussex Spaniel
Another spaniel that doesn’t need the excessive exercise most of its cousins do, the Sussex Spaniel is known for being laid back and taking things slow. This makes them ideal for older, more relaxed households.
These are easy dogs to care for with minimal demands. The Sussex Spaniel is also friendly to all, from family to other dogs and strangers. They have moderate grooming needs and don’t need a lot of exercise.
In fact, they only need about 20 to 30 minutes a day. Although rare, this is an excellent breed for a retiree who wants to take things slow and stop and smell the roses.
#16 French Bulldog
The French Bulldog is a good companion dog for those enjoying their golden years. Developed in France as a miniature Bulldog, “Frenchies” are known for being spunky and clownish lapdogs.
They do well in small spaces but hate being left alone, making them ideal for somebody who does not need to leave daily to go to work.
French Bulldogs do not tolerate hot or cold weather very well, so they do best indoors where the temperature is controlled. They have minimal grooming and exercise needs and are known for their affection and playfulness.
Another “designer dog” that is great for seniors is the Yorkshire Terrier Poodle Mix. With its limited shedding, the Yorkiepoo is a better choice for those who may have allergies. They are also hyper-intelligent and affectionate dogs that will rain down love on their owners.
The Yorkiepoo has moderate to high grooming needs, but its small size means that two short walks a day should cover their exercise needs. However, these are not dogs that like to be left alone, and a senior citizen who gets one might want to think about getting two.
#18 Shih Tzu
Once the dog of Emperors, the little Shih Tzu is the ultimate lapdog. Shih Tzu’s only interests are loving and playing with their families as they have no background as working or hunting dogs. Also, they are confident dogs that usually get along with everyone and adapt well to other pets and smaller spaces.
Their long hair does need quite a bit of grooming, but it can be worn in shorter cuts. They are easy dogs to live with and can live for up to sixteen years!
They can be alert dogs, but they are pretty content with two short walks a day.
#19 Pembroke Welsh Corgi
A good dog for retirees is the Pembroke Welsh Corgi. This unique medium-sized dog is packed full of character for the more energetic owner. Devoted, funny dogs, their personality is the main factor that makes them ideal for an older pet parent.
They are zesty, and they need at least an hour of exercise a day. Corgis also shed heavily because of their dense double coat, and they tend to bark. This should be kept in mind before bringing a Corgi into a small environment such as an apartment where they may bother the neighbours.
#20 Basset Hound
Doleful and more independent than some of the other breeds on this list, the Basset makes a good choice for moderately active seniors. They do not require much grooming but will enjoy up to an hour’s walk a day. However, they tend to follow their nose wherever they go, so be sure to keep them on the leash!
Like the Corgi, they can be prone to barking, and their deep voice can be a problem with neighbours. However, they are generally sound, stable, and dignified dogs that do not demand excessive attention and are friendly to all.
Dogs can be fantastic companions for seniors, as they come with numerous health benefits such as increased exercise and decreased stress levels. However, for most older people, choosing the right dog to enrich their lives is essential. A dog that is too strong, active, or demanding may create more stress and be difficult to handle.
On the other hand, older, calmer dogs from shelters or specially trained service animals greatly increase a senior person’s quality of life. Similarly, choosing a smaller, less-demanding but devoted companion breed such as a pug or a Sussex Spaniel can enrich our golden years.