When we reach our retirement years, we enter a new and exciting chapter in our lives — the kids are gone and we have the time for anything we want to do. Dogs can be low-maintenance pets that are attentive, loyal, and all-around great companions. But with so many to choose from, how will you know which is the right match for you?
In this comprehensive guide, we share the 24 best dogs for seniors.
Choosing the Best Dog Breeds for Older Adults
Before you choose the first dog that catches your eye, make sure that it will be compatible with senior citizens by considering the following factors.
The first thing you need to think about is a dog’s energy level. For instance, getting an Australian Shepherd for a retired senior who enjoys daily walks isn’t a good fit since these dogs require rigorous exercise. You’ll also need to consider how long a senior’s energy levels will be in the future, because while they may still have lots of energy today, this may not be the case a few years later.
Another factor for you to consider is the dog’s size choosing a big and excitable dog like the Irish Wolfhound won’t be a good match for people enjoying their golden years. Should the pup get too playful or run off while the senior is holding on to the leash, it may lead to a serious injury.
This is another thing that will need to be considered; those working with budget constraints probably don’t want to spend too much money trying to keep a Poodle’s signature look. Similarly, providing the rough coat of a Terrier with daily brushing might prove to be too much for some pet owners.
While not all dogs will have the same personality, knowing more about the breed and its temperament will help you better understand how it might behave. The temperament of a dog is the key to picking the right dog for your needs. Getting a stubborn Chow Chow may not be a good fit for elderly people who are low on energy.
Starting with a puppy will take a lot of socialization, training, and vet visits. This could work well for older people with plenty of time to juggle but may be too big a commitment for individuals who may have health issues. Adult dogs could be a better option since they would already have the necessary training to make them obedient.
Senior dogs can also be a good choice — they would be in the same period as the elderly they would accompany and could also match their energy levels. However, this may also be risky because older dogs may need extra care as a result of health problems, which could prove too laborious. This is yet another factor to consider; a sick and frail pet may not be the ideal companion for first-time dog owners who are elderly.
The last thing you may need to think about is where your elderly family member will live. Ask yourself if they will get home care assistance or if they will live in a retirement village. The latter option only allows for a dog of small size, and some homes may ban different breeds.
Best Small Dogs
Many older adults prefer smaller dogs because they don’t need a lot of physical strength to move or control them, and are also less expensive to maintain. Their smaller size also provides the added benefit of fitting into tighter living areas. Here are a few of the best apartment dogs for seniors who wish to keep their independence.
These small dogs weigh in at just under 20 pounds or 9 kilos for their more petite varieties while the standard-size Beagles come in at 20 to 30 pounds or 9 to 14 kilos. Despite their tiny stature, they carry a lot of energy that can’t be quenched with just a play date by the yard. All types of Beagles will need a lot of exercises — try playing catch in the afternoon or going for frequent walks with it.
The downside to the Beagle is that it can be noisy and destructive when it’s bored. This is because they are working dogs, and will tend to bay and bark quite a bit. Even so, they are happy, easygoing, and sweet dogs with short coats that are very easy to maintain.
2. Bichon Frise
This beautiful dog is also on the small side and comes in at under 18 pounds or 8 kilos, but they are by no means fragile or frail. Known as Tenerife Dogs, the Bichon Frise can quickly adapt to any situation and will love everyone they come across. However, their luscious and thick coat will require a lot of trimming and grooming, making them quite high maintenance.
But don’t let that turn you off — these small, cute dogs have a lot of charm, intelligence, and personality! Despite the fact that they’re small, they don’t yap, are confident and will quickly take up training. Moreover, these white powder puffs of a dog only need a daily walk to keep them happy.
3. Boston Terrier
This famous breed is known for its black-and-white color scheme and pointy ears. They’re not too large and weigh under 25 pounds or 11 kilos. The Boston Terrier is known for its good manners and love of humans, where you’ll often see them hanging out with their owners.
These low-maintenance dogs would love to go on a trip to the local park and are happy to hang out anywhere they can get exercise. This dog is highly affectionate and loyal, but its dominant attitude may come out at times.
4. Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
Cavalier King Charles Spaniels are adorable dogs that can be excellent companions for seniors. Weighing under 18 pounds or 8 kilos, they are both easygoing and athletic, requiring a moderate amount of exercise. They are also sweet, and gentle, and can easily mingle with both humans and other pets.
This Spaniel can quickly adapt to a wide range of circumstances and isn’t known to be yappy. Moreover, their gorgeous coat won’t need you to make too many visits to the vet, and they have built a reputation for being very affectionate.
Weighing in at just 6 pounds or 3 kilos, the Chihuahua is a small breed with a big personality. This lovable and petite dog is also known to be brave, bold, and highly intelligent. They come in a wide range of varieties — short-haired, long-haired, and teacup variants are all a good choice for the elderly.
While they can be a bit yappy, they can be great pets for those who live in small apartments or around the city. As such, be sure that your neighbors don’t mind a bit of noise here and there. Apart from that, these low-maintenance pups are highly popular due to their moderate grooming and exercise needs.
6. Cocker Spaniel
This breed is known to be playful, a bit mischievous, and highly beautiful, making it one of the most popular breeds throughout the world. While it was first introduced as a hunting dog, it’s also a great family pet and is among the best companion dogs. The Cocker Spaniel weighs around 30 pounds or 14 kilos and is known for its trademark dark eyes that make it so irresistible.
These dogs love to go out to play and walk but will also be happy to snuggle up with their favorite human and relax. It will be happy to please and can be trained easily but its long coat will need regular brushing and grooming unless you have them trimmed short monthly.
7. French Bulldog
The French Bulldog, or the Frenchie, as it is affectionately known, is a fun-loving and hilarious dog. They are known as friendly, funny, sweet, and silly little pups, complete with big bat ears that make them one of the most recognizable breeds. They weigh no more than 20 pounds or 13 kilos and look like miniature bulldogs.
Because of their small frame and short coats, they don’t require a lot of maintenance. They’re also happy to go on a few short walks every day, making them the perfect dog for seniors who want a little yet charming companion.
8. Lhasa Apsos
With their beautiful, flowing coat and aristocratic demeanor, the Lhasa Apsos is an amazing dog breed. They are known for their confidence, elegance, and sweet personalities. At just 18 pounds or 8 kilos, these lap dogs are the right size for a small home or a tight apartment.
It can be pretty hard to mistake the Maltese for another breed since their glorious white coats allow them to stand out from every other dog. However, be prepared to give it frequent grooming as their coats will only stay healthy when given proper care. At just 7 pounds or 3 kilos, these dogs won’t need much exercise and will be happy just to spend time on your lap.
10. Miniature Schnauzer
The Miniature Schnauzer is under 20 pounds or 9 kilos and comes with an adventurous personality while being bold and fearless. This is the right breed for older individuals who live in a family farm or in an apartment. Moreover, their coarse coat is both hypoallergenic and can be easily maintained.
11. Pembroke Welsh Corgi
These intelligent dogs were originally bred for herding, but are also known for being affectionate, adorable, and sweet little dogs. Weighing between 23 to 28 pounds or 10 to 13 kilos, these pups are easy to train and will be right at home hanging out with their humans. The Pembroke Welsh Corgi has basic grooming needs — while the coat will need daily brushing, it won’t need trimming as much.
Pomeranians, also known as Poms, are cute little balls of fluff that weigh just 7 pounds or 3 kilos, noted for their puffy and big coats. These dogs are easy to train and only need moderate exercise, so they’re great for older seniors. While they have huge personalities that can match those of larger dogs, they’re also great for people who want to live at a slower pace.
13. Italian Greyhound
Compared to its bigger cousins, the Italian Greyhound comes in at just 14 pounds or 6 kilos. But despite being a more petite version, this isn’t an energetic dog and is actually the biggest couch potato ever. Even so, they are highly graceful and playful, making them ideal for small apartment settings with seniors that have a low activity level.
Pugs have their trademark smooshy faces which makes them instantly recognizable but can also offer a lot of personality and a friendly nature. Because of their sweet disposition and approachable demeanor, pugs can make people happy wherever they might be. Thanks to their short hair, you won’t need to give them regular grooming, and are easy to care for since they weigh in at just 18 pounds or 8 kilos.
15. Scottish Terrier
With its terrier bloodline and hard-to-miss features, the Scottish Terrier, also known as the Scottie has earned the reputation of being lion-hearted. They have been described as stubborn, playful, and dignified, while also being reserved and aloof. They weigh just 22 pounds or 10 kilos and will need regular grooming thanks to their beautiful flowing locks.
16. Shih Tzu
Also known as the “little lion,” this small dog comes with a huge personality, and even at just 16 pounds or 7 kilos, it’s by no means a frail little furball. They have built a reputation for being mischievous, charming, sturdy, and bold, and will require a lot of grooming to maintain their luxurious coats. Luckily, this pooch won’t need much exercise making it suitable for older adults.
17. West Highland White Terrier
At just 20 pounds or 9 kilos, there are plenty of reasons why seniors always fall in love with Westies. From their entertaining and lively personalities to their happy-go-lucky nature, these pet dogs are always fun to be with. Just keep in mind that their double coat will need daily brushing to keep it healthy.
18. Yorkshire Terrier
If your elderly family member is looking for a friendly and feisty new dog that’s also hypoallergenic, then getting a Yorkie, or Yorkshire Terrier is a good idea. Their long and silky coat will need daily brushing but they won’t cause any allergies making them great dog breeds for sensitive individuals. At under seven pounds or 3 kilos, there isn’t anywhere this dog can’t go.
Active seniors can choose from a variety of Poodles, including the Standard, Toy, and Miniature Poodles. The Standard variation, in particular, needs plenty of exercise to keep it healthy and happy. This type of dog is sweet, smart, and loyal, and at just 10 pounds or 4.5 kilos, it is easy to train and move from one place to another.
Best Medium and Large Dogs Breed
Believe it or not, large dogs are also suitable for seniors — there are gentle giants that can be trained to be excellent pet dogs. Below are just a few breeds for you to think about.
20. Basset Hound
A Basset Hound is the perfect choice for older seniors because they have relatively low energy and won’t require much exercise to keep them healthy. These calm dog breeds prefer spending their time laying on the floor or cuddling up on the couch. This dog comes in between 40 to 80 pounds or 18 to 36 kilos but won’t bark much, making them a great choice for quiet neighborhoods.
A mix between the Poodle and the Golden Retriever, the Goldendoodle is one of the more popular crossbreeds for a good reason. These pups will weigh around 35 to 70 pounds or 16 to 32 kilos, depending on the type you choose. With them, you’ll be able to enjoy the friendliness and goofy nature of the Golden Retriever as well as the intelligence of the Poodle.
22. Golden Retriever
Because Golden Retrievers are hard-working, smart, loyal, and obedient, they are often used as service dogs. They will also seem to be happy at all times, making them ideal for maintaining our mental health. Weighing as much as 75 pounds or 34 kilos, they are no problem for seniors to handle since they are very careful and know their own size.
While we know them to be race hounds, they’re actually pretty lazy dogs and are among the best breeds for seniors. However, it’s also good to give them the chance to roam around the yard once a day to keep them healthy. They may be tall but they’re still relatively light at 70 pounds or 32 kilos and also has low-maintenance coats.
24. Labrador Retriever
The Labrador Retriever is by far the happiest dog to hang out with which is why they’re the most popular dog breed, according to the American Kennel Club. While they’ve recently been dethroned by the French Bulldog this year, the Lab is highly celebrated for its gentle demeanor and loyalty. These large pups come in at 80 pounds or 36 kilos, and their sweet disposition is a big reason why they’re often used as therapy dogs.
Best Dogs for Seniors: What’s Your Pick?
No matter the kind of circumstances your elderly loved one might have, the good news is that there’s a dog for their specific needs. However, dog ownership is no walk in the park, and they will need to put in the effort to make sure that they’re both happy and healthy. In the end, they will provide unconditional love that only a loving and loyal dog can provide long into your loved one’s retirement.