Last Updated on April 24, 2023
Retirement life can be a dream. You finally have time to do what you want. But with the kids gone, maybe you want a companion to bring some joy to your life.
Dogs are the ideal companion for older people because they’re loyal, attentive, and even good for our health.
Petting a dog has been shown to lower blood pressure! So should a senior get a dog? Absolutely! Let’s look at the best breeds to consider.
Finding the Best Dog Breeds for Seniors
Before getting a dog, or if you’re planning to give your mom, dad, or grandparents a fur baby, there are several important factors to consider.
The dog breed you choose has to match the senior owner’s lifestyle.
How to decide which dog is best for seniors?
The first one is energy level. A retired senior who enjoys an evening walk around the neighborhood is not a good fit for an Australian Shepherd who needs lots of exercises.
It’s also important to consider the future. While you might have plenty of energy now, in 12 years, you may be winding down, but your dog is still ready to go.
Size is another factor. A rambunctious Irish Wolfhound might be too much for an older adult with arthritis issues. If the dog tries to run off or gets too excited, it could result in a serious accident.
Grooming is something else that needs to be considered. People on a limited budget may not want to spend hundreds of dollars a month on their Standard Poodle’s perfect do.
Likewise, a terrier with a rough coat may be too much work for some people.
Of course, not all dogs have the same personality, but knowing the breed can help you predict a bit about how it will behave.
Temperament is vital when picking a dog. A feisty Chow might be the wrong fit for someone heading into their golden years.
Then, there’s age. Puppies take a lot of work, including training, socialization, and lots of vet visits.
That might be perfect for someone with a lot of time on their hands, or it might be too much of a commitment for an individual whose health isn’t ideal.
Adult dogs might be a better choice, especially if they’re already trained. Senior dogs are also something to consider since they’re in the same period of their lives and may have matching energy levels.
However, some senior dogs require a lot of extra care because of failing health, which might be too much to take on.
With that said, the dog’s health is another thing to factor in when choosing a dog. A frail, sick pet that can’t walk on its own is likely going to be a challenge.
Finally, there’s the community where the individual lives to think about. A retirement village may only allow small dogs, and some areas may ban certain breeds altogether.
Therapy, Support, and Service dogs for Seniors
On top of the considerations above, a few other types of dogs might be better for seniors. We’re not talking about breeds here, but canines who have been trained specially to assist with their humans’ needs.
Different types of service dogs are trained to assist their humans with vital tasks.
This can mean helping someone with vision loss or hearing loss, or it can mean acting as an assistant who can open doors, retrieve food, or remind someone to take their medication.
There are also therapy dogs who visit nursing homes, hospitals, schools, and other locations to support the people there. Their job is to provide positive mental support.
Retired therapy dogs might be excellent pets for seniors because they’re generally well-trained, calm, and obedient.
Finally, there are emotional support dogs. These aren’t service dogs, either, but rather dogs who support their humans’ mental health.
Therapists may prescribe a support dog for someone who suffers from anxiety or depression to provide a measure of relief.
However, these dogs are typically not trained to do any specific job, and they are considered pets from a legal standpoint.
Types of dogs to avoid for older people
While canines are excellent companions if they have the right personality and other characteristics, there are a few types of dogs that older people might want to steer clear of.
Any powerful dog like a Pitbull, Akita, Mastiff, or Chow Chow is probably best left to the younger crowd.
If one of these dogs decided to take off after something, it could result in disaster.
You should also avoid dogs with high energy levels.
That’s not to say that there aren’t docile Border Collies, but many working dogs just need too much activity to be happy living the retirement life.
Think Australian Shepherds, Australian Cattle Dogs, and most terriers.
Best Companion Dogs for Seniors and the Elderly Based on Size
Now, let’s see which dog breeds that make great senior pets made our list. Let’s start with those who are compact in build but not in personality and heart.
Best Small Dogs for Seniors
Many older people opt for a smaller-sized dog. They’re less expensive to care for and don’t require a lot of strength to control or move around. They also have the benefit of being able to fit into smaller living spaces.
Here are some of the small yet best dogs for seniors:
Beagles are small dogs weighing in under 20 pounds (9 kg) for the smaller variety and 20 to 30 pounds (9 to 14 kg) for the standard-sized ones.
Regardless of size, they’re sweet, happy, and easygoing. Plus, they have a short coat, which makes care easy.
It’s best to know that those that came from working lines are loud because they tend to bark or bay a lot. They also have a lot of energy and won’t be happy with just a romp in the yard.
All Beagles need a good amount of playtime. This can be tossing the ball in a fenced-off area or going for frequent walks. A bored Beagle can be destructive and noisy.
2. Bichon Frise
The beautiful Bichon Frise is a small dog under 18 pounds (8 kg), though they aren’t frail or fragile. They have tons of personality, charm, and intelligence for days. Daily walks will keep them perfectly happy.
Also known as Tenerife Dogs, Bichon Frises can adapt to just about any circumstance, and they love everyone they meet! Despite being small, they aren’t yappy, and they’re confident and easy to train.
Their characteristic coat requires some grooming and trimming, though, so keep that in mind.
At 10 to 12 pounds (4.5 to 5 kg), this isn’t a large dog, making them ideal for someone looking for a petite companion.
On top of that, this pooch is not highly active and is content to laze about on the sofa with its humans. This breed is also quiet and polite.
Bolognese Dogs aren’t super outgoing with strangers, but they’re friendly once they get to know someone.
They’re prone to separation anxiety, but since most seniors are retired, that makes them the perfect companion for someone who’s home a lot.
Their coat requires some work, so this isn’t exactly a low-maintenance dog, but regular trimming can make grooming easier.
This video shows you more about this charming little pooch.
4. Boston Terrier
The Boston Terrier is famous for its instantly recognizable black and white coloring and pricked-up ears. Not too big, they weigh under 25 pounds (11 kg).
These dogs are known for having good manners, and they love humans, which is why you’ll often see them hanging out with their people running errands, and having lunch on the patio of a cafe.
While they appreciate a good romp in the park, they’re also happy to hang out. They’re incredibly loyal and affectionate, though their “terrier-tude” can sometimes come out.
5. Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
Cavalier King Charles Spaniels are adorable dogs that make great companions for seniors.
They weigh under 18 pounds (8 kg) and are both athletic and easygoing. They’re gentle, sweet, and get along well with other people and other pets.
These spaniels can adapt to just about any circumstance, and they aren’t prone to being yappy. Their pretty coat doesn’t require too many trips to the groomer, and they’re famous for being affectionate dogs.
Weighing under 6 pounds (3 kg), the Chihuahua is one tiny pooch that’s lovable and has a big personality for its petite size. This breed is bold, brave, and often thinks it’s much larger than other canines.
You may have noticed that there are short-haired and long-haired Chis, but did you know that they even come in a teacup size? Amazing, right?
They make great pets for people living in the city, but they can be a little yappy, so be sure the neighbors don’t mind some occasional chatter.
Other than that, these popular dogs have low grooming needs and don’t need much exercise at all.
7. Cocker Spaniel
The American Cocker Spaniel is beautiful, playful, and a little mischievous. This is one of the most popular breeds worldwide, and while it was developed as a hunting dog, it makes a perfect companion.
This particular spaniel weighs under 30 pounds (14 kg), and its big, dark eyes make this pooch pretty irresistible.
They love to go for walks and to play, but they’ll also snuggle up for some time relaxing.
Cocker Spaniels are easy to train and love to please, but they need regular grooming, including daily brushing, unless you have their coats trimmed short.
8. French Bulldog
The adorable, unignorable French Bulldog or Frenchie is the clown of the dog world. They’re affectionate, friendly, silly, and sweet little pups, with over-sized bat ears that are instantly recognizable.
Weighing in under 28 pounds (13 kg), they look like small bulldogs, and their short coat doesn’t need much maintenance.
They’re happy with just a few short walks a day, which makes them the ideal companion for someone who wants a charming little pal.
At under 13 pounds (6 kg), these smaller dogs are just begging to be beloved lapdog. Havanese dogs are cheerful, friendly, and social little pups. And while they may be small, they aren’t vocal doggos.
That said, they’re great watchdogs, and they’ll definitely let you know when something isn’t right. When they aren’t watching the house or playing with you, they make beautiful little pillows on the sofa.
They usually get attached to one person more than all others, so this is a good breed to consider if you want a full-time friend.
10. Lhasa Apso
With an aristocratic air and a glorious, feathery coat, the Lhasa Apso is a sight to behold. This charming fido is elegant, sweet, and confident.
They’re not afraid to let you know when they’re unhappy. At under 18 pounds (8 kg), they’re perfect for apartment life.
It’s hard to mistake these tiny dogs for any other breed. The magnificent white coat of Malteses really stands out.
At under 7 pounds (3 kg), these dogs don’t need much daily exercise, and they’re mostly happy to sit on your lap being pampered like the companions they were bred to be.
12. Miniature Schnauzer
Miniature Schnauzers are under 20 pounds (9 kg), with an outgoing personality, and are fearless without being mean.
They can be equally as happy with retirees in an apartment or on a big old family farm. Their wiry coat is easy to care for and hypoallergenic.
13. Pembroke Welsh Corgi
Bred for herding, Pembroke Welsh Corgis are adorable, affectionate, and clever little dogs that are equally at home hanging out with their people.
They’re easy to train, and while their coat needs regular brushing, it doesn’t need trimming.
Pomeranians or Poms are little fluff balls that weigh under 7 pounds (3 kg) and are notable for their big, fluffy coat.
They have enough personality to keep up with larger dogs, but they’re also perfect for people living a slower life. They don’t need much exercise, and they’re easy to train.
15. Italian Greyhound
The Italian Greyhound is a petite version of their bigger cousins, and like them, they’re the ultimate couch potatoes.
Under 14 pounds (6 kg), these incredibly playful and graceful fidos make good pets for dog owners living in a small apartment.
With their smooshy little faces and miles of personality, Pugs make people smile wherever they go. With short hair and under 18 pounds (8 kg), they’re easy to care for and live to love their people.
17. Scottish Terrier
With its hard-to-miss profile and its terrier tenacity, the Scottish Terrier or Scottie has earned its popularity and reputation as the “diehard” of the dog world.
These dogs are dignified, stubborn, and playful. They weigh under 22 pounds (10 kg) and need regular grooming.
18. Shih Tzu
The “little lion” dog is a small dog with a big personality. Under 16 pounds (7 kg), that doesn’t mean it’s a fragile furball.
Shih Tzus are sturdy, bold, charming, and mischievous. They need lots of grooming, but not too much exercise.
19. West Highland White Terrier
There’s a reason why so many senior citizens have fallen in love with Westies. Under 20 pounds (9 kg) with a lively, entertaining personality, they always seem happy and looking for snuggles or some fun.
West Highland White Terriers need a good walk or some ball chasing every day, and their double coat requires regular brushing. They can also be independent, but they make up for it in their charming way.
20. Yorkshire Terrier
People who need a hypoallergenic dog with a feisty, friendly personality should look no further than the Yorkshire Terrier or Yorkie.
Their long, silky coat needs regular brushing but won’t cause allergies, and at under seven pounds, this pup can go just about anywhere. They were bred to be ratters, but they have become the ultimate lapdog.
There are three variations or types of Poodles: the Toy Poodle and the Miniature Poodle are best for seniors. Standard Poodles need a lot of exercises to stay happy and healthy.
Overall, Poodles are incredibly smart, sweet, loyal, and never want to be far from their people.
The smallest is around 10 pounds (4.5 kg), and all sizes are trendy, active, and easy to train.
Best Medium and Large Dogs for Seniors
Just because a dog is big doesn’t mean it can’t make an excellent senior companion. A well-trained or older dog may be just right. Here are a few amazing breeds to consider.
22. Goldendoodle (Golden Retriever Poodle mix)
The Goldendoodle is one of the most popular crossbreeds out there for a good reason. They combine the intelligence and work ethic of a Poodle with the friendly goofiness of a Golden Retriever.
These dogs are generally larger, around 70 pounds (32 kg). There are also mini Goldendoodles that weigh under 35 pounds (16 kg).
Their coats may be curly and non-shedding or more like a golden’s shedding coat. They usually aren’t happy in apartments, though. They need lots of room to roam and run.
23. Labrador Retriever
Labs are the big lovebugs of the sporting group. They’re happiest hanging out with their people and chasing a ball, which is why this loveable pooch is the most popular dog in the US.
They’re outgoing, weigh under 80 pounds (36 kg), and have a sweet expression.
24. Golden Retriever
There’s a reason Goldens are so often used as service dogs. Golden Retrievers are intelligent, hard workers, obedient, and loyal.
These dogs seem to be happy all the time, which helps make those around them happier.
While they can get up to 75 pounds (34 kg), they know their size and can be careful when they need to. They might also want to crawl up on your lap and snuggle in like a lapdog.
A Greyhound?! Aren’t they high-energy dogs? Nope! These race hounds are actually extremely lazy most of the time.
They’ve earned the nickname couch potato because they’re the happiest lounging in a soft spot. But give them a chance to run around for a few minutes in a secure place at least once a day, too.
Their shedding coat is low maintenance, and while they‘re tall, they’re relatively light at under 70 pounds (32 kg).
Other dog breeds for Seniors:
Of course, there are so many dog breeds out there that we can’t cover them all. Some other great dogs to consider include:
- Japanese Chin
- Standard Schnauzer
- Welsh Terrier
Frequently Asked Questions
Where to find the best dog for seniors?
Look for dogs at rescues, or check the American Kennel Club (AKC) breeder registry.
Adopting an older dog is a great option because you both might have the same energy level and comfort each other as you explore your golden years together.
Do assisted living communities allow dogs?
Not all communities allow dogs, so be sure to check in advance.
Factors to consider when looking for an assisted living community that allows dogs:
Communities that allow pooches might have requirements before they let them, so be sure to know this.
Also, check to see what care resources are available for taking care of your dogs, like walk or grooming services in the area.
What are some factors older people should consider when owning a dog?
When considering a dog, the level of training and their manners are fundamental. No one wants a dog that isn’t housetrained and bites the mailman running around.
You should also look for leashes made for arthritic hands and consider raised dishes to make feeding easier.
All dogs need a little exercise, but some are happy just running around an apartment. Be sure to plan for your activity level. You should also have a plan in place should you have a medical issue or pass it on.
Should a 70-year-old get a puppy?
When an older person decides to get a dog, there’s often a question about whether or not they should get a puppy.
As long as you have the energy and time, along with a plan in place should you no longer be around, feel free to get that fur baby.
What type of dog can be left alone during the day?
All dogs can be left alone during the day, but not for long periods. Consider doggy daycare or sitters if you must be away.
Best Dogs for Seniors: Which is Your Favorite?
No matter your circumstances or needs, one of these breeds is bound to be the ideal companion.
From tiny to towering and from quiet to a regular watchdog, there’s something for any senior who wants to bring a furry friend home.
So what do you think? Are you planning on picking up a new best friend? If so, which dog appeals to you the most? Let us know in the comments!
Further Readings: Find Out More About Breeds For Special Needs
- Best Dog Breeds for First Time Owners
- Best Dog Breeds for Hunting
- Best Dog Breeds for Apartments
- Best Large Dogs for Families
Cess is the Head of Content Writing at K9 Web and a passionate dog care expert with over 5 years of experience in the Pet Industry. With a background in animal science, dog training, and behavior consulting, her hands-on experience and extensive knowledge make her a trusted source for dog owners.
When not writing or leading the K9 Web content team, Cess can be found volunteering at local shelters and participating in dog-related events.