Dogs are man’s (and woman’s) best friends. They bring happiness and joy to every household, even though there’s a certain amount of work involved depending on the breed you choose. Owning a dog offers benefits ranging from emotional and physical wellbeing to even helping lower blood pressure, while also reducing stress. Some don’t care about the health benefits. Dog lovers are dog lovers, after all. But older Americans who want dogs have a few things to consider when choosing a dog, which is why we compiled this article featuring top picks of dog breeds for seniors.
Dog Breeds for Seniors Must Fit Your Lifestyle
If you’re a senior, whether you’re retired yet or not, you may be considering a dog as a pet. Dogs are perfect companions for animal lovers young and old. But, if you’re older, it’s important to consider your mobility and health before picking out your furry best friend. Not only do you want a dog to meet your needs—you must be able to meet their needs, as well.
So, when choosing a dog, you must consider your lifestyle and explore different dog breeds for seniors that are a good fit. For example, if you are disabled you should lean towards a relatively small breed with calm characteristics that needs less physical activity than other dogs. If you’re more active and enjoy walks and outdoor adventures, you can handle a larger, more high-drive and active breed that thrive on daily walks and a bit more strenuous playtime. If you work, even in retirement, volunteer, travel, and are otherwise not home a lot—this also plays a part in the breed you should choose.
Small Dog Breeds for Seniors
The most popular choices are small dog breeds for seniors. Smaller dogs are easier to manage in that they weigh less than larger dogs, making picking them up and transportation easy for older people.
Our favorite small pup picks include:
Bichon Frise pups are a small dog lover’s dream. Adults typically weigh only 12 pounds, which means they are easy to manage and care for. Their coats are hypoallergenic, making this breed a top pick for allergy suffers. They are less yappy than the typical small dog, with a smart, confident, and exuberant personality that fits well with children and other pets.
Maltese are sweet little things, perhaps known as the best lap dog—ever. They are often used as therapy dogs as they have an uncanny ability to sense their owners’ moods. As adults they only weigh four to seven pounds, making them a perfect, low-maintenance choice for seniors who live their lives on the quieter side. They don’t shed, but their long, soft coats require daily brushing. They are incredibly smart, spunky, and enjoy playing and co-existing with other pets.
French Bulldogs are considered one of the happiest dogs of all breeds. They are not yappy, growing into 19-28 pounds of muscle, personality, and energy. About that energy, though—it doesn’t last long! They tend to operate in short spurts of activity before deciding to snuggle up for a long nap. Their grooming requirements are minimal, but this breed can be prone to health and skin issues, so be prepared for potential extra expenses.
Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, weighing about 11 to 18 pounds, are also considered the best lap dogs. They are active and playful, but also tend to be quiet and chill, loving nothing more than cuddling with their owners. They are intelligent, making them easy to train, and adapt easily to their surroundings. They don’t require much grooming other than brushing their coats and making sure their ears are clean. They are gentle and easy-going souls, making them easy to handle, great with children, and happy around other animals.
Toy and miniature poodles are great, gentle companion dogs and come in sizes from large to small. They are perfect for single or married-with-children households, and they don’t shed! Considered one of the most intelligent dogs, you’ll find a poodle easy to train, but they require a bit more stimulation (mental and/or physical depending on their individual personality) than some breeds. A toy poodle’s peak weight is about five to nine pounds. Miniatures grow up to 18 pounds, and the larger standard size (see below) tops the scale anywhere between 45 and 80 pounds.
Additional small dog breeds for seniors include:
- Shih Tzu
- West Highland White Terrier
- Miniature Schnauzer
Medium-Sized Dogs for Seniors
Medium-sized dogs make great choices for more active seniors who enjoy exercise and being outdoors.
Our favorites in this category are:
Standard poodles top the scale between 45 and 80 pounds, boasting the same personality traits as toy and miniature poodles have. The larger poodle may be a bit harder to handle as they are incredibly agile and capable of jumping over couches, fences, and other obstacles. They are very intelligent, but also easy to train. With the right level of activity and mental stimulation, larger poodles can be a great dog breed for seniors.
Pembroke Welsh Corgis are small to medium in size, but we placed them in the medium dog breeds for seniors’ section because adults can weigh up to 30 pounds, and they are a herding breed which makes them a bit more active. They are dynamic bundles of energy and require daily exercise, but nothing too strenuous. However, they are a herding breed and would love long hikes and other outdoor activities, making them a perfect fit for more active older adults. Since they have short hair, they require less grooming than long-haired breeds.
Golden Retrievers have got to be America’s most favored dog. They have the sweetest, most loving, and loyal dispositions, which makes a good fit for just about any dog-lover’s home. Adults can weight up to 80 pounds, but due to their gentleness and eagerness to please, Goldens make great dog breeds for seniors. Their coats do need to be brushed often and they may shed a bit since they are a double coated dog. But you won’t mind that a bit—their overall adoration for you will make up for it.
Labrador Retrievers are also one of America’s most popular dogs with the same temperament as their Golden Retriever counterparts. They are friendly, loving, happy-go-lucky dogs who thrive on companionship. Many Goldens and Labs are excellent service and therapy dogs, as they adapt easily to their surroundings and are incredibly attentive to their owners and attuned to other people, as well. Keep in mind Labradors are high-drive and require quite a bit of physical activity whether that comes from brisk walks, long hikes, hours playing fetch, or even swimming.
Greyhounds, believe it or not, are perfect dog breeds for seniors. They are not, in fact, as energetic as you think they are if you’ve seen them race. Although they are fast, and love a good sprint—they aren’t runners for the long haul. Retired greyhounds are quiet and friendly, calm, and gentle with humans. Their level of physical activity is surprisingly minimal as long as they can get in one run around a fenced-in yard a day. Remember, they are dogs who are used to chasing prey—so a fence is necessary if you live in a house, and so is a leash anytime you’re on a walk.
Additional large dog breeds for seniors are:
- Italian Greyhound
- Newfoundland (active seniors)
- German Shepherd (very active seniors)
- Australian Shepherd (very active seniors)
How to Choose the Right Dog for You
There’s no right or wrong answer to this other than to research the breeds you’re interested in thoroughly. If you live a low-drive life, don’t get a high-drive dog. Make sure you research not only their weight and activity level, but also potential health issues and quirks. Many seniors rescue dogs, but just as many buy from breeders. And breeders are a wealth of information on what to look for in a dog. Even if you plan to rescue, contact breeders of different types of dogs you are looking at. They can give you things to look for in each dog, how to identify high-medium-low drive traits and provide knowledge that can help you make the right choice.