10 Best Dog Breeds for Seniors to Consider

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The list of ways in which seniors benefit from having canine companions is endless. Likewise, the number of surveys and studies that show how dogs enrich our lives from childhood through retirement. Dogs are wonderful companions for people in their golden years. In addition to providing unmatched friendship, some of the best dog breeds for seniors can even help boost their owner’s physical and mental health. For instance, spending time with a pup raises the release of serotonin, “feel-good” hormones in the brain. At the same time, it helps lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels, according to Harvard Health Publishing.

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How can Dogs Benefit the Lives of Seniors?

Here are just some of the science-backed benefits canine companions have for people during their golden years:

  • Dogs Reduce Loneliness: A survey by the Human Animal Bond Research Institute indicated that 85% of respondents believe that interaction with pets reduces loneliness.
  • Dog Ownership Benefits Cardiovascular Health: Research has concluded that the bond between humans and dogs reduces stress, which is a major cause of cardiovascular disease, and heart attack.
  • Dogs Help with Crisis Recovery: A study by the College of Veterinary Medicine at Purdue University found dogs help us recover psychologically from a crisis and tragedy such as the loss of a loved one.
  • Dogs promote physical activity: A UK study found that dog owners are four times more likely to meet physical activity guidelines, regardless of age.
  • Dogs Facilitate social interaction: Walking your dog can make you more approachable and give people a conversation starter. Tufts University in Massachusetts reports a study concluded that people with a strong attachment to a pet feel more connected in their communities and their human relationships.
  • Dogs Lift our Spirits: A 2009 Japanese study found that staring into your dog’s eyes raises your “love hormone” level—oxytocin, which is an instant mood booster. Furthermore, it boosts the release of serotonin, a crucial chemical for increasing mood and decreasing anxiety.
  • Dogs Delay Cognitive Decline: Studies exploring the effects of dogs on seniors found several positive results, including the maintenance of cognitive health.

A one-year study of 938 medicare members pointed out that older adults with canine companions needed fewer doctor visits.

Which of the best dog breeds for seniors will be right for you?

Now that you have all that information, you’re probably ready to find the perfect pooch for yourself or an older loved one who can do with the unconditional love of a furry friend. However, dog ownership comes with responsibilities and restrictions.

Many seniors are home much of the day or simply have a more flexible schedule, meaning more time to devote to their best friend.  While the choice of breed would not be a problem for older adults who already have a precious pooch to take along when moving into an apartment.

The best dog breeds for seniors are those that are compatible with the individual lifestyles of their owners. Suitable furry friends can be found in any breed, age, or size. Adopting a calm and already-trained older dog, or even a senior dog is a common option for senior pet parents. Many thrive with smaller dog breeds that are easy to travel with or even-tempered, low-maintenance larger breeds.

But as always, finding the right match depends on a dog’s unique activity level, grooming needs, and other important traits. Discover our top picks of the 10 best dog breeds for seniors.

Shih Tzu dog with long groomed hair

Shih Tzu – Image Shutterstock

1. Shih Tzu 

The Shih Tzu is a great dog for people who live in a small apartment or a home without a backyard, according to the American Kennel Club. What makes them one of the best dog breeds for seniors is their love for kids. So, while being the perfect companion dogs for seniors, they would welcome the grandchildren.

Shih Tzus are low shedding, but daily brushing and an occasional professional trim help them look their sweet, perky best. Owners who want to keep the Shih Tzu’s hair long must be prepared for hours of grooming each day, or use a professional groomer.

The Shih Tzu is up for a daily walk if its pet parent is. Follow that up with a cuddle on the couch and all is well.

Read more about the Shih Tzu breed here.

Cavalier-King-Charles-Spaniel-Image-Shutterstock dogfoodcare.com

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel – Image-Shutterstock

2. Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

The American Kennel Club describes the Cavalier King Charles Spaniels as “affectionate, gentle, and graceful.” They are also intelligent, calm, and welcoming to other pets and guests, including children.

They boast silky coats that don’t require any more than frequent brushing and regular baths. The laid-back attitude of these furry pups proves that their purpose in life is to be the best lapdogs they can be.

Cavaliers are master cuddle buddies, but they take their cues from their owners—happy to spend lap time, but equally enthusiastic to be an adventurous walking companion.

French Bulldog - Image Shutterstock

French Bulldog – Image Shutterstock

3. French Bulldog

“Frenchies” are joyful dogs with adorably small, stocky bodies. The French Bulldog is easy to please and to care for. Their short, glossy coats don’t shed much making them a great fur pal for an elderly individual. Frenchies are simple to brush, but the wrinkles on this breed’s face require frequent cleaning.

It’s hard to resist this endearing, one-of-a-kind breed, humorous dog breed. French Bulldogs are curious, playful, and bright, and they crave human interaction. In return, they provide unconditional love and loyalty. Although they’re prone to some level of snoring and snorting, they can’t be left off the list of best dog breeds for seniors.

Frenchies are fairly active, but they don’t have great endurance, so short spurts of play or exercise are enough to keep them happy.

White Maltese dogfoodcare.com

Maltese – Image Shutterstock

4. Maltese

The Maltese, born and bred as lapdogs, crave the spotlight and relish the attention seniors can offer. One of the unique traits of the Maltese is their sensitivity to their humans’ moods and feelings. They will shower their owner with cuddles and wet kisses if they sense a bit of sadness, depression, or other emotional issues.

The Maltese breed is one of the lowest-shedding breeds, but only if their coats are kept short. While this fur ball hardly sheds, its silky white coat should receive daily attention and occasional professional grooming to look its best. Attention should be paid to the eyes, which are prone to tear stains.

Lively but gentle, the smart Maltese enjoys being the center of attention while showing off its cool dog tricks. The ability of Maltese to get on with all makes the breed popular for use as therapy dogs.

Despite their soft looks, Maltese dogs are fearless and alert pets, who don’t need much exercise. Short walks and playtime in or outdoor would be sufficient, making them deserve a place on the list of best dog breeds for seniors with mobility problems.

Read more about the Maltese breed here.

Poodle – Image Shutterstock

5. Poodle

Seniors who want an easy-to-train dog might want to put the Poodle on their list of best dog breeds for seniors. However, this breed requires plenty of exercise, so they’ll want active owners. Whether it’s swimming or venturing on long walks, the energetic and muscular Poodle flourishes with a great deal of exercise. Furthermore, Poodles bond with more than one person, making them the ideal canine companion for senior couples.

Contrary to what their fancy haircuts might lead you to believe, Poodles actually are reasonably low-maintenance and are thus great dogs for seniors.  They are low-shedding and hypoallergenic and require regular grooming appointments, but they don’t need crazy haircuts. 

They come in three sizes—Standard, Toy, and Miniature Poodles to meet anyone’s preference—they all have high energy levels. Poodle dog mixes such as the Cockapoo and Labradoodle make great furry friends as well. They have a fun sense of humor and enjoy being pampered.

Pekingese – Image Shutterstock

6. Pekingese

The Pekingese is not only a regal and true charmer, it is also the ultimate lapdog. This breed is fragile, and not too fond of rough play. Therefore, the Pekingese seems to be the best dog for older people who are more likely to live in a calm atmosphere rather than in a house full of energetic children.  

Extraordinarily affectionate and loyal, the Pekingese typically forms an exceptional bond with one human. Hence, the importance of socializing this little fuzz ball to other people from the start. Pekingese dogs have outgoing, bold personalities and an overall dignified way of going about their daily lives. They can display stubbornness at times during dog training.

The Pekingese has a soft double coat that they shed seasonally. However, daily brushing is the only way to keep their silky coats tangle-free and prevent matting. 

With a shortened muzzle, the Pekingese shouldn’t engage in intense exercise. Bursts of playtime and short walks are all they need. Their place on the list of best dog breeds for seniors is for seniors who have few or no grandchildren. 

Corgi and Kitten dogfoodcare.com

Pembroke Welsh Corgi – Image Shutterstock

7. Pembroke Welsh Corgi

Pembroke Welsh Corgis are a great fit for lively and adventurous senior citizens who enjoy outdoor exploration such as walking on nature trails because they are quite active. Corgis are sociable and crave inclusion on all occasions. They have fun-loving and animated personalities that make them shine in the eyes of adults and children.

Corgis aren’t built for jumping, and it might be a good idea to get a set of doggy stairs or a ramp. Frequent jumping from a couch or bed onto those small legs and long bodies might cause back problems, requiring doggy parents to lift them on and off the furniture. Seniors should note that despite their bright eyes and cute little legs, Corgis can weigh as much as 30 pounds, making them too heavy for some elderly dog owners to lift.

Corgis are protective and devoted to their families and make excellent watchdogs. This energetic breed is prone to barking when left alone for too long or if they don’t receive sufficient daily exercise. The Corgi’s double coat is simple to brush or comb but sheds heavily. Therefore, regular grooming helps prevent fur from covering the furniture.

Read more about the Pembroke Welsh Corgi here.

Pomeranian dogfoodcare.com

Pomeranian – Image -Shutterstock

8. Pomeranian

Pomeranians are tiny dogs that only weigh about three to seven pounds. Therefore, they are one of the best dog breeds for seniors who like to hike, take long walks, or participate in other activities. If the Pom can’t keep up, it is easy to pick it up and carry it for the rest of the way, rather than leaving the precious pooch at home.

Poms need daily brushing to get rid of loose hair, and professional grooming every eight to ten weeks. These spunky fur balls are intelligent, alert, active, wary, and full of themselves! They want to be in the center of all activities, but they are equally happy to snuggle in your lap. It is essential to teach them their status in the family early, or else your Pom will see itself as the pack leader.

Read more about the Pomeranian here.

9. Yorkshire Terrier

According to the AKC, Yorkshire Terriers are the ninth most popular breed in its annual rankings, making them one of the best dog breeds for seniors. They are very intelligent, relatively active, and always ready to go for a walk. However, even indoor games can satisfy the Yorkie’s exercise requirements. In fact, they’re Velcro dogs that follow their owners around the house, and by the end of the day that could be sufficient.

Yorkies are also perfect little lapdogs, and if you keep their coats short, they shed very little. Frequent brushing and occasional bathing are sufficient, unless their hair is left to grow. The Yorkshire Terrier is a charming dog, and despite its small size, its heart and personality are large. The Yorkie has a playful side, too, and can be mischievous and lovable all at the same time. However, he is still a true terrier— fearless, feisty, and ready to take on the world.

Miniature Schnauzer dogfoodcare.com

Miniature Schnauzer – Image Shutterstock

10. Miniature Schnauzer

Despite how discerning and serious their beards might make them look, Miniature Schnauzers are very friendly and love people, from kids to senior citizens. The handsome Miniature Schnauzer provides ultimate companionship and commitment to their senior pet parent. Miniature Schnauzers are patient with children and enjoy playtime, making them compatible with grandkids as well!

Playing fetch and joining their doggy dads and moms when running errands. They shed very little, and need weekly brushing, and professional grooming every six to eight weeks.

These furry friends are obedient and quick to learn when it comes to training. This breed has a strong, outgoing, and friendly personality. Family oriented and protective over the ones they love, Miniature Schnauzers are alert dogs who watch over the house.

Personal Story about a Schnauzer

I left telling you about the Schnauzer last because I want to share my experience with this exceptional dog breed. As a family with two young children, we had a male Schnauzer several years ago. (We called him Schnaus) Driving into the city one rainy morning, I noticed something move about in the grass on the side of the road, and I stopped and found five newborn kittens, obviously unwanted and discarded like rubbish.

I picked them up and went right back home, forgetting about my errands. After preparing a basket for the tiny, wet kittens, I placed them inside and covered them. I went out of the room for a moment, and when I returned, Schnaus was busy licking the kittens and nuzzling them, which made them meow for milk. I took my child’s toy baby bottle and started feeding them cows’ milk diluted with lukewarm water.

A Daddy Dog for Orphaned Kittens

Schnaus never moved from beside the kitty basket, except to pop outside for a pee or poop. The best was every time he came back in, he stuck his bearded face into the basket to count them and check whether they were OK. The baby kitties, with their eyes, still closed would think it is their mother, and grab onto his beard. And as he lifted his head, he’d have five little rat-like figures swinging on his beard.

Long story short, Schnaus made raising the kittens his responsibility. Once they started playing and climbing out of the basket he went into protection mode. He’d let them play for a while and then used his mouth to pick them up and place them back in their basket. When the cats were ready to be placed with other families, my friends pulled straws because everybody wanted them. They all lived happily ever after, and Schnaus continued to protect the one kitten we kept behind.

Now, how can there be a breed more deserving of a spot on the best dog breeds for seniors than a Schnauzer to take care of your elderly loved ones?

Read more about the Miniature Schnauzer here.

A Few More Dog Breeds To Consider

If you want more dog breeds for seniors to consider as companion dogs, explore the following breeds that are also affectionate small dogs, some are high-energy :

  • Pug
  • Bichon Frisé
  • Beagle, Chihuahua
  • Boston Terrier
  • Havanese

Seniors living in houses or spacious apartments might prefer larger dogs, and there are several large dog breeds that are perfectly suitable to be canine companions for elderly people. You could even find big dogs that are great companions but also couch potatoes and will spend most of their days cuddled up next to their owners.

Cocker Spaniel

Labrador Retriever

Golden Retriever


The Bottom Line

The breed names do not define the dogs, instead, it merely indicates the typical traits of a specific breed. The truth is that each dog is unique. It is not only the popular dogs that make excellent companions for senior loved ones. Likewise, each senior citizen is unique, some may prefer a type of dog with a long coat because they enjoy grooming and regular brushing their pooch, while others prefer dogs with a short coat. As long as the chosen dog is affectionate, loyal, and protective, and not too demanding when it comes to exercising, it is likely to be the perfect canine buddy for any older adult.

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Mari Serfontein