10 Best Dogs for Seniors
Dogs are wonderful companions for people of all ages—and they're especially great for those in their golden years! In addition to providing unmatched friendship, raising a dog can even help boost a senior's physical and mental health. For instance, spending time with a pup can help lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels while raising serotonin ("feel-good" chemicals in the brain), according to Harvard Health Publishing.
A retired pet parent has its perks for the dog, too! 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 compatible furry friends can be found in any breed, age, or size, adopting a calm and already-trained older 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 dogs for seniors!
#1: Shih Tzu
The elegant Shih Tzu prospers with plenty of love and attention. This outgoing breed is also great with kids, making them a perfect playtime buddy when the grandchildren visit!
Temperament: The Shih Tzu is an affectionate dog who enjoys spending time with their pet parent—whether it's cuddling or accompanying them throughout the house. Plus, this breed is amiable and welcoming to other people and pets. While most Shih Tzus are very quiet dogs, some do snore.
Grooming: Shih Tzus are low shedding, but daily brushing and an occasional professional trim help them look their sweet, perky best.
Exercise: The Shih Tzu is up for a daily walk if its pet parent is, and this lapdog is more than happy to enjoy down time for the rest of the day.
Fun Fact: "Shih Tzu" translates to "little lion" in Mandarin (though this breed is far from ferocious!).
Read more about the loyal Shih Tzu.
Pugs are the best dogs for seniors who prefer to curl up on the sofa with their beloved furry friend by their side. Most of this breed's time consists of lounging and playing indoors. Because of their flat face and small nostrils, the Pug's breathing can be affected by extremely hot or cold weather conditions.
Temperament: Loving and loyal, Pugs are devoted to their pet parents and enjoy taking naps (they tend to snore while doing so!). Although they can occasionally feel jealous or agitated when ignored, they are often easygoing pets who are eager to please. Happy-go-lucky Pug mixes make excellent choices, too!
Grooming: This breed sports a short coat that is easy to groom, requiring only occasional brushing. However, the Pug does shed quite heavily and has folds near its eyes that need regular cleaning.
Exercise: Brief strolls and short indoor or outdoor play sessions are sufficient for the laidback Pug.
Fun Fact: A group of Pugs is called a "grumble," likely because of the snorting and nasal sounds they make, according to The Daily Wag!
Discover more about the cheerful Pug.
#3: Pembroke Welsh Corgi
For more active seniors who enjoy outdoor exploration such as walking on nature trails, the lively and adventurous Pembroke Welsh Corgi—often referred to as the "Corgi"—is a great match. With their cute little legs and sparkly eyes, Corgis win over the hearts of children, adults, and elder folks alike.
Temperament: The sociable Corgi wants to be included in every occasion, and its animated and fun-loving personality makes this dog shine. Corgis are protective, devoted to their families, and make excellent watchdogs. This energetic breed is prone to barking when left alone too long or if they don't receive sufficient dog exercise.
Grooming: The Corgi's double coat is simple to brush or comb but sheds heavily. Therefore, regular grooming helps prevent fur from covering furniture and floors.
Exercise: This agile breed requires multiple daily walks. Plus, it's in a Corgi's nature to enjoy activities that involve completing a task. Therefore, this breed especially appreciates dog play toys and other forms of mental stimulation.
Fun Fact: The current Queen of England—Elizabeth II—has owned more than 30 Corgis since acquiring the throne in 1952, according to Reader's Digest.
Learn more about the enthusiastic Pembroke Welsh Corgi.
For pet parents seeking an easy-to-train dog, the highly intelligent Poodle is one of the best dogs for older people. Poodles must receive ample exercise so they can release excess energy and maintain their well-mannered demeanor. This breed comes in three sizes—Toy, Miniature, and Standard—to meet anyone's preference.
Temperament: Poodles are loyal companions who form strong bonds with multiple family members, so they especially thrive with couples. They have a fun sense of humor and enjoy being pampered. This proud and obedient breed is also one of the most clever pups! Poodle dog mixes such as the Cockapoo and Labradoodle make great furry friends as well.
Grooming: The Poodle is low-shedding and hypo-allergenic. However, this breed's long, stylish hair needs regular brushing and professional grooming every month or so.
Exercise: Whether it's swimming or venturing on long walks, the energetic and muscular Poodle flourishes with a great deal of exercise.
Fun Fact: Though it is believed to have originated in Germany, the Poodle is recognized as the national dog of France because of its citizens' deep admiration for this breed, according to PetMD.
Explore more information on the classy Poodle.
#5: French Bulldog
Also called the "Frenchie," the joyful French Bulldog is easy to care for (and please!), making them a great fur pal for an elderly individual. It's hard to resist this endearing, one-of-a-kind breed!
Temperament: The humorous French Bulldog thrives off giving and receiving love! Bright, curious, and playful, this absolutely charming breed gets along with other pets and humans. Similar to Bulldogs, Frenchies tend to snore and snort.
Grooming: Simple to brush, the French Bulldog's short, glossy coat doesn't shed much. The wrinkles on this breed's face should be cleaned often.
Exercise: Because of their shortened muzzle, French Bulldogs shouldn't partake in tiresome outdoor activities. Tagging along with their pet parent as they run errands or short walks around town will do the trick. Plus, the time spent together makes Frenchies feel special!
Fun Fact: Twentieth century American breeders set the standard for how the French Bulldog looks today. If it weren't for them, Frenchies would have been bred to have "rose-shaped ears"—ears that fold back at the midway point, vaguely resembling the shape of a rose. Instead, they have signature "bat ears," which are forward-facing and round at the tip.
Find out more about the friendly French Bulldog.
#6: Miniature Schnauzer
The handsome Miniature Schnauzer provides ultimate companionship and commitment to their senior pet parent. Like Shih Tzus, Miniature Schnauzers are patient with children and enjoy playtime, making them compatible with grandkids as well!
Temperament: 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. Plus, these furry friends are obedient and quick to learn when it comes to training.
Grooming: Miniature Schnauzers are a low-shedding, hypoallergenic dog breed. They have a double coat that requires regular brushing and professional grooming to keep it in tip-top shape.
Exercise: This active breed enjoys daily exercise with company. Games of fetch in the yard or longer strolls with pet parents are perfect options.
Fun Fact: This breed's beard is not only cute…it historically served a purpose, too! Because the Miniature Schnauzer was bred to hunt rodents and other small animals on farms, their beard offered a line of defense against these creatures if they fought back.
Read on about the spirited Miniature Schnauzer.
The fastest dog breed in the world, the Greyhound may seem like an unlikely fit among the best dogs for older people. However, this athletic dog is low-key, calm, and content with lounging around the home once it gets in its exercise. Plus, Greyhounds are ideal dogs for senior citizens who prefer larger—but manageable—furry friends.
Temperament: The honorable Greyhound is a gentle, quiet, and compassionate pet. This breed is independent and can be rather reserved around company—which is part of its appeal. Greyhounds have a high drive for hunting prey; therefore, they should always be kept on a leash and closely supervised while outdoors.
Grooming: The Greyhound's short and smooth coat requires occasional brushing.
Exercise: The slender, long Greyhound is a sprinter who benefits from a fenced-in yard or enclosed area where they can take off in bursts of speed. This breed doesn't have much endurance, so once they're done running, they're ready to relax.
Fun Fact: Greyhounds have exceptional 270-degree vision, allowing them to see objects behind them and those up to a half-mile away, according to Camp Greyhound.
Discover more about the sweet Greyhound.
The Maltese lives for the spotlight and basks in the attention a senior can offer. In return, the senior is comforted by this cute little lapdog. Talk about a perfect pair!
Temperament: Lively but gentle, the smart Maltese enjoys playtime and is more than happy to entertain others with its cool dog tricks. Often used as a therapy dog, this breed is attentive to the emotions of their pet parent. Despite their soft looks, Maltese dogs are fearless and alert pets.
Grooming: While the Maltese 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.
Exercise: Short walks around the block and indoor or outdoor playtime satisfy the Maltese!
Fun Fact: Believed to have originated in Malta—an island off the southern coast of Italy—the Maltese is the oldest of the Toy Group breeds from Europe, according to Animal Planet.
Learn more about the spunky Maltese.
#9: Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
It's hard to go wrong with the noble Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, or "Cavalier." This adaptable pup willingly fits right into anyone's lifestyle—including that of a senior pet parent! Cavaliers can be both a cuddle buddy one day and an adventurous companion the next; they just follow their pet parent's lead.
Temperament: This breed is laidback, intelligent, and quiet. Welcoming to people of all ages and other pets, cheerful Cavaliers have an easy time making friends and winning over fans. This breed is also highly trainable and more patient than most small breeds.
Grooming: Cavaliers' long, silky coats require brushing several times a week and their ears should be cleaned often.
Exercise: The Cavalier courteously matches their pet parent's activity level. This breed is content with brisk walks and fun playtime, but will also gladly spend the day on the couch.
Fun Fact: Named after King Charles II who adored these dogs, Cavaliers were said to tag along with the British monarch everywhere he went, from state meetings to his castle, according to the American Kennel Club.
Explore more about the enchanting Cavalier King Charles Spaniel.
The ultimate lapdog, the regal Pekingese is a true charmer. Because this breed isn't too fond of rough play, it seems to be the best dog for older people who are more likely to live in a calm atmosphere rather than a house full of energetic children.
Temperament: Extraordinarily loyal and affectionate, the Pekingese often forms an unparalleled bond with one human. However, this independent furry friend is far from clingy. They should be socialized to other people from the start and can display stubbornness at times during dog training. Pekingese dogs have outgoing, bold personalities and an overall dignified way of going about their daily lives.
Grooming: Shedding seasonally, the Pekingese has a soft double coat that needs daily brushing to stay tangle- and mat-free.
Exercise: With a shortened muzzle, the Pekingese shouldn't engage in intense exercise. Therefore, quick walks and bursts of playtime are ideal.
Fun Fact: In ancient China, the smallest Pekingese dogs were referred to as "Sleeve Dogs" because Chinese emperors carried the pups in their robes' extremely wide sleeves, according to Britannica.
Find out more about the confident Pekingese.
Seniors and Furry Pals: Paw-some Duos!
All the dogs listed above have their own delightful qualities—it simply comes down to preference! If you are interested in exploring more, check out these breeds that are also among the best dogs for seniors:
- Cocker Spaniel
- Yorkshire Terrier
- Japanese Chin
- Scottish Terrier
- Standard Schnauzer
Aside from furry friends having a positive impact on their senior pet parents, it's mutual; seniors benefit their pup through a forever home and unconditional love! And remember: while you may think a fur pal is just what someone in your family needs, never presume to adopt a dog for someone else without their knowledge, permission, and input.