Dogs are wonderful companions to people in every stage of life. Just because one has grown older (and may not be up to handling an Akita) is no reason not to enjoy canine company. They provide companionship in a way that no other pet—and few humans—can match. Mobile seniors also understand that the daily walk many breeds require is a way to get out of the house, exercise, and meet other people.
Adopting a calm, already housetrained older dog from a shelter is an ideal way to find a great friend. Dogs love senior pet parents, who don’t dash off to work at 7:00 a.m. and return briefly at night before heading out on the town. Many seniors are home for much of the day and have time to devote to their pets.
Science shows that owning a dog lowers blood pressure, cholesterol, and triglycerides. It also improves mental health by raising levels of serotonin and dopamine in the brain. Research even shows that seniors who have to care for a pet take better care of themselves! However, never presume to get a pet for someone else without their knowledge, permission, and input.
Most seniors do better with smaller, portable, biddable breeds. But like everyone else, getting the right match depends on your activity level, housing situation, and whether children are frequent visitors.
#1: Shih Tzu
The Shih Tzu is a gentle, affectionate dog who thrives on love. Sturdier than they look, the Shih Tzu is up for a daily walk if you are. They are low shedding but need daily brushing and an occasional professional trim to look their sweet, perky best. Most are very quiet dogs, although some snore.
The healthy Pug is easy to groom, although they shed quite heavily. Normally possessing an excellent temperament, a few can become jealous. This is a generally healthy breed but should avoid temperature extremes. Happy-go-lucky Pug mixes make excellent pets as well.
Lively, loyal, and proud, this excellent lapdog makes a wonderful companion. These are vocal dogs that serve well as alert dogs. Puppies may be difficult to housetrain.
The highly trainable, affectionate, low-shedding Poodle comes in three sizes: Toy, Miniature, and Standard. They love to be pampered, and you will be hard put to find a cleverer pet. Poodle mixes like the Cockapoo and Labradoodle are also excellent choices.
#5: Boston Terrier
Trainable and well mannered, the dapper Boston Terrier is a friend to all. They tend to be layabouts, so a relaxed lifestyle is just fine with them. The breed is easy to groom, but some are hard to housetrain. Bostons can be bossy, so good leadership is essential.
#6: Miniature Schnauzer
The Miniature Schnauzer is a big dog in a small, tidy package. They are in the Terrier Group, not the Toy Group, and have a strong but friendly terrier temperament. If given sufficient exercise, they are calm indoors. They are great alert dogs since they tend to be vocal without that little dog yap. They are also easy to train.
#7: Yorkshire Terrier
This low-shedding, beautiful lapdog is wonderfully loving and loyal, although they tend to be both independent and overprotective, fancying themselves mighty guard dogs. They can be tricky to housetrain, although this is true of many toy breeds.
The lively but gentle Maltese loves people and does not like being alone. Despite their soft looks, Maltese are fearless. They remain moderately active from puppyhood through old age. Their silky white coat requires daily attention and professional grooming to look its best. Maltese are low shedding and quite healthy.
#9: Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
Cavaliers are easygoing, friendly, intelligent, and quiet. They are also more patient than most small breeds. The Cavalier courteously matches his activity level to yours. It’s hard to go wrong with the noble Cavalier, but they do require regular brushing.
The regal but slow-moving Peke is a real charmer. This is the ultimate lapdog, and while they need thorough daily brushing, you can do it while he’s sleeping on your lap. They are extraordinarily loyal and affectionate, although they’re also independent and willful at times.
Also great for seniors: Cocker Spaniel, French Bulldog, Japanese Chin, Pomeranian, Scottish Terrier, and Standard Schnauzer.
Diane Morgan is a pet care expert in Williamsport, Maryland, who has authored numerous books on dog care and nutrition, and has also written many dog breed and horse books.