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10 Best Dog Breeds for Senior Citizens

Seniors holding a dog

Dogs make life better. A canine companion reduces stress, eases feelings of loneliness, and caring for a pet promotes confidence and self-worth. However, being a pet parent comes with responsibilities that aren't always as easy to handle as you approach your golden years. If you're an older adult or helping someone who’s older adopt a dog, make sure to choose from breeds that are best for seniors.

What Qualities Make Dogs Perfect for Seniors?

Like dogs, every person is different, so the perfect pup for you depends a lot on your lifestyle, health, and physical abilities. However, generally speaking, there are certain dog breeds that tend to be better suited for living with seniors. 

We'll take a closer look at a few specific breeds in a moment, but first, what qualities should you look for when you're choosing a dog for an older adult?

1. Easy Maintenance

Low-maintenance is a characteristic that many seniors prefer in a dog. If a dog requires extensive grooming, sheds a lot, or has special needs, it creates more work for you. You'll spend more time and energy on grooming and cleaning up pet hair.

There's always the option to bring your dog to a professional groomer or use a mobile grooming service that comes to you. But these options mean you'll spend more money, so if you're living on a fixed income, a low-maintenance breed is a better choice.

2. Minimal Activity Level

Dogs with moderate to low activity levels are content with short walks and casual play sessions. You don't need to worry about making sure your pup gets hours of rigorous exercise every day. 

A low activity level also means that your dog will handle apartment living better. This quality fits well with many seniors who have downsized or moved into a retirement community and don't have access to a backyard or large outdoor space.

3. Affectionate and Easygoing

Dogs that love to cuddle, spend time with their owner, and have a calm temperament are preferable for seniors desiring a constant companion. Also, affectionate dogs with these qualities typically are friendlier with strangers and good with children. Therefore, when visitors or grandkids come by, things will go more smoothly.

4. Smaller Size

Smaller breeds tend to be a more ideal fit for seniors for a few reasons. They're lighter and easier to handle if you need to pick up your dog. Many retirement communities and apartments have size and weight restrictions for pets. 

Finally, many smaller breeds usually require less exercise, so they meet the low activity level previously discussed. But this doesn’t mean that all large dog breeds are out of the question. It’s just worth keeping in mind the advantages of smaller breeds, depending on your specific situation.

5. Older Dogs

Puppies require a lot of training and attention, and they also are much more active. An older dog may be more fitting for a senior adult because of their calmer disposition and slower pace. A dog that’s also enjoying their golden years is likely more content to snooze throughout the day and take it easy.

A Senior holding a dog

10 Dog Breeds That Are Best for Older Adults

Now that you know the general characteristics to look for in dog breeds for seniors, here are 10 specific examples.

1. Shih Tzu

Shih Tzus weigh between 10 and 15 pounds and have silky coats that don’t shed very much. Daily brushing is recommended, but you can opt for a puppy cut to keep grooming to a minimum. 

These pups are extremely sweet and affectionate and are happy to spend the day snuggling on their owner’s lap. Indoor playtime with their favorite dog toy is often enough exercise for this happy-go-lucky breed.

2. Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

These dogs have friendly dispositions and love spending time with their family. They have a moderate activity level that responds well to walks and play sessions. 

However, their easygoing attitude also helps them adapt to a more laid-back lifestyle. Cavalier King Charles Spaniels weigh approximately 18 pounds and require regular brushing.

3. Pug

Pugs thrive on spending time with their owner and napping. So if you’re looking for a pup that doesn’t need a lot of exercise, this is the one for you. You also won’t need to spend a lot of time grooming your pug, and they weigh between 14 and 18 pounds.

4. Pekingese

Although Pekingnese require more grooming, their affectionate natures and low energy needs make them a good match for seniors. They like to play, snuggle on their owner’s lap, and weigh between 7 and 14 pounds.

5. Bichon Frise

You can instantly spot a Bichon Frise thanks to its bright-white, fluffy coat. Their little powder puff heads are absolutely adorable, but to keep the classic cut takes care and plenty of grooming. 

Therefore, unless you want to use a professional groomer, you may want to give your Bichon a shorter summer cut. Bichons are very intelligent, friendly, and sweet pups, usually weighing under 18 pounds, and shedding very little. 

6. Yorkshire Terrier

If your top priority is an affectionate dog that’s easy to carry around with you, then the Yorkie is for you. These cuties weigh about 7 pounds, are easy to train, and love to meet new friends. Their long coats require daily brushing, but many people choose to go with a puppy cut, making grooming much easier.

7. Maltese

The Maltese is another tiny dynamo that makes a great dog for seniors. They love to play, show affection, and take on a challenge. But they also adapt well to new environments and will make themselves right at home in a laid-back lifestyle. 

Maltese weigh about 7 pounds. They don't shed much, however, they do need routine grooming, unless you plan to keep their coats short.

8. Pomeranian

Poms can weigh between 3 and 7 pounds, making them one of the smallest pups on this list. These fluffy furballs are cute but mighty, with a tendency to take charge. 

However, they’ll listen to their owner and form a close bond with their human companion. Pomeranians are very affectionate and require moderate physical activity that you can usually achieve through indoor playtime and leisurely strolls.

9. Goldendoodle

Most dogs that land on a “best breeds for seniors” list are smaller pups. But if you prefer a larger breed, consider the Goldendoodle (weighing between 50 and 90 pounds). 

The breed mixes two other breeds that are also a good match for seniors looking for a larger, more active pup  Golden Retrievers and Poodles. But with a Goldendoodle, it’s like getting the best of both worlds. These dogs offer affection, trainability, and good-natured attitudes. 

10. Havanese

Havanese weigh between 7 and 13 pounds and are easy to train. They adore spending as much time as possible with their family, making them a great match for retired seniors. Havanese are very affectionate, have low energy levels, and don’t shed much.

The Best Pup Partners for Seniors

This list is by no means the be-all-end-all of dog breeds for seniors, but it does offer some of the top choices. However, what’s even more important is the qualities that make a dog senior-friendly. Low maintenance, minimal exercise needs, affectionate natures, and easy going temperaments are ideal qualities for dogs of older adults.

Check out the rest of the Neater Pets blog to learn more about different dog breeds, tips on caring for your precious pup, and getting your home ready for a new pet.


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