After we hit a certain age, most of us need to slow down. Seniors tend to experience physical limitations and many decide to downsize their homes or move into an apartment for this reason. But does a change in circumstances have to mean the end of dog ownership? Good news: it does not! You just need to find a dog that fits the senior lifestyle. StudyFinds researched the best dog breeds for seniors so no one has to spend their golden years without a canine companion.
Sadly, slowing down physically often goes hand in hand with slowing down socially. A British study found that more than one in five (22%) seniors only talk to three people over the span of an entire week. Even more alarming, thousands will go a week without talking to anyone face-to-face. With that in mind, it’s no surprise that 38 percent of seniors admitted to feeling lonely at times. More than half (54%) of respondents agreed that even a short conversation with a neighbor or acquaintance would greatly improve their day.
A dog can help seniors battle loneliness. Not only does he or she provide companionship, a dog is also a good reason to leave the house and serves as a conversation starter. And even with minimal exercise requirements, dogs help older people live longer through daily walks: Researchers noted that older adults were 67 percent less likely to die of any cause if they were at least moderately physically active for a minimum of 150 minutes each week. “Finding a way to physically move more in an activity that suits your capabilities and is pleasurable is extremely important for all people, and especially for older people who may have risk factors for cardiovascular diseases,” explained Barry A. Franklin, a professor of internal medicine at Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine in Rochester, Michigan.
Unfortunately, many dogs with low exercise requirements — aka lap dogs — are often bred for cuteness instead of health. Researching breeders and rescues is the best way to avoid obtaining a dog with health (or behavioral) problems. As for what kind of dog to look for, StudyFinds consulted dog experts across ten websites and created our list of the best dog breeds for seniors based on their recommendations. Do you have any feedback? We’d love to hear it. Please let us know your opinion in the comments.
Important note: A senior dog is a better companion for an older person than an energetic puppy. Please consider adopting a senior dog.
The List: Best Dogs for Seniors, According to Pet Experts
1. Shih Tzu
The Shih Tzu is the most frequently recommended dog for seniors. Ten out of ten experts say this friendly lap dog makes a great companion when vigorous walks and large living accommodations are not an option anymore. “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,” states Nylabone.
“The Shih Tzu can be a loving, loyal companion for older adults,” confirms California Mobility. “They are happy-go-lucky and make great lap dogs. […] They are not usually aggressive and they do well with children, so they are family-friendly. […] Shih Tzus are also ideal for those who live in smaller homes or apartments since they are small and don’t need a huge backyard. They are widely considered one of the best dogs for seniors.”
Daily Paws notes that while the breed is easy-going, owners need to “have the time, energy, and resources needed for frequent trips to the doggie spa.” But they are worth the effort: “These regal misses and misters often love to be cuddled, but not because they’re spoiled. They just love to be as close to you as possible!” Unfortunately, like all brachycephalic (“flat-faced”) dogs, shih tzus are prone to breathing problems. Because their eyes are somewhat protruding, they also can develop eye issues.
2. Bichon Frise
Next up based on expert recommendations is the Bichon Frise. While they are one recommendation short of the shih tzu, they are the best overall breed for seniors according to Reader’s Digest: “These white powder puffs of a dog are known for their sweet and friendly nature and are perfect for seniors seeking easy companionship — they also make great pets for first-time dog owners. These low-maintenance pups aren’t difficult to potty train and don’t shed much, which is why they are one of the best dogs for older people.”
“Low-maintenance” applies more to the breed’s exercise requirements than their grooming routine though, Great Senior Living implies. “The bichon frise is an intelligent, obedient, and affectionate breed. […] They have a pleasant, cheerful nature and are perfectly content to spend much of the day chilling indoors; a couple [of] short walks each day is enough to meet their exercise needs. They don’t shed, but they do require frequent brushing and grooming.”
Once the little pup has visited the spa, they are ready and content to be “arm candy.” “The fluffy little bichon frise is a joyful and affectionate dog that makes an excellent companion. With an average weight of about 7 to 12 pounds, most people can handle this small breed easily,” says The Spruce.
3. Tie: Toy/Miniature Poodle AND Maltese
These breeds have the same number of recommendations, are of similar size, require about the same exercise and maintenance, and are equally suitable for senior living. About poodles, Top Dog Tips says: “They are one of the best dogs for seniors because Poodles are clean dogs and have minimal shedding. They come in 3 varieties: standard, miniature, and toy. You are sure to find one that fits your situation.”
“Thanks to their extraordinary intelligence and highly trainable nature, poodles are good companion dogs,” writes Great Senior Living. “They form a strong bond with more than one member of their human families and are one of the best dogs for couples. They are sweet, gentle, and loving animals. Poodles need a daily walk but are otherwise content to play or just lie on the couch. They don’t shed, but they do need to be groomed every month or so.”
As for the Maltese, Reader’s Digest claims that it’s the best small dog breed for seniors. “These adorable white toy dogs were specifically bred to be companions. Loyal, sweet-natured, calm, and adaptable, it’s not hard for a Maltese to quickly become seniors’ best four-legged friend. Though they love following their owners around, all they really need for health is short easy walks. At an average of 4 to 7 pounds, Malteses are also easily transportable (which is a good thing since Malteses don’t like to be left alone too long). Their small size also makes them well suited for apartments or homes with limited space.”
Dogs for seniors don’t have to be small! For seniors who want a somewhat larger dog that still won’t knock them over or tire them out, eight out of ten experts recommend the Greyhound. “While Greyhounds may seem like an unusual choice for seniors, retired racing Greyhounds are known for being laid-back and low-energy dogs,” explains Top Dog Tips.
“You may be surprised to learn that greyhounds are not the high-energy dogs many think they are,” elaborates The Spruce. “Although greyhounds will enjoy daily walks and the occasional chance to run, most tend to be couch potatoes that enjoy loafing around with their owners. They are usually very responsive to training and easy to handle, even though most weigh about 60 to 80 pounds. If you like larger dogs but worry about handling one, the greyhound is a breed to consider.”
But there’s a small version available as well! Meet the Italian greyhound. “The Italian greyhound might be our favorite breed on this list; don’t tell the others,” confesses Daily Paws. “These dogs love company and are quite emotional about it. Italian greyhounds are a little more anxious than their greyhound counterparts, so these dogs are perfect for retirees and seniors that are at home most of the time who can give them lots of love and attention. If you can’t commit to becoming a full-time homebody, your Italian greyhound might enjoy having a second canine companion around.”
5. Tie: Cavalier King Charles Spaniel AND Pug
Two more affectionate, small, low-maintenance dogs that are great for seniors. There is a drawback though: Both breeds are infamous for their health problems. Cavaliers are highly likely to develop heart conditions and pugs, like all flat-faced dogs, have breathing problems.
“If you are looking for one of the best dogs for older people, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels should be high on your list,” writes Reader’s Digest. “It’s easy to fall in love with their big eyes and long ears. And Cavalier King Charles spaniels, in turn, like nothing more than to kiss and cuddle with their owners. Cavalier King Charles spaniels have an eager to please personality, which makes them easier to train. They also only require a moderate amount of exercise, which can be good for less active seniors.” However, “keep in mind that this dog breed loves to chase things; you’ll need a long leash or a fenced yard,” points out Great Senior Living.
About the pug, The Spruce says: “Overall, this breed matches its owner’s energy level well. It’s an intensely loving breed; content to sit in your lap or give you kisses if you let them, very excitable, but needs only short walks for the most part. This breed can also suffer from brachycephalic syndrome and can be prone to becoming overweight. Obesity can exacerbate symptoms of brachycephalic syndrome as well as cause other health problems for pugs, so it is important to keep them on a healthy diet.”
You might also like:
- Best Dog Breeds for Families
- Best Medium-Sized Dog Breeds
- Best Dog Breeds for Home Security
- Best Hypoallergenic Dog Breeds
- The Spruce
- Daily Paws
- Reader’s Digest
- ForbesBest Small Dog Breeds
- Woman’s Day
- Top Dog Tips
- California Mobility
Note: This article was not paid for nor sponsored. StudyFinds is not connected to nor partnered with any of the brands mentioned and receives no compensation for its recommendations. This article may contain affiliate links.
A MI-KI is a dog that should be list. Had one for 14 years-a certified therapy dog, and one now.
Well what about the french bulldog ? Think they missed a great companion . Here.”” Great little dogs .dnt hardley bark . Love cuddles . .no bother . And what about the staffordshire bull terrier. I had one 15 yrs . Beautiful So loyle..and loving.intelligent. dogs no shedding … think they fogot
About . Best dog ever ### im in 60 . Now.## and owed a staffordshire bull terrier. All way through late 40 50 to 60 . And best dogs ever . After owing . A jack russell terrier x a golden retriver. Now,a french bull dog …****
Why do you never recommend the Llasa Apso – I have one and he’s amazing and my best friend!
I disagree about poddles I have a11 month pup her nick name is Livewire because she has much energy she goes out the doggie door at daylight loves to hunt (it’s in a poddles genes) chased birds, digs up mice in the field her favorite is chasing squirrels she’s usually outside til well after dark I’ve had bulldogs 2 now , doberman s ,labs this poddles has at least as much energy as these breeds and are no way a lap dog.this would be torture for the poddles as I know them.
I highly suggest a Havanese. They are a dog from Cuba admitted to the AKC in the 80’s I believe.
They are reportedly a combination of Bishon, Maltese n Poodles
We rescued a five old cockapoo and she fit right in with our lifestyle. She is calm and loves people but is a great lap dog. She is happy with a short walk a day. She doesn’t shed but need to see the groomer once a month . She loves children and never aggressive.
RESCUED a 1yr old Min Pin from SPCA 4 yrs ago. As a companion for a widow as well as a lap dog she is fantastic. Perhps Min Pins shoukd be on your list
I’m looking for a mid size nonshedding dog that I can have professionally trained to go EVERYWHERE with me… ANY SUGGESTIONS?
Chinese Created Chihuahua mix.
My little (8 lbs) ChiChi only had a hair on tail and top of her head (very short). Never shed.
Loved riding and talking. If the car was going, so was she!
Barked very little but grumbled and said half a dozen words (mama and names of family members!).
Loved being held like a doll in bed and best dog ever. She lived nearly 13 years (after rescue at 6 mos.).
I LOVE the Chinese Crested breed (I have 2 now), but never had one that
could tolerate riding well. All had car sickness and we prepare before rides to the farm.
The CC breed is the closest to being human and will take on your characteristics.
My little Olivia (ChiChi) passed on last year and I would have a ChiChi now if able. I have 2 (CC) pups and rescued a 19 year old Chihuahua 7 mos. ago.
A Boston Terrier is wonderful, requires no maintenance or a groomer, is a fair weather Walker so you don’t have to go out if it’s too hot or too cold, loves attention and cuddling, sheds very little, is smart, and is full of antics to keep you entertained.
I am a chorkie lover miss Lizzie is my third, loving loyal well behaved little cutie. Wouldn’t have another breed
Mostly small dogs, why labs? Laid back, gentle etc. Most of these little yappers are a pain. Had one charge my dog. Not an issue but it could have been.
I agree with the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. My boy is the sweetest dog I’ve ever had. He will soothe me if I’m sad. While my poodle will just lay on her back for me to scratch her. My Cav does have heart problems but he will be 13 in a couple of months and I manage his condition with heart meds.
My toy poodle is a couch potato but she is keen to chase a squirrel. Maybe when they get older, they are more than willing to relax. I think mine is 4-5. I adopted her so they weren’t sure of her age. The vet guessed. But she definitely fits the description here.
We are seniors with a chihuahua. She’s friendly and loves everybody. Low maintenance and loves to cuddle. This is our third and they have all been wonderful companions.
U forget the Jorky … the sweetes dog ,little , pashion,lovely … Jorky and again Jorky
I have an 11lb ShihTzu who is the love of my life. She’s friendly to everyone in my condos and is quite a socialite! The sweetest dog I’ve ever known.
We have 2 shih tzu’s who are amazing to have in our senior lives. I keep reading about other dogs which are non-allergenic but never our breed. I and terribly allergic to most dogs but not ours. They are human magnets, love them.
We have had a mini dachshund for a year and half. She was 6 mo. when we got her. She is the love of our life. So loving. Hardly barks. Loves to play. At age 74 never thought a dog could bring so much happness