Ideal pets for seniors are characterized by their gentle nature, adaptability to a slower pace of life, and moderate exercise needs. These dogs offer companionship and emotional support, making them perfect for older individuals seeking loyal and loving pets. The best dog breeds for seniors are those that can easily fit into their lifestyle and bring joy and comfort into their lives.
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. Having a pet can offer companionship that might otherwise be lacking in a senior’s social circle.
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.
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.