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Furry Friends for for Older Adults Wanting Canine Companionship

best dogs for seniors

by Ellen Blake

What are the best dogs for seniors?

Choosing a dog can be fun, whether for an older loved one or yourself. The decision about which type of dog for the prospective owner requires some thought though. We all have unique preferences and the kind of dog that makes the best pet tends to vary from one person to the other. If the dog is for a particular senior in your life, do they gravitate toward smaller dogs to cuddle, or prefer larger more active dogs? Pick a pup that meshes with the abilities and lifestyle of the future owner.

Why get a dog at all? So many reasons…first of all, dog ownership is well documented to be helpful in lowing stress and blood pressure. Caring for another living being can be very rewarding, and  provides companionship and unconditional love. It is also a wonderful way to get some exercise, meet other dog owners and socialize with others in the community. Many people find they just feel good when they are around their dog.


Factors to Consider in Choosing the Best Dog for an Older Person

  • Energy level—If you are an active older adult, it might be fun for you to have a dog that needs lots of play time and opportunities to run. If you are someone with mobility or stamina issues, a dog that is content with a few short walks each day is better. It is unfair to the pooch who has lots of energy to keep it inside most of the day and can be exhausting for you.
  • Temperament—Any dog can be raised to be friendly, some breeds are more naturally conditioned to be gentle and welcoming. Beagles, retrievers, poodles, and bulldogs are among the dogs with the best temperament, but know that every animal has a unique personality. Schedule some time to interact with a pet you are considering to get a feel for how well-suited you are to each other.
  • Size—A smaller dog may be easier to control and more suitable for those living in condos, apartments, or care facilities. Small dogs won’t physically overwhelm you, can be easily washed in a sink and are more portable than larger breeds. And if you like to cuddle, it is nice to have a pup that fits in your lap. If you like quiet, choose a  dog that is docile and doesn’t require a lot of maintenance; this pup might be large or small as sometimes smaller dogs have lots of nervous energy and bark loudly and often, while some larger dogs can be calm and quiet.
  • Age—as puppies are super active and like to chew on household items and furniture, an older dog might be a better fit for you. Adult dogs – about age 7 or older – are typically calmer, come housetrained and are well-socialized.
  • Grooming requirements—How much time are you willing to spend on maintenance? Choose a dog whose needs you can manage; Some breeds need just a quick brush every so often and others need to be bathed, trimmed, and clipped regularly.

8 of the Overall Best Companion Dogs for Seniors put together an excellent list of specific breeds, both large and small that make the best dogs for seniors.

  1. Poodle

    Poodles are sweet, gentle and loving. They are also highly intelligent and easily trainable, and therefore make good companions. 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. You can choose a toy, miniature, or standard sized poodle. Poodles develop strong relationships with more than one member of their human families.

  2. Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

    These small and quiet dogs love to snuggle andmake some of the best lap dogs for seniors.  They get along well with adults, children, and other pets. They are also intelligent and easy to train. These spaniels have a long, soft, beautiful coat that requires regular grooming and an occasional bath.This dog breed loves to chase things so is most appropriate if you have a fenced yard or at least a long leash.

  3. Boston Terrier

    Boston terriers are adaptable, friendly, mild-tempered dogs whose favorite activity is sitting peacefully with their owners.If you are looking for a smaller-sized companion dog who will be utterly devoted to you, a Boston terrier is a good choice for you. They are easy to train and don’t bark much, which makes them well-suited to apartment or condo life. Grooming needs are minimal, since their short, smooth coat is easy to care for. These terriers are best in cooler climates as they don’t like the hot weather.

  4. Maltese

    The tiny Maltese is widely regarded as the quintessential lap dog at only 4-7 lbs. They get along well with other pets and are attentive to the moods of their owners’. In fact, they are frequently used as therapy dogs. While they don’t need a lot of outdoor exercise, they do like frequent short walks and running around the house. Their silky white coat doesn’t shed but does require daily brushing and weekly bathing. Bright, gentle, and playful, the Maltese makes a delightful companion.

  5. Pembroke Welsh Corgi

    These high-energy, intelligent and lively dogs that thrive on human attention and work hard to please their owners. With squat bodies and short legs,  they generally weigh between 25 and 30 pounds. Corgis love hiking and being outside, and they need frequent daily walks. They can be prone to barking, but have a wonderfully protective nature and make good watchdogs.

  6. Beagle

    If you are an active outdoorsy person who enjoys long walks, a beagle might be a good dog for you. They are energetic and sociable, and love to play. They are friendly and easygoing dogs who like to interact with every human they meet . Bred as hunting hounds, beagles are a scent-driven breed that often take off in pursuit of an interesting smell;  a securely fenced yard and close supervision is therefore a necessity with beagles.

  7. Pomeranian

    Small companion dogs that are smart, lively, and affectionate, Pomeranians are curious creatures who love attention. They are a good option for older adults who are able to give them lots of time and energy. Their fluffy coats need brushing once per week to keep them looking healthy and shiny. Poms are proud and not naturally inclined to take direction from others, but firm, gentle leadership can train them not to be unruly. The main downside of a Pomeranian is they tend to be loud.

  8. Chihuahuas

    Full of personality, Chihuahuas are tiny dogs that are extremely quirky and entertaining. Lively and spunky, these pups are loyal companions who enjoy siting in their owners’ laps and love to be petted. They are good apartment animals but need training to interact with strangers and children. Chihuahuas enjoy going for walks on sunny days, but cannot handle cold weather. Because they are small, Chihuahuas can often fill their exercise needs indoors.

  9. Greyhound

    Long-legged and slender, greyhounds are the fastest dogs around.  Rescued racing greyhounds, however, are calm, quiet, and easy to manage.  As long as they get a chance to run all-out for a short time, they are generally happy to lay around and take it easy for the rest of the day. They are friendly and gentle, but they do have a strong drive to chase prey and therefore require a fenced yard or a strong leash.

  10. Labrador Retriever

    One of the most popular dog breeds in America, Labrador Retrievers have a warm, friendly disposition, outgoing personality, and love of humans. For these reasons, Labs make excellent companions. They are among the best dog breeds for anxiety sufferers and make good service dogs. Labs are cheerful and even-tempered, but these big dogs are also highly energetic and require lots of physical exercise; they particularly enjoy swimming and playing fetch.

  11. Golden Retriever

    Like Labs, golden retrievers are kind, friendly people-pleasers who are able to discern the emotional needs of humans, putting them among the most popular therapy dog breeds. Like Labrador Retrievers, they are easy to train, They enjoy active lifestyles where they have opportunities to run, hike, and swim. With enough outdoor exercise, Golden Labs tend to be somewhat mellow indoors. These labs thrive on companionship and areknown for their patience with all types of people.


Find the Perfect Pooch

A dog can add a lot of joy and vitality to the life of an older adult as long as the personality of the pup closely matches their owners’ abilities and preferences. Take some time to consider which breed works best for you or your loved one before making your final decision; Assess if your best bet for a furry friend is big or small, active vs docile, high or low maintenance to find the perfect match for you.


source: a version of this article was originally published in

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