Updated July 13, 2022 – The truth is, the best type of dogs for seniors depends on the temperament of the dog and the senior and of course the physical and mental condition of both as well.
The best dogs for seniors to adopt? – There are many different types of dogs, purebreds and mixed breeds (mutts). No one type is suitable for every person so choose one (or two) that can fit into your lifestyle and that you can take care of properly.
Dogs can make great companions for older adults, especially if they live alone. Having to take your dog out for daily walks enforces exercise, socialization and just getting out into the fresh air which are all very good physically and mentally for many seniors.
Whether you choose a younger dog or senior pets to live with you during your golden years – I know that if you love dogs, then you will be grateful for their companionship.
What To Consider When Getting A Dog
Most senior citizens who have a dog have almost always have had one in their lives and they know the kind of wonderful companionship and love that they can get from these great pets.
But, being older (I’m talking about the person here) means that there are probably some physical and/or cognitive limitations that weren’t there 20, 30 or even 10 years ago. These limitations help to dictate the type of dog that would be best for you at this time.
So, if you are considering getting a dog and you are in your senior years, I recommend that you review the following information before you go to the animal shelter to select your furry friend.
- Size of the dog – if you have downsized from your home to a smaller place, it may not be suitable to adopt an Akita or Boxer or any other large dog. Small dogs may be better suited for small apartments. Also, depending on your strength and balance (many seniors have balance issues) – a larger sized dog may pull and tug during walks causing you to fall.
You also want to think about bathing your dog. Unless you are going to take your dog to the doggy salon for their weekly bath, think about how (and if) you will be able to bathe a large dog vs. a smaller one.
- The dog’s age – just about everyone can fall in love with a puppy. But caring for puppies can be extremely exhausting. Not only are they generally very energetic and require a lot of attention, they also need to be house trained and oftentimes require some behavioral training as well. If these factors are difficult for you then consider an older dog.
Dog shelters are filled with senior dogs (dogs who are 7 years or older) who have been abandoned or their owners simply couldn’t care for them any longer. These are often very well behaved and loving dogs.
- Level of energy – some types of dogs are much more energetic than others. Pit bulls, Great Danes, Terriers and Dachshunds just to name a few. And of course, puppies! All of these types of dogs will require a lot of attention and lots of exercise. If you are unable to provide this for them they could become frustrated and end up with behavioral issues, chewing on furniture, etc.
- Amount of grooming – long haired dogs will require more grooming than short haired breeds. If you are not up to daily brushing or expensive trips to the doggy salon then consider getting a dog that is more of a “get up and go” type. Some of the breeds that require more grooming include Chow Chow, Siberian Huskies, Cocker Spaniels and Poodles.
The types of dogs that require little grooming are Beagles (although they tend to be highly energetic), Italian Greyhounds and Chihuahuas.
- Who can you leave your dog to? – it’s important for any dog owner (but especially older ones) to consider who will care for their beloved pet(s) if something happens to them? It’s not easy to think about (for anyone) but it’s necessary and it’s a wonderful thing to do for those that you love (including your dog).
Choosing The Best Dogs For Seniors
Obviously, the best type of dog to get for older adults are ones that are the best fit for their personalities, needs and lifestyle.
There are many lists of “best dog breeds for seniors” that you can find online and each one will be different depending on the perspective of the author who wrote that list.
But, I think that you should create your own list and the best way to do that is to answer some questions and choose the type of dog that fits the profile that the answers of those questions create.
So, let’s get started on that.
The website, Pedigree.com created a wonderful Dog Breed Selector questionnaire. The questions they ask include the following:
- What type of home/living space do you have?
- How big is your yard?
- Where is your home?
- Are you able to keep a dog secure?
- For how long would your dog be alone each week?
- Do elderly or disabled people stay with you?
- What is your age group?
- What is the age of the youngest child living in or regularly visiting your home?
- How active are you?
- How energetic should your dog be?
- How much daily exercise will you give your dog?
- What size dog are you looking for?
- How much money are you willing to spend each week to feed your dog?
- How long do you want your dog’s coat to be?
- How often will your dog be groomed each week?
- Do you want a dog that will protect your property?
- Have you owned a dog before?
To take this online questionnaire, go to their website by clicking here.
After taking this questionnaire you will be presented with 6 breeds of dogs that are a match to your answers. You can then click on each breed to get more information about that type of dog. This can help you to make the best choice for yourself and your new adopted pet.
Note: This questionnaire gives you information on specific breeds. Remember that there are MANY shelter dogs and mutts who can be a wonderful fit for you. I personally have been a pet parent to several mutts and when I compare my dogs to friends who have pure breeds, it does seem that my mutts had far fewer (if any) health problems and behavioral problems.
Veterinarian Dr. Sarah Wooten from Greeley, Colorado wrote in PetMD.com that mutt parents will tell you mutts are healthier but breeders will disagree. She goes on to say…
As far as I can tell, there are no studies that back up either claim, so everything I have to share on this topic is based on 16 years of clinical practice experience. Generally speaking, I think mixed breed dogs (mutts) tend to be healthier and tougher and tend to live longer than many of the purebreds I see in practice. Mutts, in my experience, tend to have lower incidences of inherited disease, such as some cancers, back problems and hip dysplasia.
I also recommend that you consider the size of the dog that you will adopt. Smaller dogs are easier to handle and take care of but they can also be easier to trip over as well.
Larger dogs can make for wonderful guard dogs but they may be difficult to manage on your daily walks and may not be so easy to bathe.
Best Dog Breeds Suited For Older Adults
Below is a list of some of the best purebred dogs that can make for wonderful pets for older people. Although these breeds are wonderful, please do not discount the wonderful mutts that are found in countless shelters across the world.
Certainly traits of each of these breeds in your mutt can help to make them an extremely wonderful addition to your home.
Here’s the list of top rated breeds for senior citizens:
- Bichon Frise – this small breed dog doesn’t shed and has a coat very similar to a poodle. They do very well with short walks and very much enjoy spending time on your lap! So if you are looking for little dogs that are friendly and quiet – this may be the choice for you.
- Boston Terriers – very easy to care for, extremely friendly and although they are not a very small breed, they are smaller than medium sized dogs so very easy to handle.
- Cavalier King Charles Spaniel – these beautiful dogs are very amenable and tend to fit in any lifestyle. Their fairly long coats do require grooming. They generally are laid back, very intelligent and quiet dogs.
- Cocker Spaniel – a wonderful dog but they do need a lot of grooming and a minimum of 30 minutes of exercise every day.
- French Bulldog – these are very loving dogs and are fairly easy to take care of. They have a short coat, does not shed much and aren’t as playful as other breeds.
- Golden Retrievers – these are medium sized dogs that require a lot of daily exercise so they can be an ideal companion for active seniors who enjoy the outdoors.
- Labrador Retrievers – their excellent traits of being intelligent, trainable, easygoing and friendly makes this breed a wonderful pet. I had a sweet Lab several years ago and she would have made a wonderful companion for anyone. However, in my personal experience, Labs are pretty large, so you would need to be sure you could handle a dog that might weigh 75 pounds (she pulled me off my feet once when she took off after a rabbit!). If you enjoy larger dogs, I can highly recommend this breed.
- Maltese – Maltese are one of the smallest breeds, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have big personalities. The small size makes them perfect for apartments or homes with limited space; their kind nature means you won’t need much outdoor exercise either!
- Miniature Schnauzers – excellent dogs especially if you are often visited by your grandchildren! Very playful and loving dogs. They do require regular grooming but tend to shed very little.
- Pembroke Welsh Corgi – are energetic so if you are an active senior – this very sociable dog can be a good fit for you.
- Poodle – are great for so many reasons, I know because I had one as a child. They are excellent companion dogs, and are very smart and very loving. Plus, they don’t shed anywhere near as much as other dogs! I loved my poodle and can definitely recommend this breed.
- Shih Tzu – although they do not shed very much, they require daily brushing and a lot of attention as well. If this is what you are looking for then this could be a good choice for you.
You may also want to consider adopting an older dog if you are able to physically and financially take care of him/her. Oftentimes, these older pets do not get adopted and spend their final years in shelters or homeless.
If you are only interested in a purebred dog then consider looking at the American Kennel Club for more information about each breed.
Should A Senior Citizen Get A Dog?
If the older adult is able to care for (or pay someone to care for) their dog and they have the appropriate type of home and the finances to care for that dog, then the answer is YES!
Because, anyone who has loved a pet of any kind knows the amazing bond that develops between human and animal.
Studies have shown that the bond between people and their pets can increase fitness, lower stress, and bring happiness to their owners. Some of the health benefits of having a pet include: decreased blood pressure, decreased cholesterol and triglyceride levels, decreased feelings of loneliness and increased opportunities for socialization.PetsForTheElderly.org
One of the main problems that seniors face is loneliness, and pets provide great company. Their unconditional love and support go a long way. I know for myself, after my husband passed away a few years ago – my pets were a great comfort to me (and still are) during those very lonely nights and mornings.
Read more about The Benefits of Pets For Seniors here.
What To Do With Elderly Parents Pets
Are Cats Good Pets For Seniors?