What’s the Best Dog for an Elderly Widow or Widower? (Companions to Help With the Loneliness)

Certified Senior Advisor (CSA)®

Widows and widowers often look for companionship and something to help with their loneliness. Often they turn to a pet and usually a dog is the pet of choice. The best dogs for widows and widowers are small, easy to care for, and help fill the void of a missing spouse.

widow senior hugging her dog

Widows and widowers often look for companionship and something to help with their loneliness. Often they turn to a pet and usually a dog is the pet of choice. The best dogs for widows and widowers are small, easy to care for, and help fill the void of a missing spouse.

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The loss of a spouse is devastating. No wonder it’s the most stressful thing anyone will experience in their lifetime.

Often, the remaining spouse is alone after this loss.

But, their need for companionship and to fight the loneliness is still there.

Many elderly people turn to pets to fill this void in their life.

But, is this a good idea? If so, what are the best dogs for elderly widows and widowers?

Health Benefits of Having a Dog

Dogs are known for companionship with is why they’re such a good option for seniors who are lonely.

Dogs offer so much more than they take.

Imagine returning home from the grocery store to a dog who’s ecstatic to see you – even though you were only gone for ten minutes.

They want to sit next to you and offer you comfort and support all the time. You are the king of their hearts.

RELATED GUIDE: What is the Best Pet for an Elderly Person?

Dog owners also experience other health benefits, including:

They also increase your social interaction and physical activity. This is incredibly important during the grieving process.

While walking your dog, even if it’s just around the block, it will get you out.

More than that, people are likely to stop to pet it and ask questions about the dog and its breed. This helps give an instant social connection.

What Qualities Should You Look For In a Dog?

elderly man and his companion dog

While a dog with a lot of energy can be fun for young families, at some point it can be hard to keep up with them.

Generally, good dogs for seniors are smaller dogs with less energy. You might not trip on big dogs, but they get in the way and they are enthusiastic and energetic. They can knock over an elderly person, or a child, and cause serious injury.

Smaller dogs tend to have less energy, they can be moved easily and they know how to get out of the way of people.

Bonus: smaller dogs make smaller messes (think cleanup duty).

Young, Potty-Trained Dogs are Best

A young dog that’s trained and out of the puppy years with a clean bill of health is ideal. The time, money and energy that goes into training puppies are intense.

Also, the cost of a pup, shots, veterinary appointments, training, and growing bellies all adds up! That said, you don’t want to get attached to a dog that has ongoing health issues. It can be a hard on your heart.

Health issues are likely to develop as they grow older, but having a dog that’s ill from the beginning can be a big burden.

Look for a Good-Natured Companion

Choose a friendly, good-natured dog.

Whether you have neighbor children, grandchildren, or live in a retirement community, people will be around. If a dog might bite, attack someone, or just growl aggressively it’s not a good fit.

Take note: dogs that have been abused may react aggressively when they’re scared, even if it’s not normally in their nature. Make sure to ask about the dog’s temperament and try to take time to observe it.

Which Breeds Make the Best Dogs for a Widow or Widower?

The following are just a small sample of some of the best dogs for elderly people who want companionship and are lonely.

Bichon Frise

playful bichon frise puppy

These adorable little balls of fluff don’t shed, are very devoted, playful and affectionate.

Although they’re active, they don’t need much more exercise than a walk around the block.

They love visitors and will make sure you know when people are coming, so they’re not ideal if you’re looking for a quiet dog. But when it’s just you, they will gladly curl up next to you while you read a book, watch TV, or nap.

Since they don’t shed, Bichons do need to be groomed about every five weeks. You may also need to brush them.

Their cream, white, or apricot coloring makes them easy to spot. Even if you have poor eyesight, you’re less likely to trip on them than a dog with dark fur.

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel puppy in the grass and flowers

Spaniels love people, kids, and other animals, but they don’t like to be alone. If you’re gone for long periods of time, this might not be the best dog breed for you.

These companion dogs love to go for walks and play in the park.

They’re also great therapy dogs though and are always happy to sit with you.

The breed is easy to train and they love to play and get moving.

They also need to be groomed but they only shed moderately.

French Bulldog

tired french bulldog laying on floor

If you’re not the athletic type and just enjoy the occasional walk, the Frenchie could be an ideal companion for you.

These sweethearts overheat easily, but they are solid companions.

They’ll love to cuddle up at night – but be warned: they snore!

If you do go for a Frenchie, make sure that you check out its health. Some are poorly bred, leading to an excess of health problems, including respiratory issues.


cute white maltese puppy playing in the grass

Looking for a dog that can sense your moods and needs? The Maltese fits the bill.

They’re easy to take anywhere, but they’re also fragile, so be a little wary of them.

To avoid shedding and hair care issues, simply clip their normally long hair short.

Pembroke Welsh Corgi

welsh corgi dog laying on the beach

Loved by the Queen of England, this dog breed is strong-willed, active and smart.

If you are someone who enjoys going for longer walks, this dog could be perfect for you.

However, you must be strong enough to lift it because its short legs and long back mean it’s prone to serious injuries.


poodle playing at the beach

Toy Poodles, Miniature Poodles… all variations of the Poodle breed can be very fun and rewarding pets.

Poodles are endearing dogs that are smart, easy to train, and full of humor. They live to entertain. If you know you need some laughs, this is a great dog to consider, because they’ll laugh with you.

Poodles don’t shed very much and tend to be clean dogs, although they do require regular grooming appointments.

If you’re looking for a dog to take for walks, consider the miniature because they’re sturdier than the Toy Poodles.

Yorkshire Terrier

yorkie dog laying on the sidewalk

These curious dogs have big personalities that more than make up for their small size.

They like to sit on laps and go for walks, so they’ll be content with any lifestyle.

They have silky fur that needs to be groomed and comes in a variety of shades.

If you have grandkids running amok, they’ll love the Yorkie and be loved in return.

Not finding a perfect fit? Some of the other best dogs for elderly people include breeds like Chihuahuas, Boston Terriers and Beagles.

Summary and Recommendations

Clearly, the best dogs for widows and widowers are smaller lapdogs since they have less energy and require less exercise. Small dogs are easy to walk and even fit in the basket of a bicycle. But just like every person is different, so is every dog.

Finding and adopting a rescue dog gives you the opportunity to save a dog’s life and the chance to become familiar with the dog’s temperament.

Workers can also offer insight into specific dogs and their needs and histories. With a little bit of effort, you can find the perfect companion to fill your golden years with delight.

Photo of author

Scott Grant, CSA®, ATP, CRTS®

Certified Senior Advisor (CSA)®
Assistive Technology Professional
Certified Rehab Technology Supplier (CRTS®)

I have been serving seniors and the elderly for over 20 years as a medical equipment and custom wheelchair specialist for a regional medical equipment company. I am also a lucky dad to four awesome daughters and grandfather to three pretty terrific grandkids. When not helping older adult improve the quality of their lives, I enjoy early morning runs and occasional kayak trips. I am also a self-admitted nerd who loves anything from the 1980's. Learn More

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1 thought on “What’s the Best Dog for an Elderly Widow or Widower? (Companions to Help With the Loneliness)”

  1. I need fencing for my dog to go out to potty. It’s expensive is there any help for widows who are seniors?? Please help

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