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best dogs for elderly seniors

The Best Dogs for Elderly People: More than Just Good Companions for Seniors

Are you in your golden years and considering getting a dog? You're not alone! Dogs decrease loneliness and bring comfort and companionship, which is important for every age and they are known to provide certain health benefits. Some of the best dogs for the elderly are companion dogs. Certain qualities and breeds lend themselves to seniors, just like certain breeds are best for families with young children.

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. Dog owners also experience other health benefits, including:

  • Lower blood pressure
  • Lower cholesterol
  • Better sleep
  • Lower risk of depression
  • Reduced stress
The best dogs for the elderly also increase your social interaction and physical activity. 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. Instant connection.
elderly man and his companion dog

What Qualities Should You Look For In a 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)

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 is 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. 

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 Elderly People?

The following are just a small sample of some of the best dogs for the elderly.

Bichon Frise

bichon frise dog

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, Bichon 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

These companion dogs still love to go for a run or a hike. They’re great therapy dogs and are always happy to sit with you. This breed is easy to train and they love to play and get moving. They 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. They also need to be groomed, but they only shed moderately. 


French Bulldog

french bulldog

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. 


Maltese

 maltese puppy

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


Pembroke Welsh Corgi

pembroke welsh corgi
Loved by the Queen of England, this dog breed is strong-willed, active and smart. If you are someone who enjoys going for walks or runs, 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

small poodle dog
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

yorkshire terrier or yorkie
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.

two puppies in a basket

Summary and Recommendations

Clearly, good dogs for seniors 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 about 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.

About the Author Scott Grant, ATP, CRTS®

I work daily with seniors and the elderly in my position as a wheelchair specialist at a home medical company. I see the struggle they have maintaining their independence and living their daily lives. Most are completely unaware of the options and products out there that can improve their independence, mobility, and safety in their home. I created this site to help seniors, elders, and their caregivers make smart buying decisions about the many independent living aids on the market.

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