Aside from being the cutest, cuddliest pets to own, dogs come with many health and emotional benefits for their owners.
The companionship of dogs has long been proven to provide comfort to both young and old, but more and more research is showing how beneficial having a dog can be for seniors.
A 2017 study published in the journal Current Gerontology and Geriatrics Research demonstrated that older pet owners tend to have better physical health and mental well being than their petless counterparts. Another study done by the American Heart Association found that dog owners are 54% more likely to reach the weekly recommended amount of exercise.
To find the best dog breeds for seniors, we consulted the American Kennel Club — the 136-year-old organization is the country’s leading authority on canines, and the world’s largest and oldest non-profit all-breed registry.
The shih tzu is a gentle, affectionate dog. According to the American Kennel Club, the shih tzu was bred to be a house companion and requires minimal exercise. Short daily walks with its owner and indoor playtime will be enough to satisfy this pup. The only real maintenance is the grooming — the lush long coat requires daily brushing.
Cavalier King Charles spaniels are perfect for those who love small and snuggly companions. These regal pups get along great with other dogs, so having more than one would not be an issue. The American Kennel Club notes that Cavalier King Charles spaniels are equally suited for active owners and homebodies and adapt very quickly — it just depends on your lifestyle.
French bulldogs are among the world’s most popular small-dog breeds. They are an especially good fit for seniors because they are quite alert, making them excellent watchdogs. Frenchies also sport a short coat that requires only weekly brushing.
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Greyhounds are not small by any means, but they make wonderful companions for older adults. The “cheetah of the dog world” thrives when given the chance to sprint across the yard or dog park, but Greyhounds are just as happy to hang around the house all day with their owners. They have an independent spirit that can be a big selling point to someone who isn’t looking for a dog that requires a lot of attention.
The Maltese is the quintessential cute lap dog with its royal floor-length coat. A Maltese requires daily gentle brushing as well as regularly scheduled baths and coat conditioning to keep its hair shiny and sleek. The American Kennel Club says short walks with its owner or bouncing around in a fenced yard (or even indoors) is usually all the exercise a Maltese needs.
Corgis are the least needy of small house dogs with an affectionate and sensitive personality — an ideal match for seniors looking for a cute companion. Because corgis were first bred as herding dogs, they thrive when being active. Long walks and slow jogs would be best to help maintain their physical and mental health, as well as your own.
Pomeranians are somewhere between 3 to 7 pounds, making them a lightweight pooch that can tag along right inside a small carrier bag. This toy breed is affectionate, energetic, highly alert and absolutely adorable. Pomeranians also make dependable therapy dogs, which can be a huge plus for seniors living alone. The only catch, according to the American Kennel Club, is that small breeds like Pomeranians can be mistaken for rabbits or squirrels by predatory birds, so it’s important to keep Poms undercover in the yard or stay with them at all times.
The breed’s relatively short coat makes it a good choice for people with allergies. Poodles are smart dogs and love being around people. As far as maintaining their physical health, basic daily walks are enough for most poodles, though some might prefer more exciting activities like getting in the water or retrieving sticks.
The Pekingese is a toy dog breed with a dramatic mane that will need to be brushed out meticulously. These dogs were first bred to live in royal households and carry themselves in a serene, independent manner, and will develop a strong bond with their owner.
The West Highland white terrier does require some grooming, but not as extensively as the other dogs on this list. Like other terriers, they are loyal, entertaining and intelligent.
Bolognese is a great breed for retirees and seniors because these dogs are calm, generally inactive and easygoing. They typically have little grooming requirements since Bolognese coats are usually unshaped and untrimmed. The American Kennel Club goes as far to say these dogs would be ill-suited for people with a 9-to-5 workday, making them perfect for retirees. Bologneses are prone to separation anxiety and shouldn’t be left alone for long periods of time.
The breed’s personality is ideal for seniors because of its independence and smartness. According to the American Kennel Club, Lhasas can be certified as therapy dogs working in hospitals and nursing homes, among other places. The aristocratic breed is known for having a luscious floor-length, hanging coat, which is usually styled in the middle part and draped on each side of the body.
Japanese chins are elegant and charming small dogs, weighing only 7 to 11 pounds — perfect for seniors to carry around without any fuss. They are referred to as “lap dogs” and tend to be quiet companions that enjoy slow walks with their owner.
The Havanese breed is a great dog for seniors and has a similar profile to the Maltese. The petite dog has an easily maintainable coat that needs regular brushing, which can be done right on your lap. Havaneses are incredibly social and get along perfectly well with young and older owners alike, so they make friendly pets for empty nesters who host an occasional crowd. It’s also a good thing they don’t bark too much considering they tend to be really good watchdogs.
The sassy Chihuahua is the smallest breed of dog, weighing only 6 pounds. There are two types — long-haired and smooth-coated — and neither requires much grooming at all. The low-maintenance Chihuahua loves lap time and has a charming personality, keeping its owners entertained and happy.
Because basset hounds are not as active as some other breeds, they make sense for seniors. These low-key, almost animated dogs are as charming as they come.
Brussels griffons are better suited for older people and will enjoy their company much more than the company of children or young people. So if you are a senior who often visits with grandchildren, this might not be a perfect fit.
The Labrador retriever is easily America’s most popular dog breed with it’s friendly and outgoing persona. Labs make great companions for seniors because they tend to get along well with the whole family and will even socialize with the neighbor dogs. They also need only an occasional bath to keep them clean.
Also known as “wiener dogs,” Dachshunds are inquisitive dogs that make lovable companions on top of being great watchdogs. They need minimal grooming and don’t shed often.
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Cocker spaniels are gentle animals that adapt to their environment fairly quickly. However, these happy dogs do require regular and thorough grooming and a particular diet.
Scottish terriers have an almost human-like personality, which makes them great for seniors, as they are efficient, confident and highly aware of their surroundings. However, Scottish terriers do have a tendency to be cranky around other dogs, so they’re better suited for an owner without existing pets.
Despite their mopey appearance, bulldogs are kind-mannered and love curling up in their owner’s lap. They tend not to need a lot of exercise and adapt well to both city and country settings, ideal for seniors who like exploring different places.
The Chinese crested breed is an ultra-affectionate, fun-loving dog that makes for a splendid housemate. This breed comes in two versions: coated and hairless. The hairless might be the right choice for seniors as they are odorless and don’t require any grooming.
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Boston terriers are adorably well-mannered and make lovable companions to anyone, but they’re popular for seniors because of their minimal grooming and calm nature, making them an easy pick to accomplish the life goal of adopting a pet.
Otterhounds are not a common breed, but those that have them will likely tell you how sensitive and even-tempered they can be. For seniors looking to adopt an otterhound, their tendency to enjoy peaceful strolls around the block will jive well.
Beagles are all-around happy and companionable dogs, qualities that make them a top choice for families. The breed has relatively low grooming needs and loves to play, which will keep older adults active.
This fox-like breed is a great dog to have for its alertness and ability to track down vermin. Schipperkes love playing and exploring, and they thrive in households that have the time and patience to properly train them and appreciate their playful personalities.
Miniature schnauzers have a lot going for them for such little dogs. They are muscular and fearless without being overly aggressive, according to the National Kennel Club, and adapt quickly to any living space.
The Newfoundland breed is known to be sweet-tempered and patient. The National Kennel Club notes that these dogs exhibit natural lifesaving abilities along with being devoted pets.
The fluffy bichon frise makes an excellent companion. These dogs generally weigh less than 10 pounds and are light enough to carry everywhere. Bichons are also considered to be relatively hypoallergenic and don’t shed much at all, making them good fits for seniors. The American Kennel Club suggests taking bichons to the groomer every four to six weeks. And to top it off, bichons are relatively good at following directions, which will be helpful when it’s time to properly train your puppy.
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