Everyone knows that dogs are known as “man’s best friend” for a good reason. The loyalty, affection, and companionship experienced from a pet dog is incredibly rewarding and enriching to one’s life, no matter their age.
Dogs and elderly people are a great match. Retired seniors have more time to spend with their dog, and dogs help their elderly owner get out for walks and have someone to care for. It’s the perfect friendship.
Dogs are the perfect companion to senior citizens, but not all dog breeds are the right fit. We’ve compiled a list of the best dog breeds for elderly people, while also including breeds to avoid. Have a look through to help the senior in your life make the best decision selecting their new furry friend.
1. Best: Yorkshire Terriers
Yorkies make perfect companions for elderly people. Their small size, affectionate personalities, and long lifespan make them an excellent choice for seniors. Yorkies in good health can live around 17 years, which is on the high end of the scale compared to other breeds. The fact that their fur doesn’t shed much is another bonus, since you won’t need to vacuum up dog hair around the house.
There are a couple of cons to consider. Yorkshire Terriers need to be groomed regularly because of their long fur, so an occasional trip to the groomers will be in order. The second con is a loud, “yappy” bark, but it is possible to train them to bark less.
2. Worst: Akita Dogs
While these dogs are strong and beautiful, it is their temperament that makes them a poor match for a senior. Let’s go into the reasons why.
Because Akitas are extremely strong-willed, they need a strong, powerful owner to master and train them – a challenge that many seniors are simply not up for. Another con is that they are a strong, powerful, and energetic breed that can be potentially aggressive, even dangerous, when not trained correctly. Akitas are a handful, to say the least, and definitely not meant for those who are taking it easy and slowing down in life.
3. Best: Poodles
Poodles are unique, beautiful dogs known for their intelligence and recognized by their curly, fluffy fur. Poodle owners agree that these canines make awesome pets and would be the perfect companion for an elderly individual or couple. You’ll soon see why.
Because of the Poodle’s high intelligence, they are some of the easiest dogs to train. They also have low exercise needs and are not nearly as active as most dog breeds out there, which might be appealing to a senior who is not able to go on long walks anymore. Lastly, they are loyal, well-behaved and gentle, making them perfect pets for the older generation.
4. Worst: Dalmatians
For anyone who’s seen the movie 101 Dalmatians, you might have a soft spot for Dalmatian pups. Although the movie portrays Dalmatians as well-behaved, loving, and obedient dogs, these character traits actually don’t fit the mold of most Dalmatian canines in real life. This breed should be avoided at all costs for senior citizens, and here’s why.
Dalmatians can be extremely high-energy and need quite a lot of exercise. If they’re not able to get their energy out, then they can quickly get destructive inside the house. Training Dalmatians can also be a big challenge, as they can be strong-willed and difficult to handle. All in all, not a good option for your retirement-aged loved one.
5. Best: Shih Tzu
If you’re looking for a low maintenance dog that loves cuddling up on its owner’s lap, then look no further – the Shih Tzu is the perfect pup for you or your elderly loved one. Not only are they fluffy and adorable, they are also the perfect companion to any senior.
What makes the Shih Tzu so perfect for someone advanced in age? For one, they don’t require much exercise. Just a short daily walk and they’re good for the day. Second, their favorite activity is snuggling with their owner, and will happily spend as much time as possible in their lap. And lastly, their sweet, gentle temperament and low maintenance personality makes them a joy to be around.
6. Worst: Border Collie
Border Collies are most famously used as herding dogs because of their high intelligence and herding instincts. Families on farms or living on a large plot of land will often have a Border Collie as a pet.
While Border Collies make amazing pets for families, they are not the best choice for someone who’s older and doesn’t have the strength to keep up with such a highly energetic pup. They need substantially more exercise than the average canine, and get destructive indoors when they can’t get their energy out. This is why Border Collies are on our list of dogs to avoid for the elderly generation.
7. Best: Japanese Spaniel
Similar to the Shih Tzu, Japanese Spaniels are low maintenance, low energy, and happy to sit on their owner’s lap for much of the day. Because of that, they make a great companion for an elderly man or woman who is not able to care for a high energy breed.
The Japanese Spaniel is so chill that it’s often compared to a house cat. They tend to be quiet and calm little dogs that even use their paws to wipe their face, much like a kitty cat does. The fact that they’re so cute is also a convincing point to choose a Japanese Spaniel as a pet.
8. Worst: Pit Bulls
With such a reputation, it almost goes without saying that a senior citizen should avoid getting a Pit Bull. Pitt Bulls require a very strong master who has a lot of knowledge about the breed. Even then, they can still have aggressive tendencies. Without a firm mastery, Pit Bulls can be extremely dangerous. On top of that, they need plenty of time outside to run around and get exercise, which is not always ideal for seniors.
It’s up to you if you’d want to risk your elderly loved one owning a Pit Bull. For obvious reasons, we’ve included it in our list of dog breeds to avoid.
9. Best: Pugs
These little smooshed faced pups have stolen the hearts of dog owners around the world. Many people agree that Pugs are so ugly, they’re cute, and we’d have to agree. They’re not only cute, they also make great pets and would be ideal for any senior to own. Here’s why.
Pugs are often described as happy-go-lucky little dogs. They have an excellent disposition and happy to just lounge on the couch with you while you watch your favorite TV show. They are low maintenance, don’t require much exercise, and don’t need to be groomed often. The only con? They tend to pass gas which can be super smelly.
10. Worst: Siberian Husky
No one can dispute the beauty of the Siberian Husky. Their soft, thick fur coats keep them nice and warm in cold climates such as in Russia, Northeast Asia, and Alaska. Siberian Huskys are also a breed of sled dogs, who pulled sleds as a means of transportation in the past, and continue to do so today as part of sled dog racing events.
What makes the Siberian Husky a perfect sled dog is their athletic nature and mass amount of energy. A perfect dog for seniors? Not so much. When not given the opportunity to let out their copious amounts of energy, Siberian Huskys are likely to go stir crazy and start destroying things in the house.
11. Best: Chihuahua
These little dogs are packed with large amounts of personality. Chihuahuas have a reputation of being lively little sweethearts, and do not fail to entertain their owners on a daily basis. Chihuahuas bring life, laughter, and love to any home, and do well with all ages, including seniors. Here’s a few reasons why Chihuahuas are great for the elderly population.
Chihuahuas certainly have spunk, but they are also happy to sit on their owner’s lap and relax. Because they are so small, they don’t necessarily need to go on walks outside to let out energy, they can get enough exercise inside the house. One thing to consider, though – they don’t like cold climates.
12. Worst: Rottweiler
Rottweilers are popular dogs in the US and loved by many families. Rottweilers are most appreciated for their protective instincts and loyalty to protect their family in any danger. They are intelligent dogs that are fairly easy to train. Although they have a reputation of being tough and mean, that’s only the case if they feel they are in danger. To their family, they are loving, gentle, and playful dogs.
With so many positives, why aren’t these dogs suitable for seniors? A person shouldn’t adopt a Rottweiler for the first time if they are advanced in age and not up for the challenge. The sheer power of these dogs can make the situation dangerous if the owner doesn’t take time to build trust with their Rottweiler.
13. Best: French Bulldog
French Bulldogs are becoming increasingly more popular each year, especially in the UK and USA. With those big brown eyes, big pointy ears, and adorable face, it’s no wonder more and more families are adopting French Bulldogs as their pet.
French Bulldogs make excellent pets for any age, and are wonderfully suited for seniors. They are gentle, quiet companions with low exercise needs. They adapt well to apartment living and will be happy to snuggle up on the couch with their owner. But if you’re living in a hot climate like Florida, watch out because French Bulldogs are prone to overheat.
14. Worst: Australian Shepherd
Also known as the “Aussie”, the Australian Shepherd is known for its beautiful markings of black, red, blue, and brown across its fur. Similar to the Border Collie, Australian Shepherds are herding dogs with very high intelligence. They make great family pets, as they are energetic, loving, and gentle dogs.
For the same reason as Border Collies, Australian Shepherds aren’t the best dog breed for seniors, unless that senior lives on a farm or large plot of land. Australian Shepherds need plenty of space to run freely and get out their mass amounts of energy. Their owner should ideally be fit enough to play with them and keep up with their energy levels. Therefore, they aren’t necessarily recommended for the elderly population.
15. Best: Lhasa Apso
Originating in Tibet, Lhasa Apso dogs were bred to guard Buddhist monasteries, alerting the monks against intruders. Lhasa Apsos are characterized by their long fur coats and easygoing personalities. They make excellent companions not only for seniors, but for all ages. Let’s discover what makes Lhasa Apsos such wonderful dogs for the elderly.
Lhasa Apsos are gentle, laid-back pups who are happy to tag along with whatever their owner is doing. Whether it’s gardening in the backyard, or sitting on the couch watching the news, Lhasa Apsos will gladly join, making them great companion dogs. The only drawback? Keeping up with grooming that long fur on a regular basis.
16. Worst: Jack Russell Terrier
Jack Russell Terriers are energetic, intelligent dogs originally bred 200 years ago in England to hunt foxes. These dogs are known to be super friendly and love attention. Their absolute favorite activities? To run around outside and play with anything and everything. They are extremely high-energy dogs who love to play.
Jack Russell Terriers are certainly fun, but not necessarily well suited for seniors. In fact, they are not even recommended for first time dog owners. They require experienced owners with lots of patience to train them. Even though they are small, their high energy levels mixed with hunting skills make them potentially aggressive dogs when not adequately trained.
17. Best: Golden Retriever
Golden Retrievers remain a favorite household pet for millions of people. Known for their friendliness, loyalty, and excellent demeanour, Golden Retrievers are at the top of the list of best dogs to have as pets. Often trained as guide dogs for the blind and service dogs for people with special needs, Golden Retrievers are highly intelligent, easy to train, and eager to help their owner.
With that said, it’s no wonder Golden Retrievers make excellent companions for the elderly generation. They do require a moderate amount of exercise, but for an active senior, that shouldn’t be an issue. A Golden Retriever in one’s “golden years” will certainly bring a lot of joy into a senior’s life.
These big, fluffy beauties can weigh up to 150 pounds, but it is known that they are relaxed, sweet-tempered softies. In fact, “Newfies” are so cute that the American Kennel Club has called them “nanny dogs” for children. Perhaps the only disadvantage of these puppies is that they drool like crazy and tend to sling them everywhere.
19. Saint Bernard
Anyone who saw “Beethoven” at that time probably thinks of Saint Bernards as a breed that can be a handful. But in real life they are known to be intelligent and patient. The American Kennel Club calls them “gentle giants” and, like Newfies, considers them a great “nanny”. Remember, of course, that they can weigh almost 200 pounds (ca. 91 kg) and are known to have a loud bark and drooling mouths.
20. Basset Hound
These cute little puppies are known for being relaxed and easy to train. According to Animal Planet, Basset Hounds are low-energy dogs that are extremely patient with children and anyone else who tries to annoy them. But if you want a quiet home, consider another breed because they have a reputation for being talkative.
21. Neapolitan Mastiff
If you are looking for a big dog that doesn’t really like to play but likes to cuddle, a Neapolitan Mastiff might be the perfect choice. These watchful puppies can weigh up to 150 pounds (ca. 68 kg) and have little energy and movement. According to Animal Planet, “their favorite activity in the world is being with the people they love.” Like other large dogs, Neapolitan mastiffs have a reputation for drooling. Their slobber is described as hard to clean off surfaces.
22. Great Dane of Bordeaux
How can you not love that expressive face? According to the American Kennel Club this breed is the oldest of all French dogs. Dogue de How can you not love that expressive face? According to the American Kennel Club this breed is the oldest of all French dogs. Dogue de Bordeaux, also known as the French Mastiff, is described as a brave and loving puppy.
However, training seems to be the key, as the AKC says they can be stubborn and assert dominance over you if they are not trained as puppies, also known as the French Mastiff, is described as a brave and loving puppy. However, training seems to be the key, as the AKC says they can be stubborn and assert dominance over you if they are not trained as puppies.
A small puppy that can live to be almost 20 years old. If you adopt a Maltese, you will find a devoted friend. According to Vet Street, they are described as very intelligent, perfect for apartment dwellers and people who also own cats.
The site also calls the breed “a super therapy dog”. However, they like to bark and sometimes need intensive grooming thanks to this luxuriant fur.
These friendly giants are praised for being docile, calm and loving – unless their family is threatened. Vet Street calls the Bullmastiff “a great family dog” who doesn’t need much exercise or playtime to be happy. However, make sure you have enough room for one as they weigh around 30 kg and can stand more than 2 feet high on their shoulders!
25. English Toy Spaniel
If small dogs are your thing and you want to keep a quiet, peaceful home, you may want to find an English toy spaniel. These adorable little dogs will weigh 8 to 14 pounds, have low energy and gentle behaviour and rarely bark, according to Animal Planet. Finding one, especially a puppy, can be a chore, as English toy paniels are quite rare in the USA.
26. Scottish Deerhound
If small dogs are your thing and you want to keep a quiet, peaceful home, you may want to find an English toy spaniel.
These adorable little dogs will weigh 8 to 14 pounds, have low energy and gentle behaviour and rarely bark, according to Animal Planet. Finding one, especially a puppy, can be a chore, as English toy paniels are quite rare in the USA.
27. Bergamasco Sheepdog
They may look like a pain to care for (they are not), but the Bergamasco Shepherd Dog needs about as little care as any dog. According to the American Kennel Club, these big, hairy puppies are patient and eager to please. They do not require much exercise and are described as very loving to their humans.
In reference to this stunning coat, the AKC says Bergamasco Shepherds are “basically maintenance free” and only need to be bathed about twice a year.
28. English Bulldog
Perhaps the ultimate indoor family dog, the English Bulldog needs almost no exercise or play time and loves just about everyone, including cats. Vet Street says they are gentle, loose and do not bark.
Unfortunately English Bulldogs have many health problems and are not the easiest dogs to train. But if you want a puppy that just loves to sit by your side, they are hard to beat.
29. Japanese Chin
If you live in an apartment and consider yourself more of a cat person, the Japanese chin may be the ideal dog for you. According to Vet Street, chins have been described as “a cat in a dog suit” because of their climbing skills and tendency to clean themselves.
These puppies are very entertaining and unpredictable, but also smart, so not too hard to train. They don’t need much exercise and don’t bark a lot, but they do need a lot of affection and attention.
30. Afghan Hound
Another breed that will certainly attract a lot of attention from others in the dog park is the Afghan. These long-haired beauties need more exercise than most breeds on this list, but they are not high-energy dogs. The American Kennel Club describes them as loving and yet “independent, dignified and aloof”.
Obviously their coat means they need a lot of grooming.
31. Bolonka Bolognese
This Italian breed is a perfect dog for someone who works at home or does not spend much time away from home. It is described by the American Kennel Club as “calm and inactive”.
The Bolognese are playful and friendly, but have a strong fear of separation, which means that they cannot stand being alone for long periods of time. “Bolos” don’t shed much, but need to be brushed several times a week to make the fluffy coat look good. However, it can be difficult to find one, as they are a very rare breed in the USA.
The first thing you will probably think of when you read about greyhounds is their speed (they can go from 0 to 45 miles per hour in just 30 feet!), but they are also well-known sofa potatoes.
Animal Planet describes them as “lovable, sweet and charming lap dogs, even if they don’t exactly fit in your lap”. If greyhounds were not enough at home, a busy writer like J.K. Rowling would not have chosen one as a companion.
33. Sussex Spaniel
Spaniels are not always the most relaxed dogs, but the Sussex variety is friendly, affectionate and does not have much energy to burn. These adorable puppies need a moderate daily walk, but otherwise they love to lay their frowning face in your lap.
Animal Planet says that their “gentle kindness” means they can be great therapy dogs.
Like their greyhound cousins, whippets are very fast (30 miles per hour in a sprint!), but they are not high-energy dogs. They are very loving and friendly puppies who love to take naps.
Animal Planet says they are perfect for some who want “a jogging buddy who wants to relax and cuddle up with a movie”. They don’t need much grooming either, hardly bark at all and are a healthy breed overall. What is not to love?
35. Bernese Mountain Dog
Berner not only belong to the most beautiful dogs in the world, they are also known for being calm and gentle. Their ideal living situation is inside with their family, but they also love outdoor activities, in case you need a hiking friend, especially in cold weather.
The American Kennel Club warns that they lose a lot and need a little brushing every week, but they are quite easy to train and strive to please.
These cuddly little guys have a background in life under Chinese kings, which is why Animal Planet says if you share your house with a Pekinese, “it’s that dog’s house, you just live in it.”
They’re independent, but they’re therefore excited to sit on your lap and take it easy. Pekinese puppies have little energy and do not need much for daily exercise.
37. Tibetan Mastiff
Weighing up to 150 pounds, Tibetan mastiffs may look like intimidating guard dogs, but they are gentle and sweet when they know you. These great beauties do not need organized playtime, they prefer to simply patrol their exercises in the yard of the house where they live, especially if it is in a place with cold weather.
However, Tibetan mastiffs can be extremely independent. The American Kennel Club says they are “notorious for performing flawlessly in [training] class and then completely ignoring all commands when they return home. Cheeky dog!
38. Brussels Griffon
Like many dogs named after cities, the Brussels Griffon will live magnificently in an urban apartment. These tiny puppies have great personalities and will want to be near you all the time.
The American Kennel Club says they need about 30 minutes of exercise a day, which can include a game of fetch in the house. Film lovers will remember this breed from 1997 when Verdell, the Brussels Griffon, stole many scenes from Jack Nicholson.
39. Chinese Crested
This breed may look a little or better quite silly, but according to the American Kennel Club they are pretty tough little puppies. Chinese hoods are extremely affectionate, loyal and, thanks to their general lack of fur, perfect for allergy sufferers.
They can meet their training needs by playing in the yard or in an open space. However, they may need sunscreen to protect their sensitive skin outdoors.
40. Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
These royal puppies, like their British compatriots, the English Bulldog, are very versatile pets. According to the American Kennel Club, which counts the Cavalier as one of the most popular breeds, “they do equally well with active owners and homebodies” and are happy to be couch potatoes. They are described as gentle and friendly – but it is not recommended keeping them on a leash as they encounter interesting smells due to their strong hunting dog instinct.