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Best Dog Breeds For Seniors: Top Picks

Updated on August 4, 2014

Devoted Companionship . . . Does Wonders For The Elderly!

Dogs provide us with so much . . . love, companionship, security and yes, even entertainment! But did you know that the loving companionship of a dog has been found to do wonders in the lives of the elderly? From easing loneliness, bringing joy, stimulating emotional responsiveness . . . to encouraging more physical activity and improving overall well-being.

There are literally hundreds of pure- and mixed-breed dogs to choose from, but what are the best dog breeds for seniors? Good question . . . two fundamental considerations are size and temperament (of the dog, of course).

Does Size Really Matter?

Why Toy and Small Dog Breeds Are Better For The Elderly

When choosing a dog, you have to think in terms of what suits the lifestyle (and physical capabilities) of the senior dog lover. Overall, toy and small dog breeds tend to be easier to handle and require less maintenance than larger breeds.

Benefits of A Smaller Dog Breed . . .

  • . . . Smaller dogs allow seniors to easily provide basic care
  • (feeding, exercise and grooming).
  • . . . Smaller dog breeds are easier for seniors to carry around
  • (and especially if a trip to the vet become necessary).
  • . . . Smaller dog breeds tend to require less exercise
  • which will be less taxing on a senior whose physical abilities are compromised.
  • . . . Small or toy breeds
  • are often preferable because they
  • tend to be great "lap dogs"
  • who thrive on attention.

Check out the list below for several "top choice" dog breeds for seniors:

Why: Boston Terriers

. . . A Devoted Dog Breed For Seniors

Boston Terriers are intelligent, trainable, making them wonderful companions who learn very quickly. One of the best things is, this friendly breed thrives on human companionship and they are extremely devoted to their owners.

A daily walk on a leash provides great exercise for this breed. And although small in size, Boston Terriers have a protective instinct making you feel secure having them around.

Although their short-haired coats almost never sheds, you must brush your Boston Terrier every day.

Get More Info On Boston Terriers

BOSTON TERRIER DVD: Everything You Should Know + Dog & Puppy Training Bonus
BOSTON TERRIER DVD: Everything You Should Know + Dog & Puppy Training Bonus

Pet Video Library Books on Video presents the BOSTON TERRIER. This DVD contains Everything You Should Know about the breed and covers: History & Development - We'll take you through the early history of the Boston Terrier. You'll learn the breed's origin and how the Boston Terrier was used in the working world. Characteristics - Discover the behavioral characteristics and temperament of the Boston Terrier. Grooming - Learn basic grooming skills that will keep your Boston Terrier looking great...


Why: Chihuahuas

. . . A Protective Dog Breed for Seniors

The Chihuahua dog breed is very loyal and tends to take to one owner rather than several family members.

Chihuahuas may be tiny, but they have a loud bark. For seniors living alone, they are great for warning of people approaching. Despite their size, they can be extrememly protective of their owners. They generally weigh less than five pounds and are six-to-nine inches in height.

This dog breed can be a bit unpredictable in terms of personality: some are shy and retiring whereas others are bold and outgoing. In either event, this is a favorite breed of older people because there's no need for daily exercise. And the level of grooming responsibilities of course depends on whether you'd like a long-haired or short-haired version of this loyal dog breed.

Get More Info On Chihuahuas

The Everything Chihuahua Book: A Complete Guide to Raising, Training, And Caring for Your Chihuahua
The Everything Chihuahua Book: A Complete Guide to Raising, Training, And Caring for Your Chihuahua

Whether you're looking for a Chihuahua of your own or already own one, The Everything Chihuahua Book is your definitive guide to all aspects of Chihuahua ownership. Authored by renowned pet writer Joan Hustace Walker, this all-inclusive book takes you through the puppy stage up to the older Chihuahua-and everything in between!


Why: Cocker Spaniels

. . . A Most Affectionate Dog Breed for Seniors

Cocker Spaniels are intelligent, alert, extremely cheerful, loyal and always willing to please. They are also easy to train. Just a few of the reasons they make great companions for seniors.

Some say, if there was a scorecard to rate the Cocker Spaniel on its affection level and friendliness towards animals and people . . . Spaniels would rate the highest.

Cockler Spaniels don't need a lot of exercise . . . just a short walk will do just fine. However, as part of their care, regular grooming is needed to maintain their beautiful coats.

Get More Info On Cocker Spaniels

The Cocker Spaniel Handbook (Barron's Pet Handbooks)
The Cocker Spaniel Handbook (Barron's Pet Handbooks)

Perhaps the most popular variety of spaniel among pet owners, the Cocker is adaptable to most human lifestyles and, when carefully acclimated, makes a wonderful companion for children. This new addition to Barron’s Pet Handbooks is typical of the series, filled with detailed advice on feeding, grooming, health care, and training, as well as extensive information on traits of the breed. It’s filled with color photos and line art.


Why: Miniature Schnauzers

. . . An Eager-To-Please Dog Breed For Seniors

Spirited, protective and eager to please, the Miniature Schnauzer is an alert, energetic and active dog who enjoys being around people. They crave the companionship given by humans.

Be mindful that Schnauzers tend to have a mind of their own, but in the end, they will work hard to make you happy and will integrate themselves into your home and lifestyle very nicely.

Maintenance of the dog consists of exercising daily . . . a brief walk would be sufficient. And be prepared to provide consistent grooming.

Why: Pugs

A Most Attentive Dog Breed For Seniors

The small Pug dog breed is a great pick because of their size . . . yet they have big hearts.

Playful and outgoing by nature, Pugs thrive off lots of affection and attention. That's why these dogs are best fitted for someone who has plenty of time on their hands. However, the relationship is far from being lop-sided . . . Pugs don't just take . . . they give a lot out too.

It is said that Pugs are not always highly energized which means they can appreciate some down-time to snuggle up on a warm lap.

Get More Info On Pugs

The Everything Pug Book: A Complete Guide To Raising, Training, And Caring For Your Pug
The Everything Pug Book: A Complete Guide To Raising, Training, And Caring For Your Pug

Pugs have a very long and rich history, but their most enduring legacy has always been their cheerful temperament and social personality. It's no wonder the Pug is still one of the most popular breeds today. With The Everything Pug Book you'll learn all there is to know about your best friend! From adoption methods and training techniques, to specific tips on diet, exercise, and basic care, you can anticipate your Pug's every need and be prepared for any situation.


Why: Shih Tzus

. . . A Well-Mannered Dog Breed For Seniors

Shih Tzu dogs are very popular because they enjoy people, make great pets for those who live in small homes or apartments and are well mannered.

The gentle and friendly Shih Tzu lives for human companionship. And being alert and playful, the Shih Tzu easily learns new tricks. If at all possible, the Shih Tzu puppy should be given obedience training.

The name "Shih Tzu" actually means "lion dog" in Chinese and that's likely because of his long, flowing coat . That coat, however, requires regular grooming.

Although a Shih Tzu does not require a yard in which to exercise, you should still find an outlet for energy, whether that is a short walk, or a daily play session in your home.

Get More Info On Shih Tzus

The Shih Tzu Handbook (Barron's Pet Handbooks)
The Shih Tzu Handbook (Barron's Pet Handbooks)

These playful and energetic little canines make friendly companions, and are good dogs for apartment dwellers. Potential owners should be advised, however, that the Shih Tzu's beautiful, long-haired coats require frequent combing and grooming.


Why: Yorkshire Terriers

. . . A Popular Dog Breed For Seniors

A popular toy breed, Yorkshire Terriers (or "Yorkies") are intellegent, docile, affectionate, and eager to please. They are quite easy to live which makes them an excellent choice for seniors and apartment living.

Although Yorkies are filled with vigor, they can appreciate quietness and lounging around . . . making them great lap dogs. But they do need some exercise which can easily take the form of a romp from room to room inside of the house or small apartment.

Since Yorkshire Terriers tend to grow very long hair, most people will keep their pets trimmed so that they only need a thorough brushing three to four times per week.

Get More Info On Yorkshire Terriers

The Yorkshire Terrier Handbook (Barron's Pet Handbooks)
The Yorkshire Terrier Handbook (Barron's Pet Handbooks)

The author tells new and prospective owners, as well as experienced owners of Yorkies virtually everything they need to know about purchase, care, nutrition, behavior, training, and breeding of this delightful canine. She discusses selecting a healthy dog, coping with breed-specific concerns, specialized grooming, small-dog nutrition and training, competitions, health care, first aid, and much more.


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    • profile image


      4 years ago

      I have 5 shih tzus and I can tell you that they are the very best dogs I have ever owned, bar none. Thanks for a great lens, I enjoyed it

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      At one time in America, the Cocker Spaniel was the most wanted breed. I rarely see one any more. I'm glad they made your list.

    • Carpenter76 profile image


      5 years ago

      You should put poodles on the list too ;) Sorry I'm prejudiced because we have one. They are so cute, sweet and intelligent :)

    • takkhisa profile image


      5 years ago

      Yes it is helpful! And really i have found some very important info from this lens. Thanks for sharing :)

    • SandraWilson LM profile image

      SandraWilson LM 

      5 years ago

      Yes but my dad would be appalled at the idea of a small dog for him at 85. Dobermans are his favorite breed and that's what he has. I love cocker spaniels but the hair is such a mess to take care of.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Well, I'm not quite elderly but you have me wanting one of each. I look forward to the day that I can have a dog as a companion again and I'll keep this in mind. My brother has a Pug and Jack Russel Mix that he got from a shelter when he retired early and sure has enjoyed the little guy. I wish my Mom would consider getting a small dog but at 86 she's happy taking care of the irds and deer that visit her yard.

    • Diana Wenzel profile image

      Renaissance Woman 

      5 years ago from Colorado

      A great topic of vital importance. My elderly grandmother had a small terrier for all of the reasons you have enumerated here. I wish my mother still had a pet for health reasons. I know she would benefit from the unconditional love and companionship of an animal. She just feels it's more than she can handle right now. I appreciate what you have stressed here in terms of finding the right fit.

    • LiteraryMind profile image

      Ellen Gregory 

      5 years ago from Connecticut, USA

      I am so glad you wrote this. Too many people pick the wrong dog breed with the wrong temperament for their household. Then they wind up putting them in the already crowded shelters only to be euthanized. (Many people who bought Dalmatians for their children after the Disney movie regretted it.)

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Great idea for a lens. And so many toy dogs will work.

    • Faye Rutledge profile image

      Faye Rutledge 

      9 years ago from Concord VA

      Very nice lens...and, yes, very helpful! The cocker spaniel is my favorite. :-)


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