Best (and worst) dog breeds for seniors

February 7, 2024 - 6 min read
Worst dog breeds for seniors

Pooch parenthood can provide loving companionship deep into one’s senior years. But with so many breeds to consider, it’s incredibly important for seniors to choose the right dog for their life and lifestyle.

Read on to learn which breeds are well-suited to tag along during those golden years—and which ones might be a bit harder to keep up with.

Why breed choice matters for seniors

When you’re choosing a new doggo, it’s tempting to simply fall for the fluffiest tail or the biggest pair of puppy dog eyes. But if you’re a senior, you’d be wise to choose a dog who fits into your lifestyle and matches well with your physical abilities. A senior’s choice of breed can have a dramatic impact on daily life.

A dog's size, energy level, and temperament are key factors to consider. A large, energetic dog might not be the best match for those seeking a more tranquil companion, whereas a very small or low-energy dog may not suit the needs of someone with a more vigorous lifestyle.

Old dog

It’s important to understand the basic needs of different breeds. Some dogs require extensive daily exercise to stay healthy and happy, which might not be ideal for everyone, especially seniors. But other breeds are more laid-back, content with short walks and lots of cuddles.

Grooming needs and health issues are also important considerations. Some breeds may require regular professional grooming, which can be an added expense and physical demand. Others might be predisposed to certain health conditions that could require more frequent visits to the vet. 

Seniors need to weigh these considerations to find a breed that's not just a good companion but also a manageable addition to their lives.

The best dog breeds for seniors

When it comes to finding the perfect canine companion for senior living, some breeds stand out for their temperament, size, and energy levels, making them particularly suited to the pace and space of older adults. Here are some top picks:

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

Cavalier king charles spaniel

These small, affectionate dogs are the archetypal lap dogs, with a friendly and easy-going nature. They thrive on companionship, making them excellent pets for seniors who spend a lot of time at home. Their grooming needs are manageable, requiring regular brushing to keep their coat in good condition.

Poodle and Doodles

Toy poodle

Poodles and Poodle cross-breeds come in standard, miniature, and toy sizes, catering to different spaces and activity levels. They’re highly intelligent and easy to train, and they have a low-shedding coat that's great for those with allergies. Poodles and Poodle mixes require regular grooming, but their adaptability and friendly disposition make them a great match for seniors.

Bichon Frise

Bichon Frise

This small breed is known for its cheerful attitude and low-shedding coat, making it a good choice for seniors, especially those with allergies. Bichons are sociable and enjoy being part of the family, requiring moderate exercise which can be met with daily walks and playtime.

Shih Tzu

shih tzu

Shih Tzus are another small breed that's well-suited for apartment living and seniors. They have a friendly and affectionate nature, enjoying both cuddles and play. Their long coat does require regular grooming, but many owners opt for a shorter, low-maintenance haircut.

Pembroke Welsh Corgi

Corgis are friendly and loyal. They’re known for their intelligence and medium size, making them manageable for most seniors. They do require some exercise to stay healthy, but they are generally adaptable to their owner's activity level. 

Golden Retriever

Golden retriever sitting

For seniors who prefer a larger dog, Golden Retrievers are an excellent choice. They’re known for their friendly, patient attitude and intelligence. While they do require more exercise than some other breeds, their trainability and gentle disposition make them worth the effort.

Maltese

Maltese

The Maltese is a very small breed, known for its gentle nature and ease of companionship. They do well in apartments and are content with short walks. Their coat requires regular grooming, but they’re a loving breed that thrives on attention.

Greyhound

Italian Greyhound

Despite their racing background, greyhounds are surprisingly low-energy when at home, enjoying long periods of rest. They’re gentle and affectionate, and they can be a good match for seniors looking for a larger, less demanding pet.

Each of these breeds has characteristics that can complement a senior's lifestyle, from quiet companionship to moderate daily exercise. It's important to meet the dog in person and spend time together to make sure they’re a good match.

And remember, an older dog can also be a great option; they’re often calmer and already house-trained, making the transition into your home smoother.

Dog breeds that might not be the best fit for seniors

Seniors are a diverse group. Some folks who are getting up there in years still have more pep in their step than society’s more sedentary 20-somethings.

Still, for those who might be looking for a canine companion who prefers a leisurely lifestyle, here are a few breeds that could present more of a challenge.

Border Collie

Border Collie

Known for their intelligence and high energy, Border Collies require extensive exercise and mental stimulation. Without enough activity, they can become bored and exhibit destructive behaviors, which might be overwhelming for some seniors.

Siberian Husky

Husky

Huskies are beautiful and friendly dogs, but they’re also very active and known for their independent nature. Their thick coat requires regular grooming, and their need for exercise might be too demanding for seniors looking for a more laid-back companion.

Jack Russell Terrier

Purebred Jack Russell Terrier lying at the window.

Don't let their small size fool you; Jack Russell Terriers are incredibly energetic and require a lot of exercise and mental stimulation. They can be a handful to train and manage, which might be challenging for less active seniors.

Dalmatian

Dalmatian

Dalmatians are large, energetic dogs that need plenty of exercise to stay happy and healthy. They can be strong-willed and may require consistent training and socialization, which might be taxing for some seniors.

German Shepherd

German Shepherd Lying on the Ground

While loyal and protective, German Shepherds are large and can be intense. They require a lot of exercise, mental stimulation, and training. Their size and strength might make them difficult for some seniors to handle comfortably.

These breeds are generally recommended for individuals or families that can meet their high energy and maintenance needs. It's important for seniors to assess their own lifestyle, health, and physical capabilities before deciding on a dog breed. Choosing a pet that matches one's activity level and living situation can lead to a much more harmonious relationship.

Remember, every dog has its own unique personality, and exceptions exist within every breed. For instance, adopting a senior dog changes the ball game; regardless of breed, an older pet might be perfectly mellow. Plus, many wonderful mixed-breed dogs could offer the perfect balance of temperament and manageability for seniors. Spending time with a dog before bringing them home can help determine if they’re a good fit for your lifestyle. 

Dog adoption tips for older owners

Adopting a dog can bring joy and companionship to any senior’s life. Here are some additional tips for making the best choice.

  • Lifestyle check: Reflect on your daily routines and physical capabilities before choosing a dog. An active senior might be perfectly suited to take care of a lively breed, while others may prefer a more sedate companion to share quiet moments with.

  • Personal introductions are key. Spend quality time with potential canine companions before making a decision. Observe whether a dog's energy and temperament align with what you're looking for.

  • Safety-proof your space: Make your home welcoming and safe for a new pet. This might involve securing fences, creating a comfortable resting area, and ensuring the home is accessible for the dog's needs.

  • Health and grooming considerations: Consider breeds with grooming and healthcare needs that fit your lifestyle and budget. Some breeds require more frequent veterinary care or grooming than others.

  • Have a support plan. Think about who can help with dog care in case of travel or health issues. Building a support network ensures your dog will always receive care, even when you're not around.

  • Match with another senior: Again, senior dogs often align beautifully with the lifestyles of senior humans. They tend to be calmer, are usually house-trained, and their personalities are fully developed, which makes it easier to find a compatible pup.

Ultimately, the key is to match a dog's energy, size, and care needs with your own lifestyle.

How pet insurance can help

Remember, adopting a dog isn’t just about bringing a joyful presence into your home; it’s about providing a loving and secure environment for your new furry family member.

For seniors contemplating this rewarding relationship, dog insurance is a wise step towards peace of mind. It helps secure a future where you and your pet can enjoy the best of what life has to offer, well into your golden years.


David Teich
Lead Content Editor

David Teich is Lead Content Editor at ManyPets. He loves pets, Scrabble, Oxford commas, and typing loudly.