Study after study tells us that dogs have a significant impact on their owners' mental and physical health. Any owner can wholeheartedly agree there - they bring us so much joy and a sweet sense of companionship. A dog's unconditional love for its owner is like no other.
The CDC states that owning a dog decreases blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and triglyceride levels for a healthier cardiovascular system. Dog owners that have heart attacks even have a better survival rate after the incident than non-dog owners!
They keep you hitting those trails on the regular, and all of that walking helps us maintain healthy body weight.
Emotionally, the impact of a dog is massive. Spending time around a dog reduces anxiety levels, increases our feel-good neurochemicals in the brain, and fends off depression.
Seniors, who often struggle with declining health and feelings of isolation, are perfect candidates to spend time with a dog. But is ownership too much for an older person? And which are the easiest dogs to own?
We've broken down why seniors are great candidates for dog ownership, and the best low-maintenance dog breeds to suit their changing needs.
Should a senior get a puppy?
Yes! A senior is a perfect match for a dog. 88% of seniors feel their dog helps them enjoy life, with 86% admitting their pets helps them feel loved.
Seniors suffering from declining physical health and inactivity can also be an issue. Mental health declines as we age due to neurobiological changes and increased genetic susceptibility in older persons.
Dog ownership keeps activity levels up with those regular walks and gives seniors, who often live alone, a sense of purpose and companionship.
There are some caveats to this recommendation. Take the senior's health into consideration - if a senior has severe mobility issues, they won't take the dog out regularly.
Seniors in relatively good health can easily take great care of a dog.
The breed is another critical factor. Seniors might not want to adopt a large dog as they aren't the most comfortable dogs to own. They have endless energy to burn and might easily overpower an owner.
A small, calm pup is the best dog for seniors, as they are low maintenance dogs. Here is our top-ten list of the best dogs for seniors.
Tiny breeds: the Pomeranian, the Yorkshire Terrier
Pomeranians are tinier than most small dogs, weighing in at 3-6 pounds on average. They're fluffy, easy to handle, and one of the best indoor dogs that love a ton of attention.
- Tiny size makes it easy to pick up and handle
- Good-natured and full of energy
- Loves playing with toys
- Very affectionate toward their owner
- Doesn't require a ton of walking due to small size
- Good for small apartments
- Long, thick coats that will mat without regular brushing
- High energy can make them a little yappy
- Need a lot of attention from their owner
- Fur coat, which can be a problem for allergies
Yorkies have some huge personalities squeezed inside their tiny little 5-pound bodies. They're easy dogs to take care of but need to be well-trained and appropriately socialized to develop healthy characters.
- Very intelligent and easy to train
- Small and easy to handle
- Sheds very little
- Gets along well with other pets
- Doesn't need much exercise
- Good for small apartments
- Prone to barking
- Can become "spoiled" if unsocialized or babied too much
- Needs to be brushed or combed regularly, and regularly trimmed coat
- Very long lifespans, which can be problematic for aging seniors
Small breeds: the Bichon Frise, the Pug, the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
Little white puffballs full of love, bichon frise are among the calmest dog breeds for seniors to own. They're small, at 8-12 lbs.
- Best lap dogs
- Happy and affectionate
- Only needs moderate daily exercise
- Hair that doesn't readily shed and is hypoallergenic
- Gets along well with other pets
- Require some regular grooming, but not as much as a Pom
- They suffer from inactivity and need regular walks
Pugs are affectionate and playful. They're still considered one of the low-energy dog breeds. They weigh 14-18 pounds and are great low-maintenance dogs for seniors who cannot be that physically active.
- Small, easy to handle
- Good with children
- playful and cheerful temperament
- Excellent guard dogs without the noisy yapping like in other small breeds
- Little to no grooming maintenance
- Breathing problems due to short snouts
- Temperature problems - overheat in the summer, need assistance to keep warm in the winter with jackets, etc.
- Not great for allergies with lots of shedding fur
- Tend toward separation anxiety; they don't do well being left alone
Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
These soft-furred, beautiful, and loving pups enjoy spending time snuggled up with their owner. They're easy dogs for seniors to maneuver with an average weight of 11-18 lbs.
- Love to be a lap dog
- Highly intelligent and easily trainable
- Great for traveling
- Very quiet, don't often bark
- Need a small amount of exercise
- Great temperament around children
- Not good guard dogs
- The long-haired coat needs daily brushing
- A tendency to overeat leads to obesity if not well-managed
- Don't do well with tiny pets
- Not great with strangers/dog sitters
Medium breeds: the Corgi, the Sheepdog, the French Bulldog
Pembroke or Cardigan Welsh Corgi
Corgis are known for being one of the most friendly medium-sized dog breeds you can own. They're on the smaller side of medium, with a short and stocky body averaging 24-30 lbs.
- Love deep companionships with their owners
- Incredibly smart and easy to train
- Very social with other people and medium- to large-sized dogs
- Very similar personality traits to large-breed dogs like German Shepherds
- Live 12-14 years on average
- Get destructive if left alone too long
- Sensitive guts, requiring expensive, high-quality food
- High level of shedding, non-hypoallergenic fur
- Need a lot of exercise
- Very vocal and love to bark
- Prone to obesity and overeating
- Don't do well with small animals
These sweet and playful dogs are the perfect medium-sized pup - they enjoy being active and settling down to cuddle. Shetland sheepdogs weigh in at a very manageable 15-25 lbs.
- Athletic and graceful
- Sweet and gentle personality
- Enjoys strangers and other dogs
- Intelligent and quick to learn
- Certain bloodlines are high-strung
- Get bored without adequate exercise and attention
- Separation anxiety, they don't do well left alone for too long
- Heavy shedding requires frequent brushing and grooming
Frenchies are known for being some of the most cheerful pups around. They're compact, medium-sized dogs and usually weigh between 19-28 lbs.
- Reasonably quiet, don't tend to bark
- A cheerful temperament that gets along well with children
- Well-behaved around visitors and other animals
- Minimal grooming required
- Don't need much exercis
- Their flat faces make them more prone to breathing issues
- Prone to eye conditions
- Excessive drooling
- Stubbornness can make training difficult
Large breeds: the Greyhound, the Poodle
It can be challenging to find a good fit for a large-dog breed within a senior's lifestyle. Even though a greyhound weighs 60-80 pounds, they are among the most mellow dog breeds and don't require all that much exercise.
- Very little grooming
- Relatively quiet and don't bark often
- Excellent temperament and friendly with others
- Highly intelligent and easy to train
- Love to cuddle on the couch and sleep
- Large size makes them harder to pick up and handle
- Not great watchdogs
- Sensitive to temperature due to thin skin
The standard poodle breed is the largest of the poodles, weighing in at 45-70 lbs. These pups are known for being incredibly intelligent and friendly with strangers.
- Highly intelligent and trainable
- Reads the body language of others well
- Friendly with other people and pets
- The short-haired coat is hypoallergenic with almost no shedding at all
- Some breeding lines produce high-strung offspring
- Needs a lot of exercise
- Emotionally sensitive to stress and tension
- Like to bark
Making dog ownership easier for seniors - Extra considerations
Hire a dog walker
Although you should match a senior citizen with a dog that is an ideal fit for their mobility level, health situations can change on a dime.
If a senior is suddenly unable to take their dog out, hire a reliable dog walker to temporarily or permanently take over the responsibility of keeping the pup well-exercised. Dogs need regular exercise to thrive and survive, so it's a non-negotiable.
Purchase dog ramps
Dogs love to be right up where their owners are - whether that's on the couch, their favorite chair, or snuggled up in bed with us. Some smaller and aging dogs cannot get themselves up and down quickly, and a senior might struggle to bend and lift the dog.
Purchasing a bed ramp for dogs and a secondary ramp for the couch can allow the pup some more freedom and ease the physical strain for a senior owner.
Develop a care plan
As much as we hate thinking about it, we can't live forever. For a senior dog owner, they might worry about what will happen to their precious babes after they are gone, especially considering some breeds can live up to 20 years.
Create a plan for what happens to the dog on day one so that there isn't any concern or stress regarding the dog's care if the unfortunate happens.
Take finances into account
Some seniors are on limited incomes, so consider finances. If money is tight, think about getting a smaller dog.
The average annual cost of caring for a small dog is $580, while a large dog can cost upwards of $900.
Final notes - How to choose the perfect dog
No one dog is the perfect fit for every senior, so it's essential to consider what they want and what they can manage well.
Make a list of the must-haves and must-nots for the potential owner, and use our guide to compare the options.
Any potential owner should get out and meet the pups individually to see if the personality is a good fit before making a decision.