Having a canine pet can be a great way to prevent loneliness, lower your stress level and get exercise. If you are looking at getting a dog, here are factors to weigh in making that decision and the best dog breeds for seniors.
A dog can be a wonderful addition to your household providing companionship – especially if you live alone – joy and an opportunity to get out and walk leading to better health. Whether you are a veteran pet owner looking to “downsize” to a dog that is apartment-friendly or if you are contemplating getting your first one, there are many factors to consider and certain dog breeds for seniors that may make for a better match.
Things to Consider in Getting a Dog
Where You Live – Your living situation is one of the most important things to consider in getting a dog. If you live in a single family home, do you have a yard for the dog and is it fenced? A breed that needs to run around and be outside will require a yard or you will need to live in a walkable neighborhood with access to a park. If you are in an apartment, condo or senior living community, what are the rules regarding dogs? Some places are ‘pet-friendly’; others allow only service or ‘emotional support’ animals while some buildings do not allow pets at all. If your community does accept pets, you may want to look at a smaller dog and perhaps one that can tolerate being indoors for an extended period of time. Also consider what resources your community has – things like dog runs, greenbelt areas, dog walking services can be much appreciated. Many communities will charge an extra deposit for pets and/or monthly ‘pet rent’. The majority will want vaccination records so make sure your dog gets its shots.
Tolerance for Barking – Barking is another factor to consider in getting a dog. Some breeds, such as Pomeranians, are great watch dogs and bark a lot. If you live in multi-family housing or in a senior living building with neighbors, you may want to look at “quieter” breeds such as Pugs or Boston Terriers.
Health & Energy Level – Before selecting a breed, consider your health and energy level. Can you handle a dog that needs lots of play time and running? If you are active and can provide exercise, you may be fine with a high-energy dog. But, if you have mobility issues, you may to consider a Pug or French Bulldog that doesn’t require as many walks.
Size – In general, smaller breeds are easier to control and more suitable for seniors living in apartments, condos and senior communities. Smaller dogs can also fit on you lap so would be a better fit for someone with health issues or a more sedentary lifestyle.
Grooming – Also consider the time and resources needed to groom your pet. Some dog breeds, such as Shih Tzu’s, Maltese or Yorkshire Terriers, require frequent baths, bushing and often professional grooming while other breeds, such as Welsh Corgi’s, tend to be lower maintenance.
Temperament/Lifestyle – Before you select a dog, consider its temperament and also your lifestyle and what you want in a pet – do you want a “cuddle buddy” to snooze on your lap or do you want a pet that is energetic and likes to play or go for a run? Also consider your lifestyle – if you are spending all day at work, travel a lot or have many commitments, you may not want a dog that requires a lot of grooming, training and attention.
Age – Another huge factor is age. A dog that is seven years or older is considered ‘senior”’ – if you are a senior should you get a senior pet?
Should You Get a ‘Senior Pet’?
There are pros and cons with getting an older pet. The biggest advantage is that older pets tend to have a calmer personality, are usually trained, have their vaccinations and need less monitoring. Older pets can normally tolerate being left alone for longer periods of time. On the negative side, older pets are often set in their ways, have developed bad habits and may have behavioral changes related to their age such as anxiety and increased vocalization. As you might expect, senior pets are more likely to have health issues which require special food, medication, help in mobility and more frequent visits to the vet. Senior pets also have less energy so, if you are looking for an energetic canine to play with, an older dog may not be the best choice.
Once you have considered these factors and want you are looking for in a pet, here are some of the best dog breeds for seniors.
Ten Best Dog Breeds for Seniors
- Best Lapdog – French Bulldog – If you are looking for a low-maintenance, friendly canine friend, you can’t wrong with a French Bulldog. Bulldogs are cheerful, kind, adaptable, affectionate and always entertaining. They do tend to have a lot of energy but a moderate amount of exercise is perfect for their needs. Except for some infrequent shedding, bulldogs don’t need a lot of grooming.
Size – 11-13” tall and 19-28 lbs.
Life Expectancy – 10-12 years
- Best ‘Purse Dog’ – Pomeranian – If you are looking for a small dog to give a lot of attention to, consider a Pomeranian. ‘Poms’ are perky, social, happy-go-lucky, energetic and love to snooze on your lap. They don’t need a lot of exercise but their coats do require regular brushing. Pomeranians also bark a lot which makes them great watchdogs. If you are looking for a loyal companion for a small space and want to spoil your pet, Poms are a great fit.
Size – 6-7” tall and 3-7 lbs.
Life Expectancy – 12-16 years
- Best Small Dog – Shih Tzu – Another dog breed that is great for those who live in apartments are Shih Tzu’s. Shih Tzu’s are small, easy to handle, affectionate and playful, making them great lapdogs. They do need daily walks and benefit from professional grooming as they are prone to skin issues. Although they can be stubborn, they are very trainable.
Size – 8-11” tall and 9-16 lbs
Life Expectancy – 10-18 years
- Best Small Active Dog – Poodle – Poodles are active, intelligent, easy to train, like a variety of activities and daily walks, and adapt to a variety of different living environments making them an all-around great dog breed for seniors. With poodles, you can choose from three different sizes – tiny, small and standard. Although poodles shed infrequently, they do require professional grooming every month or two.
Size – Toy – Up to 10” tall and 6-9 lbs. Miniature – 11-15” tall and 15-17 lbs.
Standard – 18-22” tall and 45-70 lbs.
Life Expectancy – 10-18 years
- Best Active Dog/Large Dog – Greyhounds – If you are looking for a larger, more active dog that you can take on hikes or outside, you’ll love a greyhound. Although greyhounds aren’t quite as high energy as everyone thinks, they still love daily walks and a chance to run. At the same time, they enjoy nothing more than to hang out with you on the sofa. Greyhounds are also easy to handle – despite their size – and are receptive to training.
Size – 25-30” tall and 60-80 lbs.
- Best Low Maintenance Dog – Boston Terriers – Boston terriers are great pets for those looking for a low-maintenance dog as they seldom shed and require little grooming. They are also friendly, affectionate and loving with boundless energy. The fact that they are well-mannered and slow to bark make them a perfect companion for those in an apartment or senior living community.
Size – 15-17” tall and up to 25 lbs.
Life Expectancy – 11-13 years
- Dog Requiring Little Exercise – Pugs – Pugs are the perfect breed for those who don’t have the time or ability for lots of walks but want a devoted, loyal companion. Pugs are charming, social, comical, easy-to-please and playful but don’t need much exercise. They do, however, shed a lot and require frequent cleaning of their facial skin folds and regular grooming.
Size – 10-13” tall and up to 28 lbs.
Life Expectancy – 10-12 years
- Best Watchdog – Miniature Schnauzers – Alert, vocal and protective without being too aggressive, Miniature Schnauzers make great watch dogs. They are also full of energy, very playful, obedient and trainable, great with the kids and grandkids and just want to be your best friend.
Size – 12-14” tall and 11-20 lbs.
Life Expectancy – 12-15 years
- Most Social/Playful Dog – Maltese – A Maltese makes an excellent companion for someone that wants a playful pet. Easy to handle and train, a Maltese loves to learn new tricks, is very affectionate and loves to make new friends. This breed likes short, easy walks as well as snuggling on your lap. Although they have minimal shedding, their long silky coats require regular brushing and grooming.
Size – 8-10” tall and 4-7 lbs.
- Best Apartment Dog -Chihuahua – If you are looking for a small city dog, consider a Chihuahua. Chihuahuas are tiny dogs with huge personalities. They are charming, loyal and intelligent. While they don’t like a lot of roughhousing, they do love to run around and play in a small space and can get by with slow, short walks. Although they can be stubborn, they do well with obedience training. The long-haired breed also requires regular brushing to help with shedding and to avoid tangle and mats.
Size – 5-8” tall and up to 6 lbs.
Life Expectancy – 14-16 years