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18 Best Dogs for Seniors & What to Consider

by Jessica Hegg April 04, 2017 4 Comments

Happy woman sitting with her dog

Have you been entertaining the thought of bringing home a loyal companion to keep you company but having a hard time deciding which dog is right for you?

Well, you’ve come to the right place! We know that the best dogs for seniors are small in size, low energy, and low maintenance. That's why we put together this list of the 18 best dog breeds for you to choose from.

1. Beagle

    Beagles

    Image Reference

    Characteristics:

    Small dog, curious, friendly, clever, merry, lovable, quick, but...not so good with other household pets.

    Grooming & Care:

    Groom with a quality bristle brush, a good de-shedding tool and a horse hair finishing brush.

    They need patient, firm training and daily mental and physical exercise, including walks.

    • Max weight: 30 lbs
    • Max Height: 15”
    • Lifespan:  14 years

    2. Bischon Frise

    Bischon Frise

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    Characteristics:

    Independent spirit, intelligent, affectionate, bold and lively. They are bright little dogs that are easy to train and love everyone. They need people to be happy and always love to tag along. They are competitive and obedient.

    Grooming & Care:

    Require frequent grooming (about every 4 weeks) and regular bathing.

    Daily walks are required but adjust comfortably to an apartment setting.

    • Max Weight:  11 lbs.
    • Max Height: 11 in
    • Lifespan:  12 to 15 years

    3. Bolognese (toy breed)

    Bolognese toy breed

    Image Reference

    Characteristics

    These dogs were “Royal Gifts” during the Renaissance era.  They are cute, calm, patient, playful, intelligent, quick to learn, and great with kids!

    Grooming & Care:

    Daily brushing, sheds very little (if at all).

    Needs a daily walk and play time in the yard or at the park.

    • Max Weight:  9 lbs.
    • Max Height: 10 to 12 in.
    • Lifespan:  12 to 16 years

    4. Boston Terrier

    Boston Terrier

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    Characteristics

    Amusing, bright, friendly to all, easy to train, and adaptable. Perfect for urban life and good with children.

    Grooming & Care:

    Their smooth, shorthaired coat is easy to groom with just a firm bristle brush.

    Average shedder.

    • Max Weight:15 to 20 lbs
    • Max Height: 15 to 17 in.
    • Lifespan:  10 to 14 years

    5. Cairn Terrier

    Cairn Terrier

    Image Reference

    Characteristics:

    Cheerful, friendly, alert, busy, independent minded, needs an owner that can be firm (as they like to take over).

    Grooming & Care:

    Hair tends to mat, and routine brushing of the coat is required each week. Bathe once a month, keep fur trimmed around eyes and ears.

    Love long walks, but tend to chase small animals.

    • Max Weight: 13 to 18 lbs
    • Max Height: 9 to 13 in.
    • Life span:  12 to 15 years

    6. Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

    Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

      Image Reference

      Characteristics:

      If trained correctly, they are gentle, affectionate, graceful, fearless, alert, easy going, and enjoy kids, otherwise they can become a stubborn, destructive and hostile pet.

      Grooming & Care:

      Use a comb and soft slicker brush on fur. Requires an occasional bath

      • Max Weight:  18 lbs.
      • Max Height:  13 in.
      • Life Span: 12 yrs

      7. Chihuahua (tiny, toy sized)

      Tiny Chihuahua

      Image Reference

      Characteristics:

      Intelligent, charming, sassy, swift moving, courageous, good apartment dogs, however, not good with children.

      Grooming & Care:

      Gently brush short hair occasionally or wipe off with a damp cloth. The long coat should be brushed daily with a soft bristle brush. Bathe monthly.

      • Max Weight:  6 lbs
      • Max Height:   9 in
      • Life span: 15 years or more

      8. Corgi (Pembroke Welsh)

      Corgi

      Image Reference

      Characteristics:

      A lovely, obedient, high energy dog, highly intelligent, and good with children. You must have a determined, consistent loving approach, showing firm, but calm leadership. Will do well in an apartment. The Corgi is a good watchdog, but does bark a lot. They tend to gain weight easily. They shed their hair twice a month.

      Grooming & Care:

      Comb and brush hair with a firm bristle brush and bathe only when necessary.

      Do not overfeed. They require daily, long walks.

      • Max Weight: 24 to 31 lbs.
      • Max Height:  10 to 12 in.
      • Life Span:  12 to 15 years

      9. French Bulldog

      French Bulldog

      Image Reference

      Characteristics:

      A pleasant, easy-care companion who is playful, alert and affectionate. They are enthusiastic, lively but not loud or yappy.  Bright, easygoing, and “a clown”. They get along with everyone and all other pets. Do well in apartments.

      Grooming & Care:

      Very little grooming needed, regular brushings will do. They are an average shedder.

      They need a daily walk, but be mindful of the weather as they do not tolerate temperature extremes.

      • Max Weight:  22 to 28 lbs.
      • Max Height:  12 in.
      • Life Span:  10-12 yrs.

      10. Havanese

      Havanese

      Image Reference

      Characteristics:

      Very affectionate, playful, high intelligence, cheerful, and get along well with everybody and other pets. Owner must be calm, yet possess an air of natural authority. Good guard dog but does not bark a lot. They live for your every word and gesture.

      Good for apartment life but are very active indoors. Little to no shedding. Good for allergy sufferers.

      Grooming & Care:

      Their coat can be clipped short for easier care. Otherwise, their coat needs to be thoroughly brushed and combed twice a week.

      They need daily walks.

      • Max Weight: 13 lbs.
      • Max Height:  11 in.
      • Life Span: 15 yrs.

      11. Lhasa Apso

      Lhasa Apso

      Image Reference

      Characteristics:

      A hardy dog with a friendly, assertive manner. Intelligent, lively, devoted and affectionate with their masters. Keen sense of hearing making good watchdogs. Not good with strangers and children. They shed very little. Good in apartments.

      Grooming & Care:

      No trimming needed, but should be brushed about once a day to prevent their coats from matting. Dry shampoo is necessary.

      Needs a daily walk and enjoys romping in a yard or park.

      • Max Weight:  15 lbs.
      • Max Height:  11 in.
      • Life Span: 15 to 18 years

      12. Maltese

      Maltese

      Image Reference

      Characteristics:

      A spirited, lively, playful, gentle, loving, devoted, highly intelligent dog that is good at learning tricks. Plays well with other pets. You must be the boss with this breed or they will take over the house. They shed very little and are good for allergy sufferers.

      Grooming & Care:

      Daily combing and brushing of the long coat is important, but be gentle, as the coat is very soft. Bathe or dry shampoo regularly. Important to keep this dog dry.

      They love to play outdoors and need a daily walk.

      • Max Weight:  9 lbs.
      • Max Height:  10 in.
      • Life Span: 15 yrs.

      13. Papillion (Continental Toy Spaniel)

      Papillion

      Image Reference

      Characteristics:

      Friendly, intelligent, tough, playful, lively, amusing, charming, and obedient. They are not yappers but do bark to protect their property.

      Grooming & Care:

      Daily combing and brushing is important. They are clean and odorless dogs.  Bathe or dry shampoo as necessary. Average shedders. Their coats do not mat or tangle.

      Love to romp outside. It calms them to be sufficiently exercised.

      • Max Weight:  10 lbs.
      • Max Height: 11 in.
      • Life Span:  Up to 16 yrs.

      14. Pomeranian (toy-sized)

      Running Pomeranian

      Image Reference

      Characteristics:

      They are a proud, lively little dog. Intelligent, eager to learn, very loyal, docile and affectionate.  Good watchdogs. They are also alert, inquisitive and active. They need a firm, gentle hand. They must know you’re the boss.  The soft cottony undercoat sheds once or twice a year.

      Grooming & Care:

      Their long, double coat should be brushed frequently. Dry shampoo when necessary.

      Daily walks needed and romping in a yard or the park.

      • Max Weight:  7 lbs.
      • Max Height: 12 in.
      • Life Span: 15 yrs.

      15. Poodle (Toy-sized)

      Poodle

      Image Reference

      Characteristics:

      Intelligent, highly responsive, easy to train, sweet, cheerful, perky, lively and loves people. They are also delightful, amusing and keen. Good watchdogs and as with some of the other smart breeds on this list, you need to be the boss or trouble can ensue. You need to watch them closely around children if they do not have good leadership skills. They do not shed. Good for allergy sufferers.

      Grooming & Care:

      Extensive grooming if you want to show the dog. They must be bathed regularly and clipped every six to eight weeks. Requires daily walks.

      • Max Weight: 9 lbs.
      • Max Height: 9 lbs.
      • Life Span:  12 to 15 yrs.

      16. Pug

      Pug

      Image Reference

      Characteristics:

      The pug is animated, peppy, spirited, loyal, loving, affectionate, playful, lively and has a keen happy-go-lucky attitude. They can be a bit willful, so you need to be the boss.  They do well in apartments. This breed is an above average shedder.

      Grooming & Care:

      Pugs are easy to groom due to being shorthaired. Brush and comb with a firm bristle brush and shampoo only when necessary. The crease on their face must be cleaned regularly.

      They love energetic games. Daily walks needed, but cannot tolerate hot or cold weather and should be kept indoors at a comfortable temperature as they catch cold easily.  

      • Max Weight:  20 lbs.
      • Max Height: 14 in.
      • Life Span: 12 to 15 yrs.

      17. Shih Tzu

      Shih Tzu

      Image Reference

      Characteristics

      They are an alert, lively, happy and hardy dog. They make an good watchdog. They are courageous, clever, spunky and playful. They like to be with people and generally do well with other pets. Thrives if you are the boss. It sheds little to none and therefore good for allergy sufferers.

      Grooming & Care:

      They require a good daily grooming with a bristle brush. A topknot is needed to keep the hair out of their eyes.

      Needs a daily walk and a good romp in the yard or park.

      • Max Weight:  16 lbs.
      • Max Height: 11 in.
      • Life Span: 15 yrs. or more

      18. Yorkshire Terrier

      Yorkshire Terrier

      Image Reference

      Characteristics

      These dogs tend to overestimate their size. They love adventure, are highly energetic, brave, loyal and clever. They are affectionate with their masters but don’t really like strangers or other pets.  Easy to train if you take the boss role. They shed little or none.

      Grooming & Care:

      Regular Grooming is needed. They need daily to weekly combing and brushing if coat is clipped. A topknot is needed to keep their hair out of their eyes. If you chose to leave their coat long, it will need hours of grooming.  Require a daily walk and tend to act restless without enough activity.

      • Max Weight:  7 lbs.
      • Max Height: 7 in.
      • Life Span: 12 to 15 yrs.

      Best Dog Breeds for Specific Needs

      Are you looking for a dog that can meet particular needs? Maybe you live in an apartment, nursing home, or looking for a dog that can calm your anxiety? Certain dogs have different “skill set” and perform some tasks better than others.  This is always important to consider

      Best Companion Dogs:

      If you’re looking for a dependable friend who’s always there when you need them, consider these breeds known for being excellent companions.

      • Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
      • French Bulldog
      • Poodle
      • Maltese
      • Pembroke Welsh Corgi

      Most Loyal Dog Breeds:

      If loyalty is a priority in your new companion, a wise choice would come from these breeds recognized for their devotion to stick by you through thick and thin.
      • Beagle
      • Chihuahua
      • Bolognese
      • Boston Terrier
      • Shih Tzu

      Best Therapy Dogs:

      Some breeds have innate abilities for being sensitive to special conditions. If you’re dealing with chronic illness, depression or even a mild disability, you should carefully study these breeds regarded for providing natural affection and comfort. These dogs are comfortable around anyone and enjoy lots of interaction. 
      • Beagle
      • Bichon Frise
      • Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
      • Chihuahua
      • French Bulldog
      • Pembroke Welsh Corgi
      • Pug

        Tip:
        The American Kennel Club has a training program to assist in certifying your dog as a therapy dog. For detailed information regarding Therapy Dog Certification, click here: American Kennel Club Canine Good Citizen Program

        Best Dog Breeds for Anxiety:

        If you have mild anxiety issues, these dogs have a joyful, happy and affectionate the types of personalities to help ease your stress.
        If you suffer from extreme anxiety, you could benefit from having a dog, but it’s important that you talk to your medical professional as you will need their input to qualify for a trained service dog. 
        • Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
        • Poodle
        • Pug
        • Yorkshire Terrier

          Best Dogs for Assisted Living:

          If you are currently residing in an assisted living facility, there may be restrictions on the type of dog you can own.  Most assisted living centers only allow certain breeds that work well in this type of environment.
          • Beagle
          • Boston Terrier
          • Chihuahua
          • Cocker Spaniel
          • Poodle
          • Pug
          • Shih Tzu

          What to Consider when Deciding

          There are many things to consider when deciding on the best breed.  It's not only the dog's characteristics you need to worry about, but the owner's too.

          Current Health & Activity Level:

          With all the benefits of having a furry friend, it is important to realize that even the easiest dog to care for is going to add new responsibilities. It is wise to evaluate whether owners health is sufficient enough to meet the dog’s needs. Additionally, if you’re physically limited or unable to get much activity, it may be difficult for you to care for a puppy or an extremely active dog.

          Daily Schedule:

          If you travel often or are required to leave your home for long periods of time, you will need to consider the cost and locating a pet sitter or the feasibility of taking your new friend with you.

          Cost:

          Beyond the cost for adoption, you will need financial resources for grooming, supplies, food and possible veterinary costs.    

          Where to Find the Best Dogs for Seniors

          The two most common ways people purchase dogs are through adoption or from breeders. Ultimately, the decision is up to you; however, when purchasing a dog for seniors, there may be some reasons to choose one method over the other.

          Adopting:

          The cost of adoption varies throughout the country and from shelter to shelter. The age and size of the dog will also be a factor in how much you will pay.

          Additional fees may include:

        • Vaccinations
        • Spay or neutering
        • Dog license
        • GPS microchip

        • You will also need to buy supplies for your dog. Make sure to ask questions about your dog’s needs.

          Check out the resources below to start your research!

          Paws for Seniors

          Pet Finder

          Anti-Cruelty Society’s Pets

          Purina Pets for Seniors

          Tip:
          Don’t forget to look into your local Animal Rescue League, Human Society, and ASPCA. Your local vet may also have some great recommendations.

          Buying from a Breeder:

          Sometimes breeders get a bad rep, but not all are created equal. Special needs or service dogs, as well as strong bloodline pure breed dogs, are usually only available through breeders. Breeders have had their share of issues in the past, so do your homework to be confident that you are dealing with a quality breeder. You’ll find that these dogs are a bit more pricey.

          Breeder Red Flags:

          1.         Dogs that have not been socialized.
          2.         Dogs that have not seen a vet.
          3.         Breeders who are reluctant to give you references.
          4.         Breeders that breed more than one breed of dog.
          5.         Breeders who won’t allow you to see their facility.
          6.         Facilities that look like puppy mills.
          7.         Dogs that appear dirty or smell/living in poor conditions.
          8.         Breeders that won’t give you a guarantee.
          9.         Breeders that won’t give you a health certificate.
          10.         Breeders that sell to pet stores.

          Bringing Home Your New Best Friend

          Now, you are well on your way to bringing home that perfect, loyal, 4 legged furry companion that will be sure to enrich your life!

          Just don’t forget to consider:

        • The characteristics of the dog
        • What you want and need in a dog
        • Your health and limitations
        • Where you live
        • Your lifestyle
        • The costs involved

        • Now go find that special dog!

          Jessica Hegg
          Jessica Hegg


          4 Responses

          Robert
          Robert

          April 09, 2017

          Had a Beagle in my seventies and was pulled all over town by him. He never stopped eating till he broke into the pantry and committed suicide doing what he loved most. Never again!

          Kendall
          Kendall

          April 05, 2017

          I had a beagle. I was shocked when I saw it was on this list for Seniors! I loved my dog, but it took constant watching from me. I am now 74 and have a miniature poodle mix. I love her being on my lap or just sharing the recliner with me. We have just worked up to a 1/2 mile walk each day. Now we need to find good places to turn back for those days when we can’t quite make the whole route.
          My beagle found every conceivable way to escape from our fenced yard. She learned how to climb out the one un-screened wind

          Sue
          Sue

          April 05, 2017

          Beagles can be VERY stubborn.They need constant firm attention.

          Melissa McGuire
          Melissa McGuire

          April 05, 2017

          There were a lot of postings about beagles. My first dog was a beagle and OMG let me tell you the amount of energy she had! Would not be good for seniors! She is 12 now and more mellow but I’m in a wheelchair and had to learn a lot! They are very intelligent but very stubborn.

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