12 Best Dog Breeds for Senior Citizens

Senior Dog

Arnthor Aevarsson / Getty

If you're an older adult interested in getting a dog, age alone should not be a factor that should prevent you from dog ownership. However, factors related to your health and lifestyle can affect your ability to care for a dog properly. With so many dogs out there, you can find the type of dog that best fits your lifestyle and abilities, regardless of your age. As with any age dog owner, you need to make sure you can meet your dog's needs like exercise, grooming, and health care. Certain dog breeds are ideal for a more relaxed lifestyle. Also, keep in mind that dogs can live from 10 to 15 years; factor their lifespan in your plans.

Tip

Dog ownership has many health and emotional benefits. Dog companionship has been known to reduce stress and lower blood pressure. Having a dog may even improve or prevent depression and anxiety. Plus, exercising with your dog is a great way to stay active. 

Breed Characteristics

The best dog breeds for seniors have moderate energy levels, and most are smaller. A senior citizen who has moved to smaller living quarters in a retirement community usually does not have ample space for a larger, more energetic pup. Look at breeds that make great companions and adapt well to the lifestyles of their owners. Larger dogs like Rottweilers or herding dogs like Briards can be a falling hazard if they herd or nudge their humans.

Here are the 12 best dogs recommended for seniors for their golden years.

illustration of the best dog breeds for seniors

The Spruce

  • 01 of 12

    Bichon Frise

    A Bichon Frise

    The Spruce / Kevin Norris 

    The fluffy little bichon frise is a joyful and affectionate dog that makes an excellent companion. With an average weight of about 7 to 12 pounds, most people can handle this small breed easily. Bichons are also relatively simple to train. The bichon will need to be groomed periodically but is otherwise reasonably low maintenance. Many bichon owners take their dogs to a professional groomer every month or two. Moderate daily exercise is usually enough to keep the bichon healthy and happy as long as it has companionship.

    Breed Overview

    Group: Non-sporting (AKC)

    Height: 9 to 12 inches

    Weight: 7 to 12 pounds

    Coat and Color: Fluffy and curly white hair (may have traces of apricot, buff, or cream), resembling a cotton ball or powder puff

    Life Expectancy: 14 to 15 years

  • 02 of 12

    Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

    King Charles Spaniel looking up, close-up

    Martin Rogers / Getty Images

    The Cavalier is a beloved puppy-like spaniel that is affectionate and adaptable. This small dog is often happiest when snuggling with its owner. This breed typically weighs about 11 to 18 pounds and is easy to handle and train. The Cavalier has some grooming needs, such as regular hair brushing, ear cleaning, and possibly the occasional trip to a groomer. Overall, Cavaliers are favored among those who love small companion dogs that are well-suited for apartment living.

    Breed Overview

    Group: Toy (AKC)

    Height: 12 to 13 inches

    Weight: 13 to 18 pounds

    Coat and Color: Medium-length silky, wavy coat; adults have feathering on their ears, chest, legs, feet, and tail; four-color varieties including tricolor, blenheim, ruby, and black and tan

    Life Expectancy: 12 to 15 years

  • 03 of 12

    French Bulldog

    A French Bulldog

    The Spruce / Kevin Norris

    It's almost impossible to be sad around the happy Frenchie. French bulldogs are among the most cheerful of all dog breeds. They are compact, muscular, and active dogs. However, at about 19 to 28 pounds, they are still very manageable. Although they have a good deal of energy, they tend to lack endurance. Moderate daily exercise is usually adequate for this breed. Their grooming needs are relatively ​minimal, but be aware of health concerns like brachycephalic syndrome and various skin issues.

    Breed Overview

    Group: Non-sporting (AKC)

    Height: 11 to 13 inches

    Weight: 19 to 28 pounds

    Coat and Color: Short, smooth coat in brindle, fawn, white, or combination of brindle and white or fawn and white

    Life Expectancy: 10 to 12 years

  • 04 of 12

    Greyhound

    A Greyhound

    The Spruce / Kevin Norris

    How can a racing dog be good for older adults? You may be surprised to learn that greyhounds are not the high-energy dogs many think they are. Although greyhounds will enjoy daily walks and the occasional chance to run, most tend to be couch potatoes that enjoy loafing around with their owners. They are usually very responsive to training and easy to handle, even though most weigh about 60 to 80 pounds. If you like larger dogs but worry about handling one, the greyhound is a breed to consider.

    Breed Overview

    Group: Hound (AKC)

    Height: 25 to 30 inches

    Weight: 60 to 80 pounds

    Coat and Color: Short, smooth coat in a variety of colors including black, blue, fawn, red, white, and various shades of brindle, or a combination of any of these colors

    Life Expectancy: 10 to 13 years

    Continue to 5 of 12 below.
  • 05 of 12

    Maltese

    Maltese dog

    John Mazzei / Getty Images

    Much like the bichon, a Maltese ​is the quintessential little white lap dog. This breed enjoys spending time in its owner's lap and going on short, easy walks. Its grooming needs are also like the bichon. It will need regular trips to a professional groomer to keep the breed maintained. The Maltese is also reasonably easy to train. At a weight of only 4 to 7 pounds, this dog is easy to handle. You can even carry it around in your bag.

    Breed Overview

    Group: Toy (AKC)

    Height: 8 to 10 inches

    Weight: 4 to 7 pounds

    Coat and Color: Dark, alert eyes are shrouded by white fur that is naturally long and silky; single-layer coat without an undercoat

    Life Expectancy: 12 to 15 years

  • 06 of 12

    Pembroke Welsh Corgi

    A Pembroke Welsh Corgi

    The Spruce / Kevin Norris

    If you want a small to medium dog that makes a great companion, the corgi might be for you. Weighing 24 to 30 pounds, this breed is still small enough for most people to handle. Corgis are smart and fairly easy to train. They are also quite adorable with those short little legs. A herding dog by nature, corgis need routine exercise, but daily walks are sufficient. The corgi has minimal grooming needs—a great convenience. 

    Breed Overview

    Group: Herding (AKC)

    Height: 10 to 12 inches

    Weight: 24 to 30 pounds

    Coat and Color: Medium length double coat in black and tan, red, sable, or fawn (all colors are typically seen with white markings)

    Life Expectancy: 12 to 13 years

  • 07 of 12

    Pomeranian

    Pomeranian

    Andrew Fladeboe / Getty Images

    If you're leaning toward a tiny dog, a 3- to 7-pound Pom is another easy-to-handle pooch that you can carry in your bag. This breed is an affectionate and happy companion. Your Pom will like snoozing in your lap and playing with toys. Most of all, this breed will enjoy your companionship.

    Breed Overview

    Group: Toy (AKC)

    Height: 6 to 7 inches

    Weight: 3 to 7 pounds

    Coat and Color: Long, double coat that comes in many colors, though the most common are red, orange, cream, sable, black, brown, and blue

    Life Expectancy: 12 to 16 years

  • 08 of 12

    Poodle

    Poodles by a mirror

    Birgid Allig / Getty Images

    The poodle is one of the smartest dogs and also among the most popular of all dog breeds. Best of all, there are three sizes: tiny toy poodle, small miniature poodle, or larger standard poodle. Poodles are loyal, affectionate companions. Poodles learn fast and adapt well to all kinds of households. Basic daily walks are enough for most poodles. They need to be professionally groomed every month or two but otherwise fairly easy to care for.

    Breed Overview

    Group: Non-sporting (AKC)

    Height: Standard: 15 inches; Miniature: 10 to 15 inches; Toy: 10 inches and under

    Weight: Standard: 45 to 70 pounds; Miniature: 15 to 18 pounds; Toy: 5 to 9 pounds

    Coat and Color: Curly, dense single-layer coats that may be one of many solid colors, including white, black, grey, brown, and apricot

    Life Expectancy: 10 to 18 years

    Continue to 9 of 12 below.
  • 09 of 12

    Shih Tzu

    A Shih Tzu puppy

    The Spruce / Kevin Norris

    The shih tzu is another popular small dog. Ranging in weight from 9 to 16 pounds, the breed is easy to handle. Though the shih tzu has a bit of a stubborn streak, most can be trained without too much trouble. Daily walks and periodic grooming are both important for this breed. The shih tzu is somewhat prone to skin issues and brachycephalic syndrome but less than the French bulldog.

    Breed Overview

    Group: Toy (AKC)

    Height: 8 to 11 inches

    Weight: 9 to 16 pounds

    Coat and Color: Long double coat in nearly any color, most commonly in black, white, blue, gold, liver, or combinations

    Life Expectancy: 10 to 16 years

  • 10 of 12

    West Highland White Terrier

    West Highland white terrier

    Celso Mollo Photography / Getty Images

    Westies make excellent companions and are very easy to handle. At 13 to 20 pounds, the breed is small and not as fragile as the Pomeranian or Maltese. The Westie requires some grooming but not as often as other dogs on this list. Overall, the Westie is friendly and relatively low-maintenance. 

    Breed Overview

    Group: Terrier (AKC)

    Height: 10 to 11 inches

    Weight: 13 to 20 pounds

    Coat and Color: White, with a rough, medium-length double coat, black eyes, and nose

    Life Expectancy: 13 to 15 years

  • 11 of 12

    Pug

    pug

    Anastasiia Shavshyna / Getty Images

    Pugs love food. If you are a grandparent that likes to keep feeding your grandchildren to the point they can't move anymore, a pug might not be a good fit. They will not stop eating and are prone to becoming overweight; overeating can lead to health problems for this pup. Overall, this breed matches its owner's energy level well. It's also an intensely loving breed; it's content to sit in your lap or give you kisses if you let them.

    Breed Overview

    Group: Toy (AKC)

    Height: 10 to 13 inches

    Weight: 14 to 18 pounds

    Coat and Color: Smooth, short double coat in fawn or black

    Life Expectancy: 13 to 15 years

  • 12 of 12

    Miniature Schnauzer

    Miniature schnauzer

    Peden + Munk / Getty Images

    Mini schnauzers are a lower maintenance type of dog. They shed very little and do not require a lot of grooming. Their smaller, compact size makes them easier to tote around town and take on walks. They do have a longer lifespan than most, living upwards of 12 years. They are a more energetic breed that likes to chase or retrieve a ball. This breed is a good match for a more active senior.

    Breed Overview

    Group: Terrier

    Height: 12 to 14 inches

    Weight: 11 to 19 pounds

    Coat and Color: Double coat with wiry outer coat being wiry and soft undercoat; common color combinations: salt and pepper, black and silver, and solid black

    Life Expectancy: 12 to 15 years

Breeds to Avoid

If you lead an especially active lifestyle and can provide plenty of exercise for a dog, then you might be OK with a high-energy dog like a border collie or husky. But, if you are concerned about being able to keep up with an energetic dog as time goes by, you may want to choose a calmer, loungy breed. If you have health concerns that make it difficult to handle a very large dog, then you may be better off with a small dog

Also, many dogs have a 10-plus lifespan. Most dogs are considered seniors when they reach age 7, but not all of them slow down. Do you think you will be able to care for a very active dog for the next decade? Consider a middle-aged or senior dog to avoid the neediness of a puppy or adolescent dog.