15 of the Absolute Best Dog Breeds for Seniors and Retirees Looking for a Furry Best Friend
On our curated list of best dogs for seniors, you'll find breeds of all shapes and sizes. When it comes to these companion dogs, there isn't a one-size-fits-all rule, even as folks age.
The benefits of seniors and retirees interacting with dogs are incredible—for both parties. Take it from former vet technician Cat McAuliffe, who founded and currently serves as coordinator of the Iowa Animal Rescue League's TheraPets program.
McAuliffe and her team of volunteers and therapy dogs regularly visit senior living facilities in order to make people smile around the Des Moines metro. And the program hits a personal chord for McAuliffe, who watched first-hand how interacting with a therapy dog made her ill mother light up despite being hospitalized during her later years.
"My mom was a nurse for many, many years, but she was miserable as a patient in the hospital," McAuliffe remembered. "One day a therapy dog came into her hospital room ... and the way she lit up and was so happy for days ... that really affected me in a positive way."
For folks like our grandmas and grandpas, pet ownership has many researched benefits—including decreasing feelings of loneliness and the establishment of a routine, according to Jim Dobies, DVM, of UrgentVet.com. This is crucial, as 40 percent of individuals 65 or older experience isolation on a regular basis. Most dogs, if not all, require some form of exercise and give owners a great excuse to get out of the house, which can be harder to do after retirement.
Whether you're looking for a furry friend to go for walks to the park with post-retirement, or a cuddly buddy to curl up with on the couch for movie marathons—here are some good dogs for seniors to consider adopting.
Best Small Dogs for Seniors
The French bulldog is king of the squishable faces, not to mention his ability to make a few wrinkles look extra adorable.
This small pooch weighs in between 16-28 pounds and was bred to be a companion for his people. These pooches are food-motivated and would love to test a few dog-friendly recipes together with you in the kitchen—bonus points if you use those homemade dog treats to teach him to sit and stay! They'd prefer snacks to a jog or trip to the beach any day, but be careful not to let them get too overweight, as they can be prone to obesity which can affect their overall health. Frenchies do crave attention though, so you'll want to make sure to spend several hours of quality bonding time with them each day.
Shih tzus, much like the other toy breeds on this list, love attention and can frequently be found sitting on the nearest lap. Plus, they're absolutely gorgeous, with silky coats that often sweep the floor. It's no wonder that they've been a favorite for hundreds of years (literally).
Shih tzus are perfect for retirees or seniors who have the time, energy, and resources needed for frequent trips to the doggie spa. If you're up for at-home grooming sessions, you might even feel like having a shih tzu (and all their haircut needs) is similar to running a mini spa at home, as those luscious locks require regular trims to stay healthy.
While their "little lion" nickname has followed them around, a more accurate description of their temperament is "little baby." These regal misses and misters often love to be cuddled, but not because they're spoiled. They just love to be as close to you as possible!
If you're looking for a cuddle bug to hang with while you catch up on your Sunday morning paper, the bichon frise is a snuggly puff ball for sure. She has a goofy personality that is perfect for anyone looking for an entertaining companion who also loves to get comfy on the couch for a movie night with you.
Bichon frises are also amazing with kids, meaning that inviting the grandkids over isn't any issue. And since they're so small downsizing to a smaller chunk of real estate shouldn't cause this little floof any trouble.
Does your spouse complain that you snore? Are you looking for someone else you can blame it on? If so, a pug might be your scapegoat and your new best friend. These brachycephalic dogs may be a little on the snort-y side, but they are still one of the most endearing dogs you could ever own.
Pugs are also easy to entertain and do well in small spaces. While we wouldn't recommend long stints in the heat, they'd fit right in at your beach condo size-wise.
When it comes to grooming, most pugs sport a black or tan double coat, meaning that they are frequent shedders. If you're allergic to dogs, this breed may not be for you, but the good news is that pugs don't require frequent trips to the groomer. Just stick them in a bath a few times a month, wipe their wrinkles each morning, and you should be good!
If you're looking to fill your home with spunk, then the miniature schnauzer is a top contender. Equipped with a charming beard and mustache to boot, there are tons of cute schnauzer haircuts to ask your groomer to try to keep them looking adorable. These little guys also love to use their voice, so you'll never have to worry about a doorbell again.
Miniature schnauzers crave mental exercise (you could probably even teach them how to solve sudoku or the weekly crossword if you had the necessary patience). Arm yourself with a bag of training treats, a doggie puzzle for some brain stimulation, and you're ready to take on the world with your new miniature best friend.
This doodle dog breed is good for first-time dog owners, animal lovers, and everyone in between. The Maltipoo is a great companion for folks looking for a lap dog, perfect for soaking in all that retirement freedom with. All they need is a spot on the couch and a daily brush to keep their coat from tangles.
While they may be content to cozy up with you, apartment dwellers should take note: Maltipoos are known to be alert barkers, meaning they'll let you know when they hear something in the hallway (or at the door, walking by ... you get the point). This might be a good fit for folks who aren't used to being home alone and would like a pupper to "talk" to.
Now that you're retired, maybe you're wanting to let your eccentric side show a little more. Or maybe you're looking for a pup that won't irritate your allergies. In either case, the Chinese crested is an interesting dog who is no stranger to turning heads.
While the Chinese crested might not be at the top of the cutest dog list, all dogs are adorable in their own way. This breed is either hairless or tufts of hair here and there known as "powderpuff." Since both of these can appear in the same litter, it's really up to you which kind you want!
Besides grooming (for the ones with hair, anyway), these dogs are pretty low-key. They don't require a lot of exercise and are infrequent barkers. Just make sure to warn the grandkids about your new companion. She is small and needs protection from rambunctious play!
The greyhound, but in Italian. Just kidding. The Italian greyhound might be our favorite breed on this list; don't tell the others. Why? Well, they're everything we love about greyhounds but in a mini version! (Though despite how similar they are in stature and name, they're not actually a miniature version of the larger greyhound ... they're their own distinct breed.)
Besides their smaller size, another big difference between Italian greyhounds and greyhounds personalities. These dogs love company and are quite emotional about it. Italian greyhounds are a little more anxious than their greyhound counterparts, so these dogs are perfect for retirees and seniors that are at home most of the time who can give them lots of love and attention. If you can't commit to becoming a full-time homebody, your Italian greyhound might enjoy having a second canine companion around.
Cavapoo and Cockapoo
The Cavapoo and cockapoo are two of the most popular crossbreeds in the U.S. right now because they inherit all of the good genes of their poodle and spaniel parents. Low-shedding coat? Check. Loyal personality? Check. Floppy ears? Check. Both breeds come in many different colors and are just WAITING for you to play with them!
Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel was made to love on their owners. Literally, these cuties were originally bred to be lapdogs. Not much has changed as the years have gone on, either.
One of the best personality features of this spaniel dog is that they tend to like everyone, even strangers, meaning it won't be long until your new pup has made your lap their favorite place to reside.
Their affinity for strangers also generally makes taking them to the vet a breeze. They are just happy to be where you are.
Medium and Large Dog Breeds Well-Suited for Seniors
Pembroke Welsh Corgi
The Pembroke Welsh corgi is an über popular breed who is just as good at nuzzling up beside grandchildren as they are catching a stray mouse. If you live alone and are looking for a pup with a pleasant demeanor who loves to play games, this corgi will meet your expectations.
Corgis are a bit more prone to weight gain than other breeds, meaning that exercise is still a must, despite what you may gather from their appearance. Because they are a little more plump, they are tolerant of cold weather, perfect for individuals who haven't made the jump to "snowbird" status. Just pay mind that a double coat means more shedding! But you'll forget about the "hassle" once they hit you with their charming smile.
Did someone say nap time? Those sleepy Basset hound eyes may say one thing, but don't be fooled: These large sausages were actually originally bred for endurance, meaning that while they look adorable while lounging on your staircase, they also love to trot and would appreciate a long, daily walk.
Basset hounds are also famous for hunting in packs, so if you already have a dog or two that enjoy being around other dogs, they will fit right in and make fast friends. Plus, their droopy faces are bound to make you smile.
If you're not a fast walker and plan to hang out at home with your new best friend, then the basset hound would love your consideration.
The greyhound is one of the larger dogs on our list, but don't let their lanky frame fool you. Greyhounds are nicknamed the 40mph couch potatoes and love lounging around as much as they appreciate a long walk.
These long, often brindled babies are gentle giants and perfect for seniors who have a fenced backyard, good for a daily stretch of the legs. The perfect day for a greyhound? A walk followed by lounging around with their owner. Think you can handle that? We know you can.
If there's one thing a golden retriever can't go without, it's a task. That's why goldens make great pets for seniors or retirees that are looking for new activities to replace work.
Golden retrievers also make great walking companions, especially because they need at least an hour of exercise a day. While that may seem daunting, that hour can easily be split up into 15- or 30-minute chunks and will give you a chance to stay active, too. And if you're not up for a walk, goldens also love to swim, so you can take them into the lake for water aerobics.
Goldens also love to please, which makes training them a treat (pun intended). Plus, they're sooo fluffy!
If you were hoping to see another dog on this list as confirmation before adopting, fear not—there are plenty of pups who make great pets for seniors, not just the ones mentioned here. "All dogs are individuals," McAuliffe says, so when it comes to selecting the right dog for seniors, breed shouldn't be the deciding factor. And remember—not every dog of a particular breed is going to have the same temperament or personality. Just like humans, each pooch is an individual!