The Best Dog Breeds for Older Adults

By Jake SchroederLast Updated Apr 18, 2020 9:28:47 PM ET
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Older adults living alone sometimes have limited interaction with other people. If you’re a senior who could benefit from some canine companionship, the key is to find a breed that matches your personality and lifestyle.

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Start by reviewing the 30 best dog breeds for older adults. No matter what your daily life is like, you can find the pooch that is perfect for you!

The Family-Friendly Beagle

A solidly mid-sized breed, the beagle has a short coat and requires relatively little grooming, although it does shed. Even better? Beagles are great family dogs that will play nicely with both you and the grandkids.

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Photo Courtesy: Skeeze/Pixabay

They do require a fair amount of exercise, so they are a better choice for seniors who are still physically active. They love to talk long walks or just chase a ball (or a squirrel) in the backyard.

The Super-Affectionate Golden Retriever

Ask the owner of a golden retriever what they like most about their dog, and you won't be able to shut them up. There's just so much to love! Goldens are known for being super-friendly, and they make great pets for children and seniors alike.

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Although they are fairly large (up to 75 pounds!), they are intelligent and easy to train. In fact, the combination of an eager-to-please attitude and unwavering loyalty also makes them a great choice for providing assistance to the disabled.

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Boston Terrier: The Perfect Apartment Dog

Boston terriers have long been a favorite of seniors everywhere. Terriers are on the smaller side and are fairly easy to manage, making them an excellent choice for an apartment or senior-living community.

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Like all terriers, Bostons have a reputation for being hyper, but they also have a very gentle and caring nature. They are known for being highly intuitive companions that "gel" with their owners' personalities, so if you're a calm, mellow type, this dog will happily join you for a nap on the couch.

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The Sassy Scottish Terrier

Like Boston terriers, the Scottish terrier is a great choice for seniors. The breed is very sensitive to praise and blame and loves to keep owners happy — although some can be a bit stubborn at times. As a low shedding breed, they don't require a lot of daily grooming.

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One possible downside: Scotties were bred for hunting rodents back in the day, and they still possess that killer instinct. If you have a home with a yard, get ready for your buddy to dig lots of holes in his pursuit of yucky vermin.

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The Pretty Havanese

As the name suggests, the Havanese is a native of Cuba. At around 10 to 15 pounds, it’s a small — but super tough — dog that is known for being playful, friendly and adaptable. Despite their diminutive frame, these dogs will happily roughhouse with your grandchildren (or you!).

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Of course, one of the first things you'll notice about a Havanese is its gorgeous coat. If you choose this breed as a companion, you need to be up for daily brushing and grooming. In addition, these dogs don't like to be alone, so they're not ideal companions if you leave the house often.

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The Sturdy Welsh Terrier

The terrier group makes perfect companions for the elderly, and this little guy is no different. In fact, he's one of the better choices, as he tends to be a little sturdier and less excitable than most other breeds in his family.

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Welsh terriers are playful and fun, and they do like to get regular exercise, so they're a great companion if you take regular walks or have grandchildren that are eager to play. As a hunting dog, they are always alert and aware of their surroundings.

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Lhasa Apso: The Perfect Companion

Lhasa Apso were originally trained as guard dogs, and they're also known for making excellent companions. A highly attentive and intelligent breed, they are perfect for seniors who enjoy affectionate pets.

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Photo Courtesy: Mabel Amber/Pixabay

Because of the small size, this breed doesn't require a ton of exercise and tends to live a really long time. It should be noted, however, that because of their history as guard dogs, they have a tendency to bark — a lot.

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Labrador Retriever: The Perennial Favorite

The Labrador retriever routinely pops up on the AKC's list of most popular dog breeds. Although some people may think the large, playful breed wouldn't be appropriate for an older adult, they would be wrong. In fact, labs are ideal companions for seniors due to their high intelligence and level of trainability.

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It's true they have a lot of energy and love to run, but if you have a fenced-in yard and are open to frequent games of fetch, you'll be fine. Most of the time, these dogs are just as happy to chill out on the sofa watching a movie as they are to go on a walk.

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The Cheerful Bichon Frise

You know that little white dog that looks exactly like a powder puff? It’s not a tiny poodle; it’s a Bichon Frise. These small, adorable pups are highly popular among the senior crowd. Like most lap-sized dogs, they are happy to lounge around, but they also enjoy playtime and can even get a bit goofy.

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Although this is a long-haired breed, the Bichon Frise rarely sheds, making them ideal for allergy sufferers. These dogs love having company throughout the day, and will fare well if they have other animal companions to hang out with until their owners come home.

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The Squish-Faced Pug

Pugs have a long history of being well loved in pop culture. The breed has been featured in several movies — remember Frank, the talking pug, in Men in Black? — and is often spotted around Hollywood as a celebrity companion.

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Photo Courtesy: Toni Berger/Pixabay

Luckily, these cute little guys do just as well out of the spotlight. Pugs are very adaptive and eager to please. Although they are playful, they don't require a lot of exercise and are happy to just lounge around the house, cuddling with you.

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Poodle: The World's Smartest Dog?

Poodles are known for being super-duper smart. As such, they are quick learners and easily trained. If you want a breed that you can teach ALL the tricks, this is the one! Even better? They come in a range of sizes from the tiny teacup to the rather large standard, so there's a size for everyone.

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Surprisingly, poodles are a sporting breed, which means the larger your Poodle is, the more exercise it will need. As poodle owners everywhere will tell you, these guys have hair, not fur. No matter what you call it, they don't shed and are hypoallergenic — goodbye, allergies!

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The Sad-Faced Basset Hound

Aww! The sweet and sad little face of the basset hound just makes you want to give it a big hug. Luckily, these dogs aren’t as melancholy as they look. Bassets are actually giant goofballs who love playtime with adults and kids alike. Outside of playtime, they're known for being laid back and aren't bothered by much at all.

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In fact, they are terribly lazy dogs — but that makes them the ideal companion for someone who lives a sedentary lifestyle or has limited mobility. They sometimes require a bit of extra effort to train, but they are loyal, loving and eager to please.

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The Snuggly Shih Tzu

Do you love the look of toy breeds but don’t love the typical yapping? The Shih Tzu is a tiny little guy who is generally less demanding and less vocal than many of the other small breeds. Famous for their long, straight coats, which are admittedly gorgeous, these dogs do shed a lot and require frequent brushing.

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Although the Shih Tzu is small, it loves to play. Actual exercise doesn't require more than a quick romp around the yard. In addition, this breed is typically regarded as one of the friendliest breeds.

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The Tiny Yorkshire Terrier

The Yorkshire terrier is almost as famous for being tiny as it is for its personality. These dogs are so small, in fact, you could easily tuck one into your purse and take it with you for a day of shopping — Paris Hilton style!

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Also called Yorkies, these tiny pups are friendly toward their owners but can be reserved with others, so they might be better for a childless household. They train well and are highly intelligent but sometimes take a bit longer than normal to housebreak.

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Greyhound: More Than a Racing Dog

You might think a dog bred for racing is going to be full of energy and always on the go. In reality, greyhounds are known for being surprisingly chill. While they do require a lot of exercise and outdoor time, they also love to lounge around the house and watch TV when the exercise is done.

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If the need for exercise frightens you, don't worry. A fenced-in backyard is all you need. Greyhounds need to all-out sprint at least once every few days, but they're built to quickly burn through short bursts of energy. Once they get that quick run out of their system, they have no need or desire for a longer marathon.

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The Spunky Cairn Terrier

Have you ever seen The Wizard of Oz? If you know who Toto is, then you've seen a Cairn terrier. Small, cheerful and full of energy, these dogs are very typical members of the terrier family.

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These dogs are very adaptable and resilient, making them compatible with almost any living environment. They also require very little exercise, which makes them great for apartment lifestyles.

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The Playful Schnauzer

Like poodles, schnauzers come in a variety of sizes, from miniature (less than 20 pounds) to standard (up to 44 pounds). They are a sweet, playful breed that fits into many different households, from those with solitary occupants to those filled with visitors and children.

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Schnauzers can vary greatly in personality from dog to dog, but they are typically easy to train and eager to please. Considered a moderate-energy dog, they need daily walks and lots of exercise, but they're happy to lounge around the house the rest of the time.

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The Hairless Chinese Crested

Don't like pet hair all over your furniture? Then this is the dog for you! The hairless variety of the Chinese Crested breed is often thought of as an "ugly" dog, but in reality, it’s graceful, elegant and exotic-looking.

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These dogs are happy to live in small spaces, making them ideal for apartments. Just keep in mind that Chinese Cresteds are very high-spirited and make keen watch dogs. That means you'll have to keep the barking in check if you don't want to annoy the neighbors.

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The Wrinkly Shar-Pei

If you want a large dog that doesn't require a ton of maintenance, the Shar-Pei makes an excellent choice. These wrinkly dogs with somber expressions are easy to train and housebreak, and they don't mind being left alone for extended periods of time.

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Beware of one thing: Shar-Peis are known for disliking strangers and not being super-friendly with children. If you have frequent company or grandkids who might come visit, this is probably not the best breed for your home. If it's a watchdog you're after for your solitary lifestyle, you couldn't make a better choice.

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Dachshund: The "Hot Dog"

Dachshunds are a lot of things, and silly is definitely one of them. This breed is known for being comical, charming and curious. The thing they're most curious about, of course, is whatever's on your plate. Leave your food unattended for one minute, and it will quickly disappear.

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Although they make good house dogs, they do require daily exercise and are notorious chasers. Hard to believe with those short legs, right? In addition, they need a lot of attention and tend to become destructive — think chewing and incessant barking — when they don’t receive constant attention. These traits aren’t necessarily negative if you want a constant, loyal, mischievous companion.

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Bolognese: Not Just a Pasta Sauce

If the first thing that comes to mind when someone says the word "Bolognese" is pasta, you're not alone. Maybe you didn’t know it, but the Bolognese is also one of the smartest, easiest-to-train dogs out there.

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This breed is known for being devoted and attentive, making it a wonderful companion for seniors. In fact, these dogs get pretty upset if they don’t have companionship. Unfortunately, the Bolognese is a rather rare breed and can be difficult to find, which makes it one of the most expensive pets on this list.

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The Spunky West Highland White Terrier

Also called a Westie, the West Highland white terrier is closely related to the Cairn terrier (of The Wizard of Oz fame). The two share all the typical terrier traits: sturdy, spunky and bold with a bit of an ego. It also goes without saying that the Westie has a ton of energy.

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With all those fantastic traits going for them, these dogs are perfect for the senior adult who lives an active lifestyle. Just be wary of one thing: Your Westie will chase anything that moves, so make sure you keep him leashed and safely by your side whenever you leave the house.

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The Funny French Bulldog

French bulldogs may look dour and glum, but they're actually amiable, funny little companions who love to make you laugh. They're also known to shed and drool excessively, but they more than make up for those traits with cuteness.

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Frenchies are just as happy in an apartment as they are out in nature, and they enjoy laying on the couch just as much as they like chasing a ball. They are truly adaptable little creatures.

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Pembroke Welsh Corgi: Companion to a Queen

For decades, Queen Elizabeth II has been frequently photographed with one or more of her loyal Pembroke Welsh Corgis by her side. As an avid lover of the outdoors, the Queen wanted a dog that was bred to work on farms, and this short-legged cutie fit the bill.

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Corgis make great watchdogs, but they are still friendly with guests and typically like other dogs. It should be noted, however, that they tend to chase and nip at smaller pets, and they have a very serious tendency to bark. If you leave this spunky dog home alone, be prepared to come home to a mess!

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The Animated Pomeranian

Holy cuteness, Batman! Maybe there’s a touch of bias in play, but Pomeranians are just the sweetest, cutest, fluffiest little dogs out there — and they make great pets, to boot. At less than 7 pounds fully grown, the Pomeranian is one of the smallest breeds on the list, but it has a gigantic personality.

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They are also intelligent and inquisitive, so they're quick to learn and can make good watchdogs. Despite its small size, the breed does require daily exercise, and this nosy little guy will want to check out everything he sees. Poms have the tendency to bark at strangers, so make sure you socialize them early and often.

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The Ancient Maltese

Another tiny little pup, the Maltese has a long and noble history. This breed has been around for centuries and was originally developed somewhere in the Mediterranean for its small size. A bright and gentle soul, the Maltese is also very playful and affectionate, making this dog a rock star companion.

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The breed is pretty chill in general but requires some socialization if you want your pet to have good manners. In addition, they tend to be fairly fragile (like most toy breeds) and suffer from separation anxiety. Still, when all is said and done, this curious, playful pup makes an excellent companion for older adults who won’t be gone a lot.

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The Moody Cocker Spaniel

The cocker spaniel is a beautiful dog and tends to be very popular due to its medium-sized stature and even temperament. Unlike some other dogs in the spaniel family, these dogs only need moderate daily exercise and are happy to hang out inside the house.

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In addition, cocker spaniels they are typically very polite with strangers and guests. This makes them a great choice for seniors who have big families, including grandchildren.

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The Plucky Dandie Dinmont Terrier

The Dandie Dinmont terrier is the cutest dog you've never heard of. Originally from the United Kingdom, it’s not very common in the U.S. — which is a complete shame! In the home, the Dandie is quiet, relaxed and unassuming.

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Because these dogs are highly intelligent, Dandies can be easy-to-train companions for older adults. Dandies respond well to lots of positive reinforcement with food. After all, there's nothing a doggie loves more than a good snack!

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The Comical Chihuahua

With a tiny little body and a giant head — proportionally speaking — Chihuahuas can look almost as funny as they act. These diminutive pups are widely regarded as comical, entertaining, expressive companions. Like all breeds, however, the exact personality depends on the individual dog.

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As one of the smallest breeds on the list, Chihuahuas make an excellent companion for seniors who have tight living spaces or simply can't handle the physical demands of a larger breed. Like most small breeds, they require minimal exercise and don't have huge appetites.

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The Sporty Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

The Cavalier King Charles spaniel offers the best of both the sporting dog world and the toy dog world. At less than 15 pounds, this doggie is rather small but often exhibits traits of much larger breeds. They love cuddling in laps but are also quite adept at chasing — and catching! — squirrels, rabbits, chipmunks and even birds.

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Due to their high energy, Cavaliers require a decent amount of daily exercise — at least three walks — and they are also very dependent on their humans. Without near-constant companionship, they can suffer from separation anxiety and become destructive. That being said, they are very sweet-tempered dogs that would be a loving addition to any household.

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