Are you a senior who has decided to get a dog to keep you company during your more peaceful years? Or perhaps you’re considering getting one for your elderly relative? Congratulations, you’ve made a great choice! Check out our list of 12 best dog breeds for seniors, along with some of the benefits dogs can provide for seniors and some tips on picking a dog!
Benefits of having a dog as a senior
As research on the topic points out, the benefits of owning a dog as a senior are many and varied. A pet will have a positive impact on an elder individual’s physical health and mental well-being.
- Exercise – whether it’s outdoor walks or playing indoors, owning a pet will ensure that there will be some sort of daily physical exertion on the owner’s part. This, in turn, will confer health benefits such as lowering an individual’s blood pressure & cholesterol, and improving cardiovascular health in general.
- Socialization – dogs are a great way to make new friends! People you run into on walks will not be able to resist his doggy charms, and grandchildren will want to come over frequently to play.
- Mental health – having a constant & attentive companion will go a long way in decreasing stress & warding off depression, as research has shown.
Tips on picking a dog for seniors
There is no substitute for spending some time with a dog and getting to know him before making the decision to buy/adopt that particular dog. However, it would be better to start the process with a general idea of what type of dog would be a good fit for you.
- Age & lifespan – most dogs have a lifespan of 10-15 years, and this should be taken into account by all potential dog owners. The DOGPWND suggests that seniors consider adopting an adult or a senior dog. Adult & senior dogs have mellowed down and will be less active than a puppy; they will make wonderful companions. Additionally, the expenses that come with getting a puppy (vaccines, obedience training, neutering) will be a few less things for you to think about.
- Size – while larger dogs tend to be more sedentary, and therefore will be a good fit for seniors, they might be more difficult to take care of physically – carrying them or restraining them if the need arises may not be easy for all seniors. Smaller dogs, on the other hand, are usually more energetic, have longer life spans on average and some small breeds tend to be noisy. However, they are easier to take care of physically.
- Caring for the dog – regular grooming, regular consults with the vet, food, daily exercise. The cost & effort for all this are some things to consider; also something important to consider is if you’ll have any help in caring for the dog or if you’ll go it alone. Whichever the case, some dog breeds are high maintenance, while others are low maintenance. This will be detailed in the list below.
- Breed – Certain breeds will have known health concerns and temperaments, making it easier to find a good match for an owner. This is discussed more extensively below.
One alternative to consider is getting a mixed-breed dog instead of a purebred dog. Mixed-breed dogs generally have less health problems than purebred dogs, making them easier & less expensive to care for. The DOGPWND recommends all potential dog owners give some consideration to adopting a mixed-breed dog from a local shelter.
12 best dog breed for seniors
1. Bichon Frise
The Bichon Frise is is gentle, playful and loving. This small-sized dog has lots of energy and likes being outdoors; it is also very obedient and gets along well with everyone, including young children and other animals. They do however require frequent grooming (combing of coat multiple times a week at home, professional grooming every 6-8 weeks); they are hypoallergenic and will make great companions for those with allergies. Average life-span: 12-13 years.
The Chihuahua is the smallest breed of dog. This toy dog is very loyal to its owner and enjoys spending a lot of time indoors & under the covers. As with all dogs, they require obedience and socialization training at a young age, without which they tend to become territorial of their home & overprotective of their owners, and may not get along with young children or other animals. Known health risks (seen in most toy dogs): low blood sugar, collapsed trachea, hydrocephalus and sensitive teeth. They may suffer from separation anxiety if left alone for long periods. Average lifespan: 12-20 years.
3. Chinese Crested
The Chinese Crested is a hairless, hypoallergenic toy dog. They are known to be happy, playful and affectionate dogs. They are a versatile breed of dog, enjoying both indoor and outdoor living. Despite being hairless, they will still require regular grooming for their coat and care for their skin. Known health risks: eye & teeth problems. Average lifespan: 12-14 years.
4. French Bulldog
The French Bulldog is a small-sized dog that is very affectionate and makes a great companion dog. Note however that this breed needs frequent human contact, else they are prone to developing separation anxiety. Although it is true that they are sedentary (likes to lounge indoors all day, often referred to as lazy), they will still require short, daily walks. They don’t bark much and get along splendidly with young children and other pets. Known health risks: prone to overheating and getting too cold, brachycephaly, joint problems. Average lifespan: 8-10 years.
The Maltese is a small-sized companion dog prized for its beautiful coat. They have a single, shiny coat that doesn’t shed much, making them hypoallergenic, but will need regular grooming. They are intelligent, get very attached to their owner and are very playful up until their elder years. Note, however, that they do bark quite a lot and may not get along well with small children or other dogs, unless they receive early obedience and socialization traning. Known health risks: tooth decay. Average lifespan: 12-15 years.
6. Pembroke Welsh Corgi
The Pembroke Welsh Corgi is a medium-sized working dog. They are very affectionate, intelligent, obedient and get along well with all members of a household. They don’t bark much but do shed quite a lot. Known health risks: eye problems, hip dysplasia, obesity. Average lifespan: 12-15 years.
The Poodle is a very intelligent and friendly dog breed that comes in three sizes (toy, miniature and standard). They are playful, elegant, don’t shed much hair and often participate in (and win!) dog shows and sports. Their coats require regular grooming to prevent matting. Known health risks: hormone problems, stomach problems, hip dysplasia, ear infections. Average lifespan: 11-15 years.
The Pomeranian is a spitz-type toy dog. They are very playful and friendly with their owners and other humans, but not always so with other dogs. They are intelligent and easy to train, but may become territorial and prone to excessive barking. Known health problems: early deafness, ear infections, tracheal collapse, hair loss. Average lifespan: 12-16 years.
The Pug is a toy dog breed that is obedient, gentle and very friendly with everyone, making them excellent companion dogs. They get very attached to their owners and like to stay indoors napping most of the day. Known health problems: eye problems, inability to regulate its temperature, hip dysplasia and obesity. Average lifespan: 11 years.
The Schnauzer is a friendly, independent and intelligent German-origin working dog that comes in three sizes (miniature, standard and giant). They are also very protective and make great guard dogs. They will require some early training to prevent excessive barking. They also require at least weekly brushing of coat and twice yearly stripping of coat. Common health problems: kidney stones, allergies, diabetes. Average lifespan: 12-15 years.
11. Shih Tzu
The Shih Tzu is a toy dog that is very loyal and affectionate, making it an excellent companion dog. The are somewhat difficult to train, but will benefit from early obedience training. They get along well with humans of all ages, including small children, but not always with other house pets, specifically large-sized pets. Known health problems: brachycephaly, joint problems, thyroid problems. Average lifespan: 10-16 years.
12. Yorkshire Terrier
The Yorkshire Terrier is a small-sized dog that is easy to train, likes a lot of affection and gets overprotective of its owner. It will make a wonderful companion dog. They are smart & quite active, and therefore will require both physical exercise and mental stimulation. They do tend to bark a lot, and may not get along with very small children. Known health problems: breathing problems, eye problems, sensitive stomachs, low blood sugar. Average lifespan: 13-20 years.
- Read toys to keep your dog busy
- Read the benefits of dogs for seniors with walking disabilities (at mywalkingaid.com)
Sources / other reading materials
- The benefits of pets on the health of older individuals
- Pet ownership & improved mental health – Survey