Best Dogs for Seniors: Small & Loving Dog Breeds Perfect for Seniors

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Senior owner with dog

Are you one of the many seniors looking forward to adopting a dog in their golden years? Before rushing out to adopt the first furry friend that captures your heart, you’ll need to think about what you want from a dog at this stage of life. 

Memories of that rambunctious Border Collie you had as a kid may still fill you with joy, but you may want a pup you can relax with in your later years. After all, the best dog breeds for kids are not always the best dogs for seniors. While you may not always want to run around the yard with a big, active canine these days, there are smaller, calmer dog breeds out there that have plenty to offer. 

From long-lasting companionship to loyal protection, these dogs have a way of melting our hearts and making our lives better. No matter what size your pet is, they’re sure to bring you plenty of laughter and joy for years to come - whether you have a small lapdog like the Havapoo (a Havanese-Poodle mix), known for its affectionate and playful nature, or a slightly larger breed, pets of all sizes offer endless and unconditional love.

Dog breed for seniors

Factors to Consider When Choosing a Dog Breed for Seniors 

Some dog breeds may be a good fit for people with certain lifestyle preferences, including seniors who may enjoy calmer companions or smaller living spaces. Many older adults find companionship and joy in owning dogs. Choosing the best breed for seniors depends on individual needs and preferences.  There are a number of factors you’ll want to consider. 

Size and Exercise Requirements 

Many retirees are looking for smaller pups. Even the sweetest, gentlest Mastiff is going to accidentally bump into their owner every now and then. For an older person with limited mobility, this kind of fall could spell disaster. 

Instead, medium and small-sized dogs are ideal. These compact canines are much easier to manage when taking them on walks around the neighborhood, and you won’t need to lug gargantuan bags of food home from the store. 

Another caveat of owning a larger breed is that they often need more exercise than their tiny counterparts. For instance, a Siberian Husky whose ancestors were bred for working will need lots of exercise. Some of them may need to walk up to 20 miles a week! There are plenty of older adults who can easily do that for the next 15 years, but if you’re not one of them, you may want to consider a smaller dog. You won’t need to take them out on such treks. 

Maybe you’ve seen a breeder offering Australian Cattle Dogs for sale and think the puppies look absolutely adorable. You might think twice before bringing one home, however. While the docile angel snoozing with his siblings might appear calm, the breed is widely known for its hyperactivity. Many seniors aren’t going to want to raise a dog that is constantly on the go. 

Friendly, sweet breeds that have minimal energy levels make great dogs for seniors. They’re also low- maintenance dogs for apartments. If you’re one of the many seniors who live in multi-family housing, considering a dog that’s perfectly fine with living in smaller quarters is essential. 

Trainability and Intelligence 

Who doesn’t love showing off their pet’s latest trick? Adopting a dog who is eager to learn and put his knowledge to the test can make your life together easy as pie. Not only do you get to brag about your little Einstein, but you’ll be able to manage their behavior better. 

A dog that responds appropriately to commands like “sit” and “stay” will make interactions with strangers (including other dogs) safer. Nobody wants to have to chase their dog down when he goes after the mail carrier! 

Top Five Best Dog Breeds for Seniors 

Remember: The best dog for seniors is the one that fits their current lifestyles. For instance, if you have arthritis of the hands, you may not want a dog that you’ll need to brush constantly. That means you’ll want to stay away from certain breeds, including the poodle, whose coat needs regular grooming including brushing and trimming. 

If you share your home with a newborn grandchild, you probably don’t want a dog that is known for yapping. These loud noises won’t be a good mix with your human family members! 

Let’s take a look at five breeds that seniors love. 

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel 

The first on our list is the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. With their long, silky hair and floppy ears, this breed is as beautiful as it is sweet. These precious pooches are perfect for older folks in every way. While not the tiniest of pups, they rarely weigh more than 18 pounds. Their small size makes them ideal for seniors who don’t have a ton of living space or who like their pets to snuggle in their laps. 

These little guys are known as the best small dogs for seniors for another reason: They really love people. If you’re looking for a dog that will be at your side throughout the day and night, the Cavalier is for you. These faithful companions are people pleasers, and they want you to know it. 

Another perk of this breed is their ability to learn quickly, but every now and then, a Cavalier likes to show his stubborn streak. This characteristic isn’t usually too much of a problem and adds to the dog’s playful personality. 

If you’re a senior who’s got a lot going on, you may find this breed suitable for your lifestyle. Although Cavaliers are incredibly loving, they’re also adaptable. This means your pet will likely be fine when the boisterous grandchildren stop by, or you have a few friends over to visit. 

Dog cuddling with its senior owner

Bichon Frise 

Another classic senior-friendly dog is the Bichon Frise. If the name doesn’t ring a bell, their appearance surely will. The Bichon Frise is a very small and fluffy dog. One quick glance at their poofy white coats and you just might mistake them for stuffed animals! 

Seniors prone to allergies will want to take note that this breed’s coat isn’t just cute – it’s also hypoallergenic! While there’s still a chance you might have the occasional sneeze from a bit of their dander, you’ll likely experience a lot fewer stuffy noses than you would with some other breeds. 

Another reason this tiny titan is an instant fit for older individuals is that adult Bichon Frises often weigh as little as 10 pounds. They’re just as easy to carry as they are to walk around the park. While you’re out and about on these walks, be prepared to make a lot of friends.  

People are drawn to their snow-white coats and adorable dispositions. Fortunately, the Bichon Frise is grateful for the attention and is known for being exceptionally friendly. Take note, however. You’ll want to keep a close watch on your pup around children, as Bichon Frises can sometimes get a bit frightened around rowdy youngsters. They may snap as a way to defend themselves. 


Our list wouldn’t be complete without acknowledging Pomeranians. This breed vies for the title of best dog breed for seniors for a number of reasons. The most obvious reason is their appearance! Who wouldn’t love to adopt a dog that’s essentially a ball of fluff? Their extravagant fur can be one of many colors, including red, white, black, or rarely, blue. 

These proud pups are small, averaging less than 7 pounds. Busy seniors will have no problem carrying these dogs around town. Another major benefit of their minute stature is that they have moderate exercise needs. As with any dog, your pet will need to be walked regularly, but they aren’t nearly as active as some larger breeds. Some Pomeranians may even get enough exercise right inside your home. After all, when your legs are only a few inches tall, even crossing the living room takes some effort! 

Another reason Pomeranians are beloved by seniors is that they’re incredibly affectionate. They love being part of the family and are loyal to their owners. Be aware that they’re known for frequent barking. If you have a freestanding home (i.e., not an apartment), this shouldn’t be an issue. 

Shih Tzu 

Of all the dogs suitable for seniors out there, Shih Tzus have a special place in our hearts. In fact, former Chinese emperors couldn’t help but treat them like royalty, proudly keeping these canines by their side. You’ll recognize a Shih Tzu by his lion-like appearance. Fitting for a dog of royal stock, isn’t it? The breed has long, flowing fur and – perhaps less fitting for a majestic individual – an underbite. 

While Shih Tzus have luscious locks, they conveniently don’t shed much fur. However, just because they aren’t prolific shedders doesn’t mean they don’t need to visit the salon. They are royalty, after all! Because their full, grown-out coats are mostly for show, it’s much easier to take them to the groomers frequently. 

Shih Tzus are the full package, matching their beauty with intelligence. These dogs are smart, but you’ll need to spend time training them. As a typical small dog, Shih Tzus may get defensive when they’re scared, so it’s especially important that they respond to your commands. 

Yorkshire Terrier 

There are many who argue that the Yorkshire Terrier is the best small dog for seniors. It’s easy to see why. This breed is known for being a top-tier lap dog who doesn’t want to part with her owner. With similarly long hair as the Shih Tzu, the Yorkshire Terrier looks every much the part of a pampered princess. 

Don’t be fooled by the breed’s elegant appearance, however. These dogs were originally bred to hunt rats. Despite their less-than-glamorous origins, Yorkshire Terriers are kind, sweet-tempered dogs that live for playing. This dog is by far the most energetic breed on our list. Fortunately, it’s much easier for them to meet their exercise needs in a small setting than large breeds. 

Seniors will also be happy when they realize how little their Yorkie sheds. In fact, their hair is often compared to human hair, which means you can have fun styling their ‘do in doggie bows. It’s recommended to have your Yorkie professionally groomed at least once a month to keep their hair looking great. More importantly, regular upkeep ensures your pet stays clean and healthy! 

Dog kissing its senior owner

Caring for Your Pet 

Over the years, certain types of dogs have been bred indiscriminately by unethical breeders. Unfortunately, this means many smaller dogs have inherited health conditions including syringomylia (a condition that affects the brain and spine) and breathing difficulties. As a retiree, you might have concerns about affording unexpected vet bills for these conditions, especially as these costs continue to rise. Investing in pet health insurance and a supplementary wellness plan as soon as possible will help you prepare financially for future vet visits. Contact Embrace Pet Insurance today to get a free quote for your dog’s plan. 

So, What is the Best Dog Breed for Seniors? 

Seniors who are searching for that perfect pup have many options. Keep in mind that the best dog breeds for seniors are typically small, friendly, and less active than other kinds. Finding the right fit will help you develop a long, fulfilling relationship with your new member of the household!