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Best Dog Breeds for Seniors

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A senior woman smiling and sitting on a couch hugging her dog while looking directly at the camera

Whether a senior lives in assisted living or at home, the benefits of animal companionship can’t be overstated. For many seniors, having a pet dog can bring them unconditional love and friendship in their golden years, making them an incredible addition to a home. But not all dog breeds are well-suited to life in a senior living community.

The best breeds are smaller dogs that require less maintenance and grooming. It’s particularly beneficial to choose a breed that brings playfulness and joy into a home.

The Benefits of Animal Companionship for Seniors

It’s been said time and time again that dogs are man’s best friend, and there are quite a few reasons for that. Owning a pet—dogs in particular—can have a significant impact on a senior’s well-being by providing them with companionship, love, and loyalty. 

It’s been proven that having an animal can improve a person’s mental health, but that doesn’t mean it’s time to run out and immediately adopt a dog. It helps to know what breeds are ideal for seniors living in a senior living community.

Shih Tzus

Shih Tzus are small, affectionate dogs that can be wonderful companions for seniors. With a friendly, gentle nature, these loving pets can bring a smile to almost anyone’s face. They also don’t require much exercise, making them a candidate for seniors who may be struggling with mobility issues.

They’re also known for having a coat that doesn’t shed very much, which can be beneficial for a senior with allergies or someone who wants a dog with less maintenance. 


Pomeranians—despite their smaller size, Pomeranians have big personalities and lots of energy. These lively, intelligent dogs can be a great choice for seniors who enjoy outdoor time. 

Pomeranians are known mostly for their playful but alert nature, making them wonderful, energetic companions. While they do require exercise and mental stimulation, they’re considered very manageable. This dog can bring quite a bit of excitement to the life of a senior looking for an active, playful companion.

Toy Poodles

Toy Poodles are small, intelligent, and adaptable. These dogs are known for their friendly, affectionate nature and can easily form strong bonds with those they love. They require regular exercise but can adapt well to indoor activities, making them adaptable to indoor and outdoor adventures.

These dogs require grooming, as their curly hair can mat easily. Fortunately, they’re also considered a low-shed breed.

Shetland Sheepdogs

Shetland Sheepdogs, known as Shelties, are intelligent, gentle, and loyal. These dogs are known well for their calm and affectionate mannerisms, which can benefit seniors looking for a soothing animal companion.

These dogs need regular exercise but can adapt well to living in many different living spaces. While they’re larger than some other breeds, they can still be a wonderful companion for seniors in assisted or independent living looking for a loyal animal partner.

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

Cavalier King Charles Spaniels are known for their extremely friendly and affectionate nature. These small dogs are gentle and extremely adaptable, meaning they can live in most homes easily with no drawbacks. And fortunately, they require very little grooming—just an occasional brushing here and there when cuddling on the couch!

These dogs are known for their desire to please their owner, making training a simple process. While they do need regular exercise, they’ve also been known to settle into a less active lifestyle, making them an excellent choice for seniors looking for a positive, affectionate, and friendly dog to have in their lives. 

Alternatives to Pet Dogs

While dogs can be wonderful companions for many seniors, there are alternative options for folks looking for animal companionship. Some seniors may have allergies or physical limitations that can prevent them from having a dog in their home, but this doesn’t mean they can’t have a friendly critter. It can help to keep an eye out for:

  • Cats, which can be lovely companions (especially for seniors who spend most of their time inside)
  • Birds, as many people enjoy teaching birds tricks and admiring their beautiful colors
  • Smaller caged animals, like hamsters or guinea pigs
  • Reptiles 

Having an allergy to dogs doesn’t limit you from any animal companionship—these options can still bring a lovely little critter into your home to shower you with love and affection.

The Benefits of Rescue Animals

When looking for an animal to join your home, it can be beneficial to start by looking at local animal rescues or shelters. Most of the time, the staff working in these animal sanctuaries know the animals there and can offer insight into each dog’s personality so you can know what to expect.

This also allows you to offer a down-on-their-luck animal a second chance at a loving home, which can be incredibly fulfilling for seniors. And for those worried about training, this lets you avoid the puppy-training phase (which can be exhausting!)

A senior woman and a senior man walking their dog in a park

Owning a Dog in Assisted Living

Choosing the right pet dog for yourself or a senior can be a wonderful way to bring a loving and loyal companion home. While the dogs listed here are lovely options for seniors with specific needs, it’s important to note that there are hundreds of breeds available, each with their own benefits. 

Whether your loved one lives in assisted living or at home, there are all kinds of benefits to bringing a dog into their life. If you or a loved one need a senior living community that understands the importance of love, loyalty, and companionship, schedule a visit at The Legacy at Santa Fe, and we can discuss our pet-friendly residences.

Written by LifeWell

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