The 10 Best Dog Breeds for Seniors

French Bulldogs
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Owning a dog in your old age has been shown to reduce stress, blood pressure, cholesterol, and even the risk of a heart attack. Aside from the physical benefits, owning a dog is a fulfilling experience, offering opportunities for companionship, exercise, and unique social activities.

Remember that pet ownership is a big life decision that comes with responsibilities in both money and time. But the rewards are well worth it, especially if you opt for one of the breeds that, according to our research, are the best that seniors can own.

FYI: Interested in the many ways a pet can improve your health? Read our guide: 8 Reasons Why Seniors Should Adopt Pets.

How We Chose the Best Dogs for Seniors

Everyone has different tastes in dogs, and we tried to cater to a wide range of potential needs in our research of the best dog breeds for seniors. The main factors we considered when comparing the breeds included:

  • Temperament: While all dogs are different, breeds tend to have generalized temperaments that can help new owners decide which breed is right for their needs. We considered whether a breed tends to be playful, social, quiet, aggressive, and more when comparing.
  • Exercise level: Not all dogs are great for exercise since many breeds prefer low-energy indoor activities. For those who prioritize exercise or relaxation in their choice of dogs, we considered whether each breed would be a good fit.
  • Grooming needs: Some breeds require more upkeep than others depending on their fur type and length, so we’ll tell you about the expected time commitment for each breed to help you decide.
  • Housing needs: Different breeds vary in sizes and energy levels, which could dictate whether certain houses or apartments are right for them. Some dogs need constant attention and plenty of outdoor time, while others are more low-key.

Our Video Rundown

Shih Tzu

Shih Tzu
Image courtesy of 賈夢龍 via Wikimedia Commons

Shih Tzus are toy-sized faces of fur that look like they’re floating on fuzzy rugs. They’re one of the oldest dog breeds, with ancient Chinese handlers favoring these positive little bundles of comfiness for thousands of years.

Temperament: Shih Tzus tend to be agreeable and lively, willing to spend their entire days indoors relaxing in your lap or at your feet. They get along well with adults and kids and rarely have issues with other dogs.

Exercise: A Shih Tzu can go for a walk, but it’s not their forte. They prefer to relax indoors in their bed or favorite spot while you read or watch TV. They make good lap dogs for those looking for cuddles from their new friend.

Grooming: The famous leg-length coats of Shih Tzus mean that they need semi-regular hair care. Experts recommend full grooming every four to six weeks and regular brushing in between.

Size: Shih Tzus are small and tend to weigh between nine and 16 pounds. They stand around nine to 11 inches in height.

Life expectancy: 10 to 18 years

Fun fact: In Chinese, “Shih Tzu” means “little lion,” in reference to their famous furry coats and faces. The breed is particularly good with children, so those with grandkids should keep them high on their list of candidates.

Pembroke Welsh Corgi

Corgi on lawn
Image courtesy of John Moodey via Wikimedia Commons

Pembroke Welsh corgis are chunky English staples with a calm, household temperament despite a famous athletic streak. They have an iconic eclair-shaped tan body and a bright personality that would be perfect for a lifestyle that mixes exercise and relaxation.

Temperament: Welsh corgis are bright, strong-willed dogs that get along well with people and are generally easy-going with other dogs. They have a chirpy side that activates when someone is at the door, often loudly barking to alert their owners that someone is there.

Exercise: Corgis are compact and strong, having been bred as Welsh herding dogs. They’re good to go if you want to walk them or take them to parks, though they won’t act needy if you want to keep them inside.

Grooming: Corgis tend to shed their medium-length, dense fur a lot, making grooming with a solid comb a twice-weekly event for corgi owners, though more intense maintenance is rarely needed.

Size: Pembroke corgis are short and solid at around 10 to 12 inches in height but weigh 27 to 30 pounds. They’re muscle-heavy, so you don’t have to worry about them getting pushed around.

Life expectancy: 12 to 13 years

Fun fact: Corgis are among the smartest dogs, with a long and proud lineage that goes back to the Vikings when herders used them in the fields and believed they were created by a fairy enchantment.

Miniature Schnauzer

Miniature Schnauzer
Image courtesy of Psiberfunk via Wikimedia Commons

The Miniature schnauzer is an outgoing dog famous for its bushy eyebrows that are full of personality. They’re tough little fighters that fit in a variety of living situations, so you should keep them high on your list of choices if you’re looking for something on the brusque side.

Temperament: Miniature schnauzers are fearless pooches with a protective streak, but they aren’t typically aggressive. They just don’t like to be pushed around. This means that while they get along well with people and other small dogs, they can be pushy toward bigger dogs.

Exercise: Schnauzers like exercise and tend to need some every day. This could be a long walk or a few short ones to keep them active and healthy, making them a great pick for anyone who wants to use their dog as an exercise aid.

Grooming: Miniature schnauzers need regular grooming every one to two months, as well as plenty of brushing. While some dogs can get away with just baths, these little guys need a little help taking care of their coarse coats.

Size: Schnauzers tend to be about 12 to 14 inches in height and 11 to 20 pounds in weight, making them a great pick for people without a lot of space.

Life expectancy: 12 to 15 years

Fun fact: Miniature schnauzers are now known as their own breed, but they were originally a mix of three breeds: schnauzers, poodles, and affenpinschers. They can be stubborn and barky, but they often lighten up once they know you.


Image courtesy of Tux-Man via Wikimedia Commons

The Greyhound has long been known as a kingly, artistic choice for dog owners, appearing in art and writing for thousands of years. These lean, champion runners are skinny-waisted little nobles that can get serious speed if they want to. Thankfully, they’re also fiercely loyal.

Temperament: Greyhounds have a mild personality and need to be treated gently. With those they know, they tend to be agreeable and gentle, while with strangers, they can be a bit standoffish. They aren’t the best dogs for young children.

Exercise: Greyhounds respond well to daily walks of around 30 minutes per day to keep their lithe bodies active. They’re built for speed, but they can’t run for long, so despite their reputation as racing dogs, they aren’t that physically demanding.

Grooming: Greyhounds are great dogs for those who don’t want to deal with fussy hair and dog smell. Their low-maintenance coats need only a light brushing and a bath every now and then.

Size: Greyhounds stand 27 to 30 inches in height, making them one of the taller dogs on this list. They weigh around 60 to 70 pounds.

Life expectancy: 10 to 13 years

Fun fact: Greyhounds are built for speed, able to run up to 45 mph if they get going, during which they spend almost the entire time airborne. In terms of historical credibility, Greyhounds can also claim something no other dog can, which is that they are the only breed mentioned in the Bible.

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
Image Courtesy of Andreweatock via Wikimedia Commons

The dog breed known as Lady in Disney’s “Lady and the Tramp” is called the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, known for its long, silky coat and for sitting on the laps of royalty. They adapt to the personalities of their owners, meaning they’re a good match whether you’re a couch potato or an active walker.

Temperament: The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is known for being exceptionally friendly with just about everyone, including friends, children, and other dogs.

Exercise: Spaniels don’t require a ton of exercise, but they’re up for it if you want to walk with them. Their energy levels are always around the middle, so they’re just as happy laying on the couch as playing in the yard with the grandkids.

Grooming: The King Charles Spaniel has a wavy and silky coat of fur of multiple colors, which should be groomed every six to eight weeks or so. They’re happy to be brushed but are far from the most demanding breed in this regard.

Size: Spaniels are 12 to 13 inches tall and weigh 13 to 18 pounds, making them the largest dogs in the toy group.

Life expectancy: 12 to 15 years

Fun fact: This breed is named for King Charles II of England, who ruled in the mid-1600s. He was always seen with one of these dogs at his side and proclaimed all public spaces in England open to dogs, even Parliament. Anglophiles would be hard-pressed to make a better choice.

Golden Retriever

Golden Retriever adult
Image courtesy of Johan Spaedtke via Wikimedia Commons

Golden retrievers were originally bred in Scotland as gundogs, but they’ve evolved over the last two centuries into one of the most popular and recognizable breeds in America. Bred to catch birds and game, they still retain those playful outdoorsy habits of swimming and fetching and being around their people that have made them so loved.

Temperament: Goldens are the hallmark of friendliness with family, strangers, kids, and other dogs. You name the situation, and golden retrievers will be loving and playful.

Exercise: Their exercise needs are right in the middle. They’ll never say no to a walk or a game of fetch, but they aren’t demanding.

Grooming: Golden retrievers have a thick coat of golden fur that needs regular brushing but not obsessively. Occasional baths and paying slightly more attention to their grooming in the warmer shedding seasons should be enough.

Size: Goldens stand 21.5 to 24 inches in height and weigh around 55 to 75 pounds, making them the biggest dogs on this list.

Life expectancy: 10 to 12 years

Fun fact: Golden retrievers are one of the newest dog breeds, officially recognized in 1925. They are also considered the fourth-smartest breed you can buy.


Bruce the West Highland White Terrier
Image courtesy of Celsim Junior via Wikimedia Commons

Most people know the little West Highland White Terrier as the “Westie.” They’re hard to train but courageous little critters, bred 300 years ago to hunt rats and foxes. Today, they’re a great pick if you want something small, feisty, and affectionate.

Temperament: Westies are great with kids and family, making them fantastic if you have grandkids over a lot. With other dogs, they can be a little feisty but nothing that warrants a special warning. Just be aware that they’re among the barkiest dogs on this list.

Exercise: Westies have a pretty high energy level and like to spend their time barking and running. They can settle down eventually, but these are dogs for people who like to take care of rambunctious little buddies.

Grooming: Despite a fluffy white appearance, Westies have a coarse coat of hair that needs regular grooming. Typically, they need to be groomed and clipped every month or two. However, they shouldn’t be bathed too often, as this can negatively affect their natural hair density.

Size: The average Westie is small, around 10 to 11 inches in height and 15 to 20 pounds.

Life expectancy: 13 to 15 years

Fun fact: Westies may look cuddly, but they were bred to be feisty hunters that could take down rats, badgers, and even foxes. This is probably where they get all their energy from.

French Bulldog

French Bulldogs
Image courtesy of Frosya a via Wikimedia Commons

The small-eared French bulldog is a square-headed cutie with a shiny coat and a muscular little body. They don’t bark a lot, but they’re always tuned in to their surroundings. Since they don’t require a ton of activity, they’re a great choice for people in small homes or apartments.

Temperament: French bulldogs are playful and open, ready to adapt to strangers and play with kids and family. They’re good with other dogs, though not the best in this regard, as some feistiness can set in if they don’t have clear opportunities to play.

Exercise: French bulldogs have midrange energy levels and not a lot of exercise requirements. A little outdoor playing every day will do them well, so long as it isn’t too hot for them.

Grooming: Frenchies have a short coat that doesn’t shed too much, but they love to be brushed (once a week should be fine). Note that flat-faced pooches like the French bulldog need their faces to be kept clean and dry so they can breathe properly.

Size: French bulldogs grow to be 11 to 13 inches tall and weigh around 28 pounds.

Life expectancy: 10 to 12 years

Fun fact: French bulldogs can easily become overheated or develop breathing problems due to their face shape, so be careful of walking them during the hotter months. Despite this, they actually have proud origins that date back thousands of years to the Molossian hounds of ancient Greece.


Image courtesy of Álvaro de la Paz Franco via Wikimedia Commons

Beagles are classic hunting dogs that come in two types, one being shorter and lighter. They have a famously adorable face below broad-headed floppy ears. If you’re looking for your own Snoopy, here’s what you should know.

Temperament: Beagles are loyal but not the most open dogs when it comes to strangers. They aren’t the most affectionate dogs on this list either, even with family, but they’re great with other dogs and kids and get more affectionate once they trust you.

Exercise: Beagles are bundles of energy, making them a great pick for seniors looking for a dog that will keep them active. They’re famous for trying to escape from places and running around, led by their nose, so you’ll need to be physically able to keep up with them.

Grooming: Beagles sport a smooth coat that sheds in the spring, making a little brushing a necessity, especially during that time. They don’t need a ton of baths, but since they’re very active, frequent nail trimming is even more important than normal so they don’t hurt themselves.

Size: Depending on the type, beagles can be either less than 13 inches or 13 to 15 inches in height. They can also be under 20 pounds or 20 to 30 pounds in weight.

Life expectancy: 10 to 15 years

Fun fact: Beagles were bred to be feisty hunter-trackers, so even to this day they love to roam, run, dig, escape, and hunt. You need to be on your toes with beagles because they’re always one interesting smell away from trotting off, tail up, toward their newest target.

Basset Hound

Basset Hound
Image courtesy of eda via Wikimedia Commons

Basset hounds are droopy-eyed sweethearts perfect for low-key households looking for a cuddle buddy. Outside, they can stubbornly go after scents just like they’ve always been trained to do, but if you’re looking for a loyal friend and a warm pile of wrinkles, it’s a small price to pay to nudge your new basset in the right direction.

Temperament: Basset hounds are relaxed and agreeable unless they smell something interesting. They have a mild temper that makes them great with kids and other dogs, though they aren’t as emotionally dependent on their families as some other breeds.

Exercise: Bassets aren’t the most active breeds, but they enjoy daily walks, which they need in order to stop themselves from getting fat. They love to have another dog along if you can set up play sessions for them.

Grooming: Basset hounds have smooth hair that looks to be lower maintenance than it is. They shed a lot, so frequent brushing is a big help to keep them healthy and happy.

Size: Bassets grow up to 15 inches in height but weigh around 40 to 65 pounds.

Life expectancy: 12 to 13 years

Fun fact: Basset hounds have the second-best noses in the dog world, losing only to the bloodhound. Their ears, however, have comparatively less power and are prone to infections without regular checks.

Bottom Line

Owning a dog can be a rewarding and health-enhancing experience as you age. Provided you pick the right dog for your needs, your new pet could serve as everything from an exercise aid to a friendship starter to a cuddle buddy.

If you’re worried about the adoption fees and other costs, visit Pets for the Elderly, a program that helps senior citizens pay the overhead for adopting their new dog from participating shelters.

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