Dogs make good companions for people in all stages of life, as they provide numerous emotional and health benefits to their owners, regardless of age.
For older adults, caring for a dog can provide a sense of purpose and a source of joy. Whether you live on your own or in a 55+ community, your canine friend can keep you company throughout the day, helping you ward off loneliness, stress, and even anxiety and depression. They also can motivate you to stay active and exercise frequently, which is beneficial for your physical and emotional well-being.
Best Dogs for Seniors
If you’re interested in getting a dog during retirement, it’s important to find a breed that best fits your lifestyle and abilities and that you also are capable of caring for. Certain dog breeds require extensive maintenance, exercise, or grooming. If you aren’t prepared for the workload, it could undermine your enjoyment while also being detrimental to your pet.
In general, low maintenance dogs – and not puppies – are a good way to go. Energy level and size are other characteristics to take into consideration. With that in mind, here are some examples of the best dog breeds for seniors and retirees, that adapt well to their owner’s lifestyle:
Best Small Dogs for Seniors in Apartments
With their short smooshed-looking faces and small bodies, Shih Tzus have an adorable appearance. They also are bred to be companions and often enjoy simply sitting with their owner. They can easily adapt to various senior living environments, although they do require routine exercise and grooming. The other challenge with Shih Tzus is they can be just as stubborn as their owner and are prone to barking. With the right training, though, your Shih Tzu will be a friendly, playful companion.
If a tiny dog is up your alley, the Pomeranian may the right fit for you. Weighing about 3 to 6 pounds, Pomeranians are affectionate and good-natured dogs that are easy to handle. They enjoy attention from their owner and playing with toys, and you can feed off their energy to keep yourself upbeat, as well. They do have a long, thick coat that requires regular brushing to avoid matting and they can sometimes be a bit yappy.
All of the small dog traits, none of the "yappiness". You can expect a healthy Pug to weigh-in between 14-18 pounds, and stand around a foot tall; perfect for seniors considering or undergoing downsizing. Their curly-Q tails and squished noses make for an adorable companion, and will be perfectly happy curled up on the couch- with moderate activity and walks peppered in- beneficial to both pup and senior. Be cognisant of the fact that Pugs don't prefer high humidity, so opt for indoor exercise during the hotter Seattle summer days.
Best Companion Dog Breeds
Golden Retrievers also belong in our 'Medium-to-Large Sized Dog Breeds' category, but their loyalty to owners lands them in the top spot for best companion dog breeds. You can expect a Golden to weigh between 55 and 75 pounds, depending on their gender, but be advised: they don't know that. Goldens are affectionate, and some consider themselves lap dogs. Goldens do require plenty of daily exercise, so this breed would be best-suited for seniors looking to spend time outdoors. It's ideal to train your Golden initially to warn off unwanted behavior, but their reputation of love, loyalty, and desire to be wherever their people are has made them arguably the best furry companion you could ask for.
Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
Spaniels in general make a good pet for seniors because of their easy temperaments and adaptability. The AKC describes Cavaliers as, "affectionate, gentle, and graceful," making them ideal companions. Cavaliers are a smaller breed of spaniel – typically about 12 to 18 pounds with a medium-length silky coat – that are well-suited for living in an apartment or small house within a West Seattle retirement community. They are snuggly, affectionate and easy to train.
Weighing an average of 7 to 12 pounds making them perfect apartment companions, fluffy white-haired bichons are your typical lapdog. Although they may have traces of cream or apricot in their coats, their appearance generally resembles that of a cotton ball – except one that is sweet and joyful. A plus: they're hypoallergenic! We decided to keep them in the companion bracket, due to their happy-go-lucky and friendly reputation. The AKC describes Bichon's as "operating under the assumption that there are no strangers, just friends they haven’t met yet," making them ideal for those who enjoy frequent visitors to the home. With moderate daily exercise and periodic grooming, bichons will make happy, healthy pets for seniors.
Best Medium-to-Large Sized Dog Breeds
Pembroke Welsh Corgis
Though Corgi's are also ideal for seniors in apartments, you can expect a Corgi to weigh up to 30 pounds. You can identify Pembroke Welsh Corgis by their short legs, low-set body, and pointy ears. They are smart and easy to train, making them good companions for seniors. However, they are a herding dog by nature, which means you must ensure your corgi gets adequate exercise. That can be accomplished, however, by taking daily walks, which is healthy for both you and your pet.
Golden Retriever + Poodle = Goldendoodle. These curly-haired cuties can vary in size, which makes them ideal for choosing a 'Doodle that best suits seniors' lifestyles. You can find miniature 'Doodles, weighing in at 15-30 pounds making them ideal for seniors in apartments, medium 'Doodles weighing in at 30-45 pounds, or standard 'Doodles weighing in at 45-100 pounds if you're looking for a bigger ball of joy to share your life with. They are a blend of all the best traits from Golden Retrievers- loyal, affectionate, playful, and Poodles- quick learners, easy-to-train, and a low-shed coat. Energy levels in 'Doodles are average, meaning they enjoy equal parts walk time and relaxation time.
If you prefer larger dogs but are worried about finding one that is easy to handle, consider a greyhound. Although they weigh about 60 to 80 pounds, greyhounds do not tend to be high-energy dogs, according to an article on The Spruce Pets. Greyhounds are good for taking on occasional walks or jogs, as they are easy-going and responsive to training. If your lifestyle is less active, however, they also are fine lounging around with you.
Please note: According to the American Kennel Club (AKC), "while there are no 100% hypoallergenic dogs, there are many breeds that do well with allergy sufferers. Dander, which is attached to pet hair, is what causes most pet allergies in humans and these dogs have a non-shedding coat that produces less dander."
Here are our top picks, in accordance with breed information from the AKC:
For seniors with allergies or respiratory issues, Poodles are a great choice when looking for a four-legged friend. Though they need to be regularly groomed by a professional, their dander has a low-probability of causing allergic reactions. With their curly, dense coats, poodles have a reputation for being a bit posh, but they are one of the most intelligent and versatile breeds of dogs. They come in a range of sizes, from tiny toy poodles that are about 5 to 9 pounds to larger standard poodles ranging from about 45 to 70 pounds. Poodles are fast learners and easy to train, in addition to being loyal and affectionate.
Yorkshire Terrier ("Yorkie")
Yorkie's are the quintessential lap dog- they love being around their "person" just as much as they'll love a daily tennis ball toss. You can expect a Yorkie to remain under 10 pounds, making them easy for seniors to pick up, walk on a leash, and hold in their lap. Yorkie's have a reputation for having a "voice", but are intelligent, eager to please, and highly motivated by treats, making them easy to train. Plus, the Yorkie's instinct to bring alert to people entering your home or apartment can bring peace of mind to seniors living alone. Yorkie hair is similar to human hair, making grooming an easy routine to remember and manage.
Mini-Schnauzer's are described by the AKC as "friendly, smart, and obedient," making them a great hypoallergenic fit for seniors. A healthy Mini-Schnauzer can range between 11-20 pounds, also making them great for apartment living. They have a "double coat", which usually requires professional grooming, but also provides less shedding. Mini-Schnauzers have a moderate level of energy, and love playtime with their owners. Eager-to-please and easy-to-train, this breed is a great fit for seniors looking for an adorable companion (with a crowd-stopping mustache, to beat!)
Learn more about 55+ living: 7 Best 55+ Communities in Washington State
Experiencing Life in Retirement
Even though living in a 55+ community provides you with numerous opportunities to socialize with your peers, it can be nice to have your own companion to come home to. With the right dog by your side, you will enjoy your retirement years more fully, from taking walks on campus and sightseeing near Seattle to watching television and relaxing at night. At Daystar Retirement Village, we understand the value of having a pet – no matter your age – which is why the campus, including our over-55 apartments, is completely dog-friendly!
“Best Dog Breeds for Senior Citizens.” The Spruce Pets. Accessed online at https://www.thesprucepets.com/best-dog-breeds-for-seniors-4138298
“Best Dogs for Assisted Living.” A Place for Mom, Senior Living Blog. Accessed online at https://www.aplaceformom.com/blog/best-dog-breeds-for-seniors/
"Hypoallergenic Dogs" The American Kennel Club. Accessed online at