We know that senior citizens can benefit from having a dog, both emotionally and physically. Besides providing companionship, pets reduce depression and stress, lower blood pressure, encourage activity and increase the opportunity for social interaction. However, time and time again as dog trainers, we see seniors burdened with a dog or puppy they can't handle. It's really more about the training than the breed, but certain breeds may be easier for seniors based on their size and temperament.
Before we start talking about breeds, here are a few other suggestions other than size: consider the energy level, health history and kid-tolerance (especially if you have grandkids). Older dogs that have been trained are much easier than puppies. Puppies require a tremendous amount of time and they have limitless energy. Seniors need a dog that enjoys a life of being petted and cared for. In other words, your basic "lap dog" is ideal.
- Pugs. Pugs are generally smaller - an ideal size for senior housing. They are playful, cuddly and by nature well-behaved. However, they do shed a lot, so if you don't like vacuuming, this may not be the right breed for you.
- Poodle. Poodles have remained popular with people in their golden years decade after decade. Why? They are personable, easy to train and have a great sense of humor (they laugh with you, not at you). They are also relatively clean, low-shedding dogs who are easy to maintain as long as you get them groomed regularly. The Toy Poodle is very popular with people who want a fun tiny dog, but the miniature may be a better pick if you need a dog that's a little sturdier and more capable of a good long walk.
- Miniature schnauzer. This is another small dog that makes a loving companion for seniors. If you have grandchildren, schnauzers have a great personality and a high tolerance. Miniature schnauzers are energetic, affectionate and relatively easy to train. They can, however, be overly aggressive with other dogs. This may not be a good choice if you live in an area that is home to a lot of larger dogs.
- Scottish or Yorkshire terrier. A Scottish terrier weighs around 15 to 20 pounds, is highly intelligent and needs daily exercise. Tough and compact, the Scottie is a loyal and protective family member. The Yorkie is a tiny dog with lots of spunk. This breed is happy to spend his days lounging on the sofa, but this calm dog requires regular grooming.
- Maltese - This dog sheds the least and is attentive and perfectly in tune with its owners. They are small, so if you ever need to take them to a vet, they are easily transportable.
When choosing the best dog breeds for the elderly, it's important to compare the potential senior owner's residence, health status and physical strength with the pet's physical traits, personality and routine care requirements. We're happy to help seniors train their dogs so that owners and dogs are a good fit for each other.