Choosing a dog at any age means being realistic about lifestyle, needs and disposable income. The best dogs for seniors will depend entirely on how active the future dog owner is, what type of home they live in and their goals when it comes to pet ownership. At the very least, the best dogs for seniors will be affectionate, obedient and low maintenance.
How dogs can benefit seniors
Adopting a dog may be the best decision a senior citizen can make. We’re not being hyperbolic! According to studies from the American Heart Association, Harvard Medical School and James Cook University, owning a pet can lower blood pressure, increase activity and ease anxiety or depression. A study published by BMC Public Health says older adults who have dogs walk an average of 22 minutes more per day than those without pups. Plus, if rom-coms have taught us anything, walking a dog is a great tool for meeting people and staying social.
One unique and recent study published in Scientific Reports dug deep into the multi-faceted world of dog ownership and found that owning a dog improves “environmental mastery.” Basically, dog owners who participated in the research had more consistent daily routines because of their pets, which then gave them a greater sense of control over and comfort within their environment. “[Feeding the dog] gives me something to do, otherwise I would skip a few meals,” one study participant told researchers. “They have their own dinner, they have their own routines so I need to keep my routines as well… One of the dogs has tablets, so it reminds me of my tablets as well.”
Canines provide companionship, too. Studies suggest seniors who live alone may feel less isolated with a dog in their home.
How to choose the right breed
Factors like lifestyle, environment, temperament and grooming needs are crucial when selecting a dog. Breed is actually just one consideration in this equation since each dog is different and there are exceptions to every breed (in fact, past trauma and socialization experience are better indicators of a dog’s personality than breed).
Right away, seniors should think about their activity level—and define “activity.” Seniors who are very active around the house but rarely go out to run errands might consider a playful indoor dog. If a person’s primary form of exercise is long walks, a dog with a low prey-drive who also enjoys tagging along on outdoor excursions is a good idea.
Environment plays a big role, too. Living in an apartment in a large retirement community surrounded by other seniors (many of whom the dog will consider strangers at first) is different than moving into an adult child’s suburban home full of grandchildren. Not all breeds are drooling over the opportunity to play with kids or be social butterflies.
Grooming is another aspect of dog ownership that can be costly on a fixed income. It can also be a nuisance if regular drives to the groomer’s aren’t possible. High-maintenance coats can be excellent motivation to get out of the house or a pain in the neck, depending on a senior’s lifestyle.
Another factor to consider is travel. The “environmental mastery” study found that seniors eager to spend their time traveling felt a greater sense of guilt at having to leave their dog behind. So, if traveling is a hobby, it’s wise to find a dog who can safely fly on airplanes. Otherwise, owning a pup may be more detrimental to mental health in the long run.
All this is to say the ideal dogs for seniors can vary dramatically! However, the dogs on this list have been known to gel well with older adults.
Height: 30-23 inches
Weight: 100-125 pounds
Read More:The 26 Best Dogs for Seniors