Adopting The Best Dogs For Seniors: How to Choose A Compatible Furry Companion

John Walton
Written by John Walton

Seniors living by themselves can feel lonely when they have little to no interaction with other people. Therefore, it’s natural for them to want to adopt a dog, or for families to adopt a dog for them, to keep them company every day. It’s nice to have a pet around to love and talk to.

However, some people worry that adopting a dog may be inconvenient for seniors that live in small apartments. Seniors that have health problems may also be discouraged from getting a pet that requires constant care. However, finding the best dogs for seniors is not as difficult as you might think.

It’s actually beneficial for seniors to have man’s best friend as their daily companion. Dogs can improve a senior’s health in several ways. Having a dog around can reduce stress, lower blood pressure, and keep them active throughout the day.

Senior With Pets

Furthermore, a dog can do wonders for a senior’s mental health. Many dogs require walks, which will encourage social interaction. Not only will this decrease feelings of loneliness, but it will lowers the chances of becoming depressed. Dogs can also decrease the effects of dementia and Alzheimer’s.

Dogs can also prevent seniors from worrying about the future. Dogs are animals that live in the present, which can cause their owners to live in the present. Therefore, morbid thoughts about what the future may hold will be kept at bay.

Despite the numerous health benefits dogs provide, don’t rush out to adopt the first dog you come across. There are several factors to think about before adopting a dog. Many seniors have health concerns or live in communities with pet restrictions, which can effect they type of dog they decide to adopt.

Senior with Brown Dog

While there isn’t an exact science to adopting a dog, you might find that some factors are more relevant to your situation than others. This is why we have come up with a comprehensive list of the things you should consider before adopting a dog for a senior.

Picking Out A Dog To Adopt

There are quite a few things to think about when choosing the right dog for a senior. Some factors revolve around a senior’s health and living space, while other factors revolve around the dog itself. Therefore, we’ve created four main categories to help you determine which factors pertain to your situation.

Where Will The Dog Be Living?

The simplest part about picking out a furry best friend is determining what kind of dog can live comfortably in its expected home. Where the dog is going to have to live is an important consideration. No dog should have to live somewhere they can’t move around in comfortably.

Doghouse in The Yard

The size of a dog’s new home, the type of yard it may or may not have, and the type of neighbors it will have to get used to are all factors that can decide what type of dog is the right dog. Before deciding on a dog to adopt, consider the size of the place you will be bringing it home to. Will it be living in a house? An apartment? A trailer?

It’s not a promising idea to bring a large dog home, like a German Shepard or a Labrador, if it is going to have to live in a one-bedroom apartment. A large dog will feel cramped and restless if he or she is forced to live in a small place.

Therefore, always adopt a dog that can live comfortably in its new space. Larger dogs are a good option for full-sized homes. Smaller dogs, such as a pug or beagle, are a good option for small apartments.

Consider the type of yard your new friend will have to play in as well. Seniors living in a home that has a fenced in yard can consider adopting a larger dog, because the dog can run around, play, and get its energy out throughout the day. You can also throw a ball or frisbee around in the yard, instead of having to go to a dog park.

Small Dog on Couch

However, seniors living a townhouse that has a tiny yard, or an apartment with no yard at all, might want to consider adopting a smaller dog. If you adopt a large dog, but have no yard for it to run around in, then you will have to spend a lot of time and energy going on multiple walks a day. Smaller dogs only require a walk or two a day, and some don’t need walking at all.

Finally, think about how close the neighbors are. While you might not want to adopt a dog based on the type of neighbors are nearby, neighbors can become a real pain. Seniors who live in an apartment building, where there the neighbors are on top of one another, should avoid adopting a dog with a reputation for barking.

For example, a chihuahua may be small and can live comfortably in small apartment, they have a reputation for barking, which could annoy grumpy neighbors. If too many neighbors decide to complain about the noise your companion is making, you might be forced to get rid of it.

Chihuahua In The House

Just remember that seniors who live in an apartment, assisted living, or other community-type place might have rules that limit the type of dog they can bring home. So, double check with who is in charge before deciding to adopt a dog in the first place. This way you will avoid any future problems that could result in having to get rid of the dog.

Mobility and Other Health Concerns

The type of dog a senior chooses to adopt will rely heavily on their health. Certain health concerns or the inability to move around freely will have a significant impact on how seniors interact with their furry companion. Therefore, how interactive a senior can be with their dog is a huge factor in determining the right dog to adopt.

When adopting a dog, many times the health of a senior and where they live will go hand in hand. For example, seniors who don’t have the ability to go on long walks, or don’t have the strength necessary to keep a dog under control, should usually avoid adopting larger dogs. Larger dogs may end up pulling too hard on their leash and seniors who don’t have the strength to hold on to their dog could end up hurt.

Seniors Are Walking The Dog

However, seniors with mobility issues who live in a house that has a yard won’t need to walk their dog. Therefore, a large dog may still be an option, especially if they live with family members or have a caretaker who comes over every day.

Typically, adopting a smaller dog is going to be the better choice for seniors with health problems. Seniors with heart disease, or respiratory diseases that make it difficult to breathe and do exercise, might not be able to walk an energetic dog every day. Seniors with diseases such as osteoporosis and arthritis might find it difficult to throw a ball or Frisbee for their dog to catch.

Smaller dogs, such as Boston terriers, pugs, dachshunds, cavaliers, and Pomeranians, are loving dog breeds to consider adopting for seniors with mobility concerns who need walkers or canes to get around. Seniors who have cardiovascular health problems and can’t perform a lot of exercise, or seniors with low bone density, should consider these dog breeds as well. Typically, these dog breeds don’t need to be walked and love to spend their days lounging on the couch, as long as they receive plenty of love from their owner.

Old Person With Dog

Some other small dog breeds that could be a good fit are poodles, beagles, Yorkshire terriers, chihuahuas, cocker spaniels, and schnauzers. These breeds adapt well to living in apartments, and other small living areas, but are a little more active. Therefore, these types of dogs are the happy medium for seniors who are still fairly active, but live in smaller quarters.

Qualities A Dog May Have

Before adopting a dog it’s necessary to do your research. While it’s alright to want a certain type of dog because it’s what you always wanted or it’s the type of dog you grew up with, it may not actually be the right type of dog to fit a your needs. Therefore, knowing several factors, such as a dog’s age, energy level, and potential health concerns are essential to adopting a dog a senior can love and take care of properly.

Senior With Old Dog

The first factor to consider when adopting a dog is its age and life expectancy. Typically, it is recommended for a senior to adopt an older dog. Puppies can be a lot to handle. They’re energetic, they usually aren’t potty trained, and need to be to learn obedience.

Seniors with health problems or seniors that live in an apartment are going to have a challenging time teaching a puppy to behave. This is why adopting older dogs is recommended, because they are calmer, gentler, and more obedient. Therefore, seniors will most likely find an older dog better suited for their lifestyle.

Smaller dogs have a longer life expectancy than larger dogs, because larger dogs typically have more health problems. Often smaller dogs have life expectancies of 15 to 16 years. Larger dogs have life expectancies of 10 to 13 years.

Old Person With Large Dog

Most seniors probably won’t care about the life expectancy of their dog as long as they can love them and receive love from them. However, some may want to adopt a dog that is expected to live longer, especially if they live alone and want to have man’s best friend by their side for a long time.

The second factor to consider when adopting a dog is its energy level. As touched upon, some seniors will have no problem handling a dog with a high-energy level. However, many seniors need a dog that has a low-energy level and requires minimal maintenance.

If you are looking to adopt a dog with low energy levels consider the following breeds: basset hounds, bulldogs, pugs, Boston terriers, and Shih Tzus. For seniors who want a dog with a moderate energy level should consider the following breeds: beagles, Bichon Frises, and Italian greyhounds. Some experts may consider these breeds to be higher-energy level dogs.

Man And Bulldog

Possibly the most important factor to consider when adopting a dog is what type of health problems it may have in the future. While predicting the future may sound ridiculous, there are health problems that are commonly appear in specific dog breeds. Seniors who have a lot of health problems themselves may not want to adopt a dog that could have potentially serious health problems as well.

Not only will those problems get expensive, but seniors who can’t drive may not be able to take their dog to the vet all of the time. Therefore, seniors who won’t be able to take care of a dog that has serious health problems might want to consider avoiding adopting the following breeds.

Bulldogs are known for having respiratory problems due to their small nostrils. However, they usually won’t turn life-threatening if the dog is kept cool and isn’t over exercised. German shepherds, and other larger dogs, usually get hip dysplasia, which can cause pain, arthritis, and walking problems. Beagles are prone to seizures.

German Shepherd

Unfortunately, talking about every dog breed that is known for having health problems would take up too much time. However, if there is a dog you are considering adopting that we haven’t mentioned do some research. Talk to a vet, or dog expert, who can give some insight as to what you should expect when you adopt a specific type of dog.

Can The Dog Be Trained?

Adopting a dog that is fully trained will make adopting a dog much easier. Seniors with health concerns may not have to worry about the size of their dog if it is well trained. Therefore, seniors will have the ability to choose their dog based on what they want instead of based of their ability to move around.

While it is still recommended for seniors with health concerns to adopt a smaller, low-energy dog, other dogs may be a possibility if they are well trained. Obedient dogs are less likely to pull on their leash when they see a person, dog, or another animal. They are also less likely to jump onto visitors, go to the bathroom in the house, or chew on furniture and shoes.

Training a Dog

Preferably, you want to adopt a dog that is already well-trained. Some seniors may not have the ability to train their dog themselves. However, adopting a young puppy and enrolling it in obedience class, or hiring a dog trainer to come to your home, is another possibility.

Remember that not all dogs are receptive to training. Some dog breeds are easier to train than others. For example, golden retrievers are typically easy to train. This is because they are dogs that like to please their owners and learn new things.

Other dogs that are usually easy to train include: poodles, Labradors, collies, German shepherds, corgis, and Rottweilers. Typically, these dogs are associated with qualities such as high intelligence, loyalty, and an eager personality. Sometimes these dogs are described as having a work ethic, making them easier to train.

Training a Dog

Dogs that are harder to train include: Dalmatians, pugs, basset hounds, beagles, and bulldogs. There are a variety of reasons it is difficult to train these types of dogs. For example, basset hounds have an incredible sense of smell, which makes them more likely to follow their own senses rather than listen to their owners.

Another reason a dog might be difficult to trains is because of its energy level. A high-energy level dog will need lots of treats to train because it gets distracted easily. A low-energy level dog might be too lazy or stubborn to bother with training.

Dogs Training

Another option is to look into applying to adopt an assistant dog. These dogs are a good option for seniors with more severe disabilities, as these dogs are more than just a companion. They can help seniors perform daily tasks, such as opening doors, pulling wheelchairs, helping seniors get dressed, carrying items, and providing balance.


There’s a lot to consider before taking a dog home. For example, do you have a home with a yard? Or do you live in a small apartment or an assisted living community that might restrict the type of breed you can adopt?

Furthermore, considering the health limits of a senior is key to adopting the right dog. Taking care of a dog that has a lot of energy might be difficult for a senior that can’t take it for walks. However, taking care of a dog that doesn’t have a lot of energy might be boring for an active senior.

Senior With Dog

Unfortunately, there’s no exact formula that will tell you exactly what dog to adopt. Variables, such as health limits and the desired dog breed, change from person to person. Therefore, you need to determine which variables apply to you and talk about what dogs may be a good option.

Have any questions, concerns, or other helpful tips we didn’t cover in this article? Please share your comments in the section below.

About the author
John Walton
John Walton

John Walton lives in Somerville, MA, with his two dogs, two sons, and very understanding mate. He is a Certified Pet Dog Trainer, a member of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants, a mentor trainer for the Animal Behavior College, an AKC Certified CGC Evaluator, and the Training Director for the New England Dog Training Club.