Reasons why dogs are good for seniors
Affectionate, loyal, nurturing: There are lots of reasons why dogs make great companions for seniors. Not only do dogs provide comfort and friendship, but they also help keep seniors healthy and encourage sociability. In fact, a 2019 study found that people who owned dogs were more likely to maintain better heart health and be more active, than those without pets. “Dogs give seniors a reason to get up and move – and walking a dog keeps them fit,” explains veterinarian Dr Anita Kinscher-Juran. Another plus: When you get out of the house for that walk, you have more chances to be social, too, from greeting neighbours on the street to impromptu conversations with fellow dog owners.
But adopting a dog is a big decision. Just like with a human companion, you need to understand what you’re looking for in a dog before committing to a long-term living arrangement.
Some important points to think about as you search for the best dogs for seniors are energy levels (vets often recommend calm dog breeds for older folks), the size of your home (these are the best apartment dogs) and the size of the dog, the breed’s socialness (some breeds, like Pomeranians, make the best emotional support dogs) and a dog’s age and temperament. Health and grooming needs and maintenance requirements (i.e. how often dogs need to be brushed, for instance) are also important considerations. Cocker spaniels, while super cute with their big, long ears, are also known for having frequent ear infections, for instance. And while Havanese, one of the cutest white dog breeds, are very portable, they also require a lot of grooming.
The decision to adopt a pet is not one that should be taken lightly. “Bringing a pet into the household is a lifelong decision for that animal,” says Dr Kinscher-Juran. But after thoroughly considering your situation and needs, it’s comforting to know, as Dr Kinscher-Juran says “that there is a dog for everyone and every age.”
Here are the top 15 best dogs for seniors.
Best overall: Bichon Frise
These white powder puffs of a dog are known for their sweet and friendly nature and are perfect for seniors seeking easy companionship – they also make great pets for first-time dog owners. These low-maintenance pups aren’t difficult to potty train and don’t shed much, which is why they are one of the best dogs for older people, Dr Kinscher-Juran says. (But to keep their snow-white hair looking fluffy, they do require grooming every five or so weeks.)
Bichons are gentle and playful and they get along well with other pets and children, so you don’t need to put them in another room if the grandkids stop by! At an average of 5 to 8 kilograms, they are also super portable. Not to mention smart. “One of my favourite bichons knew how to give a kiss in three different languages, one of which was Portuguese,” says Dr Kinscher-Juran.
Like the best toy dogs, they are perfectly content to sit on your lap for hours every morning, as you read the paper or watch the news. Bichon Frise’s don’t require long, five kilometre hikes to keep them happy, rather they’re fine with 20- to 30-minute leisurely strolls. What they crave most is attention, something seniors often have time to give.
Height: 24 to 30 cms
Weight: 5 to 8 kgs
Life expectancy: 14 to 15 years
Best lap dog: Cavalier King Charles spaniel
If you are looking for one of the best dogs for older people, cavalier King Charles spaniels should be high on your list. It’s easy to fall in love with their big eyes and long ears. And Cavalier King Charles spaniels, in turn, like nothing more than to kiss and cuddle with their owners. Cavalier King Charles spaniels have an eager to please personality, which makes them easier to train. They also only require a moderate amount of exercise, which can be good for less active seniors. Beauty, of course, requires attention. Dr Kinscher-Juran suggests brushing their long luxurious coats once a day, which isn’t hard to do, considering they’re one of the best lap dog breeds!
Height: 3.5 to 33 cms
Weight: 5.8 to 8 kgs
Life expectancy: 12 to 15 years