The top 21 best small dogs for seniors are ranked below. From 3-5 paw prints, the dogs get a "stamp" of approval for the breed characteristics that give them the potential to be best suited for offering their unconditional love to the wisest of seniors!
The best small dogs for seniors can actually help improve mental and physical health, but only when the right dog for the job is chosen in the first place.
It's not a new concept. Science has long known the therapeutic effects of having a pet. The simple act of petting a dog can reduce anxiety by lowering the stress hormone cortisol while simultaneously raising feel-good hormones.
The right pet can actually help to lower blood pressure, improve heart health and boost our moods.
One study done by Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes (an official journal of the American Heart Association) found that dog ownership was associated with a 31% reduction of cardiovascular related health incidents and a 24% reduction of health related incidents from any cause!
Conversely, bringing undue stress on oneself by getting the wrong dog can have the opposite effect. For instance, getting a high-strung dog best suited for family life or a physically demanding dog can have negative consequences on a person's mental and physical well being.
Training is vital. Whether getting a dog for companionship or for help with getting a little more exercise, even the best small dogs for seniors will need some obedience training.
Training is important to a dog's physical and mental well-being as well as the owner's. Dogs can learn and follow the commands of up to 165 words. They want to please their humans and most will follow commands when they know what's expected of them.
Click here to see how simple it is to get a head start on training. It's completely free and it's easier than you think. Plus it's the perfect compliment to getting one of the best small dogs fore seniors listed below.
Even the most ideal breed chosen for size and temperament should be taught the sit command and stay command, even if it's only to help prevent becoming a tripping hazard.
Aside from a few extremely rare breeds, you'll find the most complete compilation of the best small dogs for seniors below! We've chosen these dogs because we've spent a great deal of time with them, owned them, known others who've owned them and researched each of these breeds extensively for you.
All you have to do is pick one, then research their characteristics and maintenance needs to determine which one is the best fit for your lifestyle!
The paw prints, ranging from 3-5, rank the dog breeds on their proven breed characteristics that makes them the best small dogs for seniors. Don't let a ranking of 3 dissuade you. And a ranking of 5 is no guarantee.
How it works: A ranking of 3 or 4 means that particular breed has 2 or more potential characteristics in their genetic make-up, such as high maintenance coupled with potential high energy as pups (for instance), or nervousness coupled with potential high risk for health issues or training difficulties. These may or may not be things that would bother you.
Regardless, every dog is an individual and breed characteristics are only a general rule of thumb that not every dog will fit into.
Without further ado, here are our recommendations for the best small dogs for seniors.
Any adult dog, mixed breed or purebred would be one of the best small dogs for seniors.
Adopting a small breed rescue dog means you're getting a dog that's:
One of the best ways to find a small dog near you in need of adopting is by checking petfinder.com. Once there, you can enter your zip code, size requirement, gender preference, age, etc.
A fluffy white Bichon Frise is sure to melt the heart of anyone. Even as puppies, most Bichons are easy to train and don't require a ton of exercise, however, they do have somewhat high maintenance needs. Their coats require regular grooming to prevent becoming matted, but this super sweet breed has the potential to be one of the best small dogs for seniors. Learn more about Bichons here.
I've known more than a couple of Boston Terriers in my life and they're proven mood boosters. Their silly antics will definitely put a smile on your face. When I asked my friend that raised them as a kid, she said about half of them were super high energy, but I think that's true of a lot of pups.
An adult Boston Terrier will settle into lap of luxury (pun intended) and, with proper training and socialization, they have the potential to be one of the best small dogs for seniors, but on the search for a puppy, a breeder who strives for health and temperament should be chosen wisely.
Avoiding puppy mill dogs is the best way to avoid dogs with poor temperaments. Learn more about finding responsible breeders and avoiding puppy mill dogs here.
Cairns don't need a great amount of grooming and too much can damage their wiry coats. Brushing twice per week and bathing every other week or so is plenty for a Cairn Terrier. Regular attention to his nails, teeth and ears starting when he's young will accustom your dog to these necessary practices, but for the most part, Cairns are easy to take care of, which makes them a great choice for seniors.
Younger Cairns can be spirited and have an independent streak which can be hard to train out so consistency in training is a must for a Cairn owner.
Cairns are also well know to love the company of children, so grandkids will also be welcomed visitors!
Cavalier King Charles Spaniels make a wonderful companions for seniors, but this breed is not without it's problems. Learn as much as you can about the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, just as you would with any breed before bringing one home. Rarely excitable and the perfect size for senior living... not to mention ADORABLE! Learn more about the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel right here!
If you're looking for tireless watch dog and the true-to-you type who lives to be your faithful side-kick, look no further.
Chihuahuas can develop a habit of becoming overly possessive of their owners, but as long as this behavior isn't rewarded or encouraged (for the dog's sake and yours), a chihuahua is a great breed for seniors!
Chihuahuas can be clingy, which could potentially make them more of a tripping hazard and might also be more prone to separation anxiety, but their small size makes them convenient to carry with you to a lot of places.
The other good news is that Chihuahuas are easy to find and easy to adopt. You will almost certainly find one near you in need of a loving forever home. In return for your love, you'll get a dog who knows you saved him and he'll be eager to return the favor. ♥ Learn more about Chihuahuas.
Adopting an adult Cocker Spaniel is a GREAT way to ensure that you get a dog with the personality traits that suit your needs.
Cocker Spaniels are generally laid back, but they're prone to problems with their ears and their coats are fairly high maintenance.
If these are all things that you can live with, consider adopting an adult Cocker Spaniel. Adult dogs comes with several bonuses! Already out of chewing phase, more likely to be housebroken and his temperament will already be established. Best of all, you will forever be his hero! Learn more about the gentle, sweet-natured Cocker Spaniel here!
Dachshunds aren't super high energy, and even if they were, their tiny legs will only take their elongated bodies so far.
Their backs aren't well suited for being picked up a lot, so homes with dachshunds should also have pet steps or ramps. Not only will steps help prevent back and joint injuries for the dog, but also for the owner who doesn't need to bend down to help him on and off of the sofa and bed reguarly.
Don't let the heavy frown on an English Bulldog or Olde English Bulldog fool ya. These guys are full of gentle kisses and lots of love. English Bulldogs overheat easily, so they're more than grateful for a nice temperature controlled bedroom for sleeping, but they tend to snore and drool (full disclosure). On the bright side, English Bulldogs don't require a lot of expensive maintenance like grooming and most are very laid back.
The small, compact body of the French Bulldog is well suited for apartment life. They don't need a great deal of exercise and they're quick learners during training. French Bulldogs are also well known to be great companions, not just for seniors, but they're great with children and other pets, too. Learn more about their maintenance needs, health issues and more before setting your heart on a French Bulldog.
Havanese Make great dogs for seniors. Much like the personality of a Bichon, the Havanese is laid back and doesn't require a lot of exercise to stay happy and healthy.
The Havanese is also easily trained and are rarely excitable. They do have maintenance needs to keep their coat healthy and beautiful, but if you don't mind regular trips to the groomer, you'll have a loving, loyal companion, watch dog and lap warmer.
Japanese Chins make great dogs for seniors. Much like the personality of a Bichon, the Japanese Chin is laid back and doesn't require a lot of exercise to stay happy and healthy.
This breed is also easily trained and are rarely excitable. They do have fairly high maintenance needs, but if you can handle that, you'll have a loyal watch dog and devoted lap warmer with a LOT of personality.
The Lhasa Apso is not well known for their fondness of children. Constant supervision with this breed is necessary around the smaller and rowdier grandkids, but this breed, in general, has the potential to be one of the most well-suited for seniors, especially those whose grandchildren are a little older.
Like many of the non-shedding dog breeds, the lhasa apso needs regular grooming, but we think it's a pretty good trade-off to not have dog-hair-dust-bunnies along every baseboard. If you agree, you'll also get a dog that's not overly yappy. Learn more about the lhasa apso here.
Maltese makes a great watch dog for seniors! If you're looking for a dog who can alert you to every knock on the door and random squirrel who ventures onto your grass, the maltese is just the dog for you.
That's a polite way of saying that the Maltese is scrappy by nature, but this trait does make him a great watch dog!
Maltese are also extremely intelligent on top of being alert and their small size makes them easy to carry.
The Maltese is another of the non shedding dog breeds, which virtually goes hand in hand with being high maintenance, so this additional cost might be something you would want to consider if a non shedding dog like a Maltese is on your short list.
Another great option for seniors is the toy and miniature poodle. The eager-to-please, entertaining, smart and happy disposition of the toy poodle and miniature poodle makes them great dogs for kids, family life and senior living. Poodles adapt well to nearly any situation and are great for active seniors and stay-at-home seniors alike.
Check petfinder.com to find a poodle or poodle mix near you in need of a loving forever home.
Not particularly high energy, Miniature Schnauzers make great family pets and are also one of the best small dogs for seniors. They are easy to train and love the company of people.
Miniature Schnauzers are good natured dogs, but do require regular grooming which can be costly for someone on a fixed income. If potentially expensive grooming doesn't bother you, the sweet and loyal miniature Schnauzer may be the perfect dog for you.
The Norwich Terrier is a versatile little dog who fits right into senior living, but will also be happy to play when the grandkids come to visit.
The Norwich Terrier isn't considered a non-shedding dog breed, but they do shed very minimally compared to some of their heavier shedding cousins.
This breed is full of energy and his playful antics will keep you entertained for hours, so keep training sessions short, but be consistent. Norwich Terriers can be stubborn when it comes to training.
This is a very "people friendly" breed. They will normally choose one master and form a close bond with that person. This is a breed very happy to live in a one dog household and their low exercise requirements make them one of the best dogs for stay at home seniors, but life with an active senior who takes a short daily walk would also be fitting.
Learn more about the potentially heavy shedding and high maintenance needs of the Pekingese to determine if it's the right breed for you.
Shih Tzus are pretty high maintenance, but the trade off is that there is very minimal shedding.
So while you won't have to run the vacuum daily to keep up with the loose dog hair, you will have to keep his coat brushed and trimmed and grooming costs can be expensive.
Avoiding puppy mill puppies will help to ensure that you get a dog who meets breed standard for temperament and virtually guarantees escaping many of the known shih tzu health issues listed here.
By the way, irresponsible breeders offer health guarantees on their puppies, too. The difference is, they will offer you a replacement dog if your puppy gets sick. A reputable breeder doesn't always have a replacement puppy on hand, but she will have a lot of vet records to show that her breeding pair has been tested for any possible genetic health issue and will be eager to show you.
Westies possess a true terrier temperament. They're loving dogs and enjoy the company of people, but Westies are guard dogs at heart without the size to back it up, so always keep them on a leash outside of the house.
And while Westies do love their people and they do form close bonds with their people they also possess the rare quality of being affectionate while still maintaining some independence.
Yorkies are a toy breed, so in general, they'll weigh less than 7 pounds which makes them easy to carry around, but toy breeds are also among the hardest to housebreak.
For a senior citizen who doesn't get around really well, the frequent trips outside to house train a dog might be a deal breaker, but if you're willing to put in the effort, a Yorkshire Terrier is well suited for retirement living.
Almost any dog can be a great dog for seniors. Go to the shelter. Look for a dog who will match your energy and lifestyle, but don't pass by the cages that hold the bigger dogs. Small dogs are great for seniors, but there is something to be said for larger dogs, too.
Larger dogs are less of a tripping hazard, they can offer more protection than just barking and they are, for the most part, easier to house train.
Also, don't shy away from senior dogs. Senior dogs have a lot to offer. Most are content to lay at your feet while you watch t.v., they no longer need a great deal of exercise and they're definitely calmer.
Happy hunting and happy tails!