It’s no secret that dogs make our lives better. Whether they’re getting us out for a dose of fresh air, reminding us to slow down and enjoy life’s simple pleasures, or simply being their goofy, lovable selves, there’s a reason they’re known as ‘(wo)man’s best friend’.

The benefits of pet companionship are particularly strong for older people, with research confirming that older pet owners enjoy a boost in both physical and emotional well-being compared to those without pets. Perhaps most importantly, having a dog is a fantastic way to stave off loneliness – something we’re all at risk of – by getting yourself interacting with a wider social circle, which is made all the more enjoyable with a supportive furry friend by your side.

As exciting and beneficial as it is to welcome a new dog into your life in your later years, it’s also a big commitment. That’s why it’s important to do your research and find the right dog to suit you and your lifestyle. While of course every dog is unique, and breed isn’t the be-all and end-all, understanding typical breed characteristics is a helpful way to narrow down your options as to the type of dog that will suit you best.

This guide will help get you started on your search, detailing the key factors to consider when choosing a dog, and introducing a few of the most popular dog breeds to suit older people with a range of different lifestyles.

Benefits of Having a Dog for Older People

As we’ve mentioned, becoming a dog owner as an older person can have a hugely positive influence on your life. For some of us, our later years are all about slowing down and enjoying the good life, with less running around and less on our plates. For others, it’s about gearing up, getting out there, and really starting to treat life as an adventure! Either way, your later years are ones to celebrate and cherish, and having a furry friend by your side can be an immensely enriching addition.
Pet ownership has been shown to have a positive impact on older individuals’ social, physical and mental well-being. Alongside the feel-good boost that a cuddle with a furry friend gives us, dogs also give us a sense of purpose and structure our days with their simple but vital needs. They’re a constant source of companionship, which is especially beneficial for those of us living alone.

Then there’s the physical health boost that comes from having a dog to get you up and going. Studies have linked an amazing range of health benefits to pet ownership, including improved heart health, strength and stamina, and lower blood pressure. If you’re looking for motivation to get active, you’d be hard-pressed to find a more reliable accountability buddy than a dog with a hankering for walkies!

And last but definitely not least, becoming a dog parent is a great way to stave off social isolation, which is something we all need to watch out for – again, especially if we live alone. Dogs get us out and about, meaning we come to know our neighbours and other dog parents in our area. This kind of spontaneous social interaction and community connection does us a world of good and is arguably the bedrock of healthy ageing.

older woman and dog in a coffee shop

Factors to Consider When Choosing a Dog Breed

If you’re looking to find a dog breed to suit you in your older years, you’ll need to consider a range of factors. The most important thing is to choose a dog that will suit you and your unique lifestyle, to ensure that you’ll be able to meet each other’s needs and enrich each other’s lives for years to come.
The following are some of the key traits you should keep in mind when you’re researching the right pup for you.


As every dog lover knows, dogs are as diverse as humans when it comes to temperament! Some are calm homebodies, happy to be a couch potato as long as they’re getting cuddles. Others are adventure-seekers, not satisfied until they’ve sniffed the far corners of the neighbourhood at least once a day. Still others are independent and happiest when left alone to potter the day away.
Your dog’s temperament is probably the most important factor in deciding how well you’ll get along. If you’re looking for a calm and gentle presence, you might choose a Greyhound. If you’re after a spunky character, a Chihuahua might be more your speed. Some dogs, like Cocker Spaniels and Poodles, are known for their intelligence and trainability. You’ll need to decide what traits you’ll value most in your new friend, depending on what’s important to you.

Keep in mind that breed is just one factor when it comes to each individual dog’s temperament, so make sure you get to know your prospective pooch before bringing them home to make sure it’s a good fit.

Energy levels and exercise requirements

Like temperament, energy levels are very important to consider when choosing a dog breed as an older person, as these will determine how much exercise your pup needs. Some dogs, like Golden Retrievers and Beagles, need a good daily walk and ideally a backyard to romp around in too. Other breeds, often those referred to as ‘lapdogs’ like Shih Tzus and Bologneses, are happier to veg out at home with only short strolls to keep them healthy.

You should consider your motivations for getting a dog: are you looking for a reason to stay active and take a daily stroll around your neighbourhood? Are you planning to take up hiking in your retirement, and want a buddy to join you? Or are you after a quiet companion to join you while you potter around at home?

It’s important to be realistic about your capacity to keep up with your new dog’s exercise requirements – not just now, but over the years of your dog’s lifetime. You don’t need to plan for the worst, but it’s a good idea to consider whether your mobility is likely to decline or whether you’ll be moving to a smaller home in the foreseeable future. These considerations will help to ensure that you and your pup can thrive together for years to come.


Size is a particularly important consideration if you have any mobility limitations that could affect how much weight you can handle, as well as for those of us living in small apartments. While many smaller lapdogs are suited to leisurely indoor living, small size doesn’t necessarily mean lower energy or exercise requirements – a Jack Russell typically needs more space for zoomies than a Greyhound! So, keep this in mind while you’re narrowing down your search.

Grooming needs and maintenance

Finally, grooming and maintenance requirements are important factors to consider when choosing a breed that’s right for you. Again, this requires a realistic and honest look at how much time and energy you have to devote to your pooch each day.

Grooming may be more challenging if you’re dealing with certain mobility limitations, so you might consider a low-maintenance breed. On the contrary, if you’re looking to add some meaning and routine to your life with your new pooch, a daily grooming routine with a Yorkshire Terrier, for example, might be just the right fit for you.

As a general rule, longer-haired breeds, like Cavaliers and Yorkies, will require more regular and involved maintenance than short-haired breeds, like Beagles and Greyhounds, but there are variations within that generalisation.

older couple walking a dog in woods

Best Dog Breeds for Older People

There’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to choosing a dog breed as an older individual, but this guide will help you narrow down your search to the options that suit you best. While temperament varies between individual dogs, paying attention to general breed attributes is a great place to start your search – whether you’re after a bouncy playmate to help keep you on your toes, or a cuddly friend to relax with on the sofa.

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

Cavaliers are sweet and cuddly spaniels who retain their puppy-like softness for their whole lives, which makes them perfect for petting! Their small size and calm temperament make them easy to handle, and while they do need a bit of daily exercise, they’re well-suited to apartment living and lowkey lifestyles. These beauties require regular grooming to keep up their regal appearances, so they’d suit an older person with plenty of time to devote to their pup.

cavalier king charles spaniel dog

Bichon Frise

Surrounded by a halo of cotton wool-like fur, the Bichon Frise is as cute as a button, with an intelligent but laidback temperament to match. Daily walks will keep your buddy happy and well, but they’ll be more than content to cuddle with you and potter around at home for the rest of the day. They’re also great with other pets, so they make a perfect choice if you’re looking to add to your pack.

Bichon Frisė

Labrador Retriever

According to a recent study, Labradors are the most common dog breed in the UK – and for good reason! Labs are known for being calm, patient and loyal protectors. They’re also highly intelligent, both intellectually and emotionally, which is why you so often see them working as therapy and assistance animals. They’re on the larger side, which could be a consideration for apartment dwellers, but their calm temperament makes them compatible with a range of mobility challenges.

Chocolate labrador dog standing near outdoor swimming pool


If you’re after a quirky critter with bucketloads of personality, you can’t go past a Pug! Even though they’re small dogs, they’ll need daily outings to get their sillies out. For the rest of the time, they’ll be happy to join you on the couch or potter about the house with you. Keep in mind that, as a brachycephalic breed, your Pug is likely to require medical treatment in its lifetime.



You might associate Greyhounds with speed, but don’t be fooled by their reputation as racing dogs. Greyhounds are typically big old sooks who are more than happy to spend the day curled up at your feet. They are on the larger side, so they do require some strength and mobility when it comes to grooming and bathing, but their placid temperament makes them perfect apartment dwellers and they tend to be calm, easy walkers.

brindle greyhound standing


Famously the late Queen Elizabeth’s companion of choice, Corgis make a delightful buddy for anyone looking for an agreeable, fun-loving, easy-going friend to add to their pack. Their small size makes them relatively easy to handle, but they do pack a lot of energy into their little frames, so they’re best suited for older people looking for a friend to get them active and walking each day.

A Corgi sits on the marble tiles of a shopping mall floor

Yorkshire Terrier

Yorkshire Terriers are beautiful little dogs, perfect if you’re after a companion who is easy to pick up and carry around. They tend to be full of spunk and character, and are known to be loyal – they love to stick by their parent’s side. Because they’re so tiny, Yorkies only need a small amount of exercise each day, but their long silky hair does need regular grooming to keep it looking and feeling fresh.

Yorkshire Terrier Eating Treats in Bed

Shih Tzu

The ultimate crowd-pleaser, you’d be hard-pressed to find a dog as agreeable and easy-going as a Shih Tzu. The quintessential lapdog, these cute little dogs love nothing more than to spend the day by your side (or on your lap, ideally). They’ll be happy to run some errands with you but don’t need a huge amount of daily exercise, so they’re perfect for older people looking to slow down or living in a smaller space.

Shih Tzu


Poodles are a favourite among older and younger people alike, and for good reason. They’re both loving and intelligent, which makes them fast learners and great companions. They need regular grooming to keep them looking sharp, but because they have hair, not fur, they are a great hypoallergenic option if you’re usually allergic to dogs or dust. Plus, you can choose from three sizes – Toy, Miniature and Standard – to suit your needs and space.

black poodle

French Bulldog

Frenchies are known for being bundles of joy, making them a great choice if your motivation for getting a dog is to put a smile on your face! Their good-natured temperament is catching, and fans of Frenchies love their playful curiosity. They can be quite active, but keep in mind that, as a brachycephalic breed, your French Bulldog is likely to require medical treatment in its lifetime and will be sensitive to exertion and extreme temperatures.

French Bulldog


If you’re looking for a new best friend who won’t ever leave your side, a Maltese could be a great choice. These little bundles of white fluff don’t just look beautiful – they’re also known for being highly emotionally intelligent and attentive to their owner’s needs. They’ll do well with a short daily walk and weekly grooming, and will be more than happy to simply potter around your house or apartment with you for the rest of the time.



Another very small breed, Pomeranians are a great choice for older people with mobility limitations, looking for a loyal companion who’s easy to handle and loves a cuddle. Pomeranians want nothing more or less than to be the centre of your world, so will thrive best in a household where there’s plenty of love and attention to be had.

Brown Pomeranian Puppy Looking at Camera in front of a food bowl

West Highland White Terrier

West Highland White Terriers – also known as Westies – are another great choice if you’re looking for a smaller breed that’s easy to handle and prefers a cuddle on the couch to a long hike. Their coat is lower maintenance than most other lapdog breeds, so you can spend less time grooming and more time hanging out with your new bud.

West Highland White Terrier


This intelligent, gentle and fun-loving breed is perfect if you’re looking for a furry friend to get you out of the house. Beagles love exploring their neighbourhood with their super-strength sense of smell. After they’ve had enough exercise, they’ll be more than happy to snooze the day away. With their short coats, beagles are relatively low-maintenance when it comes to grooming.



With their eccentric little faces and typically cheeky personalities, Chihuahuas are a widely loved breed. The tiniest of dogs, Chihuahuas are a great choice for people with limited strength and mobility, since their light weight makes them easy to scoop up. With their tiny little legs, they don’t need much exercise either and will be happy with a daily trot around the block to keep them fit and healthy.

Tricolour chihuahua


The Havanese has a reputation for being extremely loyal and loving towards their people, making them a perfect choice for an older person looking for a buddy to spend all day with. They are intelligent and easy to train, and don’t need more than a daily walk to keep them fit and healthy. Their wavy coat will require regular maintenance to keep it beautiful.


Lhasa Apso

Lhasa Apsos are known for being calm, sweet and loyal, without being clingy. They’re happy to join you as you potter around the house, but they’re equally fine to entertain themselves if left alone while you’re out and about. Of course, that flowing fur requires a bit of upkeep, so you’ll need to commit to a regular grooming schedule.

Lhasa Apso


These adorable little fluffballs are another great choice for anyone looking for a lapdog to join them on the couch. Bologneses have a reputation for being immensely affectionate towards their owners, so as long as they’re by your side, they’ll be content. They won’t need a huge amount of exercise, so they’re perfect for homebodies looking for a forever friend, whether you’re in a small apartment or larger house.

Bolognese Dog

Miniature Schnauzer

The stately Miniature Schnauzer is known for its patience, loyalty and, of course, handsome good looks! They can make good watchdogs too, as they have a strong protective streak. They’re also a good choice if you’re looking for a hypoallergenic breed, as they’re known to be minimal shedders.

Miniature Schnauzer


The Pekingese is a distinctive and beautiful lapdog that typically thrives in a calm, quiet environment. They’ll be more than happy to sit with you on the couch all day! While they do well with a short daily walk, they don’t love excitement or exertion, so they’re a perfect fit for a slower lifestyle.


Cocker Spaniel

Loved equally for their beautiful looks and high intelligence, Cocker Spaniels are a great choice for an active older person looking for a buddy to keep them on their feet. While their energy levels require a good dose of mental and physical stimulation every day, once they’ve got their sillies out they’ll love to curl up at home with you, and you’ll see their sweet, loving temperament shine. With their long coats, Cocker Spaniels need regular grooming to keep them looking sharp.

Cocker Spaniel

Golden Retriever

Despite being a larger breed, Golden Retrievers can be a great choice for older people on account of their kind, caring temperaments and high emotional IQ. They’re a great choice if you’re looking for a buddy to get you up and out of the house. When they’re not out exploring, Golden Retrievers typically have a mellow personality and will enjoy joining you on the couch for some R&R once their daily exercise needs have been met.

Golden Retriever

Breeds for Older People to Avoid

Plenty of older folks aren’t planning on slowing down any time soon, in which case an active companion might be the perfect choice for you! However, if you’re looking for a dog to suit a quieter lifestyle, or slot into down-sized apartment living, rambunctious, energetic dogs, like Border Collies and Jack Russells, might be best avoided. Similarly, if you’re finding yourself less steady on your feet these days, very large, strong breeds, like Boxers, Great Danes and Wolfhounds, are probably not the best fit, as they may make walks and grooming a challenge. Ultimately, there is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ breed for an older person – it’s all about matching your needs and lifestyle to the dog that suits you best.

Welcoming a dog into your life can be a hugely enriching experience as an older individual. While it’s also a big leap into commitment, doing your research before choosing your dog will ensure that your relationship is a mutually rewarding one for years to come.

Understanding breed characteristics is a great place to start when it comes to narrowing down your search, but remember, you can always choose to ‘adopt not shop’! You’ll often find mixed-breed dogs available for adoption, and these dogs can make beautiful companions too, blending a mix of traits from various breeds into a gorgeous one-of-a-kind package. The important thing is to match your dog’s needs and temperament to your own needs and lifestyle, remembering that every dog is as unique as you are. From there, you can’t go wrong!

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