Independent Living

9/18/2020 | By Annie Tobey

A dog can make a wonderful companion, no matter your age. But age and lifestyle also influence what kind of dog would make the best pet for your lifestyle. Children need a calm, patient dog; an active adult needs a dog that can tag along and keep up; and a sedentary adult needs a sedentary dog.

In choosing the best dog breeds for seniors, it’s useful to consider both age and lifestyle.

Good Companion Dog Breeds for Seniors

Mixed-breed mutts can make wonderful pets, but purebred dogs have more predictable personality traits and activity needs. Find an experienced, responsible breeder who can be your matchmaker.

And avoid the horrors of a “puppy mill”! These unscrupulous breeders breed dogs for profit and numbers, ignoring critical needs of puppies and their mothers – including kindness and socialization.

The 10 dog breeds below are often recommended as companions for older adults. Most of these dogs are small and companionable, easy to love. Of the seven American Kennel Club dog breed groups, these 10 are toy or non-sporting, plus one small sporting dog. One of these may be your next best bud!

1. Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

This regal breed is as flexible as he is striking. He combines the eagerness of a sporting spaniel with the gentleness of a toy breed. He can keep up with active owners and settle in with homebodies. The Cavalier will shower his owner with affection and get along well with children and other dogs. His big, round eyes, his sweet expression, and his silky-smooth hair will easily melt your heart.

  • Height: 12-13 inches
  • Weight: 13-18 pounds
  • Toy group

2. Maltese


The straight, silky, floor-length fur coat of the Maltese and her smooth gait gives her an aura of sophistication and elegance. But beneath it all, she is happy, hardy, and adaptable, a fan of agility games and an alert watchdog. She can be stubborn and willful, so be sure to have a rewards-based training program at the ready. The beautiful coat is low-shedding but needs regular brushing.

  • Height: 7-9 inches
  • Weight: under 7 pounds
  • Toy group

3. Poodle


The poodle may have a sissy reputation, but his intelligence, eagerness, and willingness to learn make him a real athlete and a reliable companion. He’s calm, steady, and very people-oriented. His curly coat is low allergenic and low shedding, but it also requires conscientious grooming: either regular trims or thorough daily brushing. All three sizes of poodles make loyal pets, and are among the best dog breeds for seniors.


  • Height: No more than 10 inches
  • Weight: 4-6 pounds
  • Toy group


  • Height: 10-15 inches
  • Weight: 10-15 pounds
  • Non-sporting group


  • Height: Over 15 inches (standard)
  • Weight: 60-70 pounds (male), 40-50 pounds (female)
  • Non-sporting group

4. Pug


Like Otis of Milo and Otis, a pug will steal your heart. Her delightful facial expressions will almost convince you she’s human, and she will give you plenty of reasons to fall in love. She can be content in a variety of situations – in the city or country, with kids or grandparents, as an only child or with canine companions. She does enjoy eating more than exercising, so you’ll need to watch her diet.

  • Height: 10-13 inches
  • Weight: 14-18 pounds
  • Toy group

5. French bulldog

French bulldog

There’s a reason Modern Family’s Jay Pritchett fell in love with his French bulldog, Stella. This dog’s big bat-like ears and wrinkled face are adorable when coupled with the dog’s even disposition. The Frenchie is popular among city dwellers, who appreciate his low-key spirit and modest need for outdoor exercise. He’s bright, companionable, and adaptable. He won’t bark much, but he’s alert enough to let you know when something’s amiss.

  • Height: 11-13 inches
  • Weight: under 28 pounds
  • Non-sporting group

6. Shih tzu

Shih tzu

These beautiful little dogs appear a bit alien with their eyes and noses peeking out from their amazing fur coat! They were bred to spend their days with royalty, and you can easily picture them lounging in the throne room – which means their outdoor exercise needs are minimal, although they can be lively and mischievous. Their coats, on the other hand, need plenty of attention.

  • Height: 9-10.5 inches
  • Weight: 9-16 pounds
  • Toy group

7. Boston terrier

Boston terrier

Do you fancy a dog nicknamed “The American Gentleman”? Then the Boston terrier is for you. Not only do their black-and-white coats resemble a tuxedo, they are well-mannered and cheerful. Their size and temperament make them perfect for toting along with you – they are sturdy, portable, people-oriented, and game for an outing. Whether you’re visiting a park or a winery, your Boston terrier is happy to be your date.

  • Height: 15-17 inches
  • Weight: 12-25 pounds
  • Non-sporting group

8. Pomeranian


Picture a tiny lion in canine form, and you’ll get a Pomeranian. This big little dog (he weighs no more than seven pounds, but he thinks he’s quite large) is full of energy and personality. The pom is alert and intelligent, easily trained and irresistible when trained to do tricks. His energy needs an outlet, but indoor games and short walks can satisfy his needs. He can behave around kids, but only if the kids know how to treat a dog respectfully.

  • Height: 6-7 inches
  • Weight: 3-7 pounds
  • Toy group

9. Bichon Frise

Bichon Frise

If you’re concerned about allergies, the Bichon may be your ticket to canine euphoria. Her plush, velvety white coat is hypoallergenic. And her charms and loving spirit will captivate all who meet her. She is adaptable and gets along with new friends, whether adults, kids, or other dogs. She’ll make a nice little watchdog – but only because she’s vigilant and will let you know when something seems awry. She’ll train well and perform to make you happy. It’s easy to see why she’s one of the best dog breeds for seniors!

  • Height: 9.5-11.5 inches
  • Weight: 12-18 pounds
  • Non-sporting group

10. Cocker spaniel

Cocker spaniel

If you’re in search of a soft, lovable companion loaded with joy and personality, a Cocker spaniel may be your answer. They were bred as hunting dogs and do need some daily exercise, but their loyal, friendly spirit has made them one of America’s most popular dogs. Their heritage makes them easy to train, and their temperament makes them eager to get along with children and other pets. They don’t shed as much as some dogs, but their coat needs regular grooming.

  • Height: 14.5-15.5 inches (male), 13.5-14.5 inches (female)
  • Weight: 25-30 pounds (male), 20-25 pounds (female)
  • Sporting group

Not sure if any of these breeds will win your heart? Go to the AKC dog breed selector to find your perfect match.

Annie Tobey

Annie Tobey has been a professional writer and editor for more than 30 years. As editor of BOOMER magazine, she explored a diversity of topics of particular interest to adult children of seniors. When she’s not writing, she can be found running the trails or enjoying a beer with friends.

Annie Tobey