3/4/2022 | By Terri L. Jones

Older adults may fear they are too old to get a dog, but with careful planning and strategic choices, seniors can enjoy the many benefits of dog ownership.

A dog shows you unconditional love, is always glad to see you, cheers you up when you’re sad, makes you feel protected and safe, and gives you a reason to get up every morning. The perfect companion for a senior, right? On the other hand, your age may be precisely the reason you’re reluctant to take that big step.

If you really want to share your home – and heart – with a canine companion (who wouldn’t?!), there are ways to overcome the obstacles of senior pet parenthood.

Senior concerns … and solutions

If you have specific concerns regarding how you may be too old to get a dog, maybe these solutions will help.

I can’t manage long walks.

Do you have mobility issues that make you feel you are too old to get a dog? Check out breeds that prefer snoozing to sprinting – Shih Tzus, Frenchies, pugs, and Pekingese among them. With these little pups, you can easily get by with a short stroll down the street each day, while supplementing that exercise with tossing a ball around the backyard or your living room.

If your mobility prevents you from walking your pet at all, hire a young neighbor or a professional dogwalker to keep your pups fit.

I’m worried that a dog might cause me to fall.

Opt for a small breed that’s easier to control on a leash. Plus, a tiny, purse-sized pup like a Chihuahua can be carried instead of walked, eliminating the risk entirely. (But be careful that she isn’t so small that she gets underfoot!)

Another benefit of these mini canines is they can be trained to go potty on a pee pad if you don’t have a yard or the weather prevents you from getting them outside.

Related: Benefits of dog ownership

The dog might not match my lifestyle.

According to, “Some dogs, including beagles, bulldogs, and retrievers, are known for their sunny, easy-going dispositions. Others can be stubborn, strong-willed, or independent, making it hard for seniors to be the ones in charge.”

Research the temperament of the breeds (or mix of breeds) you have in mind. And if the dog is a rescue, ask if you can foster him first to make sure he is a good fit for you and your lifestyle.

Reader’s Digest, which ranked breeds on the basis of sociability, size, demeanor, exercise requirements and more, chose the Bichon Frise as the best overall dog for older folks. Other picks included the Havanese for its social nature, the Pomeranian for its protective qualities and the toy poodle for being hypoallergenic.

Related: The best dog breeds for seniors

Although training is important for all dogs, it is essential for seniors to ensure an obedient dog that isn’t aggressive. Even a small breed’s nips can be harmful.

I’m not sure I can keep up with a dog.

While puppies are adorable, they typically require a lot of attention due to their energy level, need for house training and overall misbehavior. An older dog, who is more settled, trained, and low-key, may be a better choice. You can even consider adopting a senior dog. They are often overlooked in pet adoptions, so you’ll be giving one a chance at a comfortable and loving final chapter.

Related: 10 pet care products for seniors and their fur babies, from feeding to playtime

I want to be sure my dog is cared for throughout its life.

When we think about pet ownership, we typically think about outliving our buddies. Those who are concerned about being too old to get a dog realize that the pet could outlive them. Talk to family members, friends and even neighbors about caring for your furry friend in the event that you become sick or die. You can also arrange for a no-kill pet rescue to take him when you can no longer care for them. Many reputable breeders actually insist that they get first dibs on their dogs if an owner can no longer care for them.

And don’t forget to set aside money for your pet’s care, whether they are going to the home of a friend or a rescue organization, and make legal arrangements for their ongoing care.

Other possible issues besides being too old to get a dog

A dog needs and deserves a lot of time and attention. Aside from already high costs of ownership, some ways to compensate for physical challenges cost money – walkers, professional groomers, products to ease pet care, trainers, etc.

Many people, not just those who question if they’re too old to get a dog, find that their budget and lifestyle aren’t adequate for giving pets the care they need. On the plus side, there are positive alternatives to ownership, like walking a neighbor’s small pooch, volunteering at a local shelter, or fostering. Be wise, but be creative, so you can benefit from the companionship of a furry friend.

Related: Four other pets that can scratch a senior’s itch for animal companionship

Terri L. Jones

Terri L. Jones has been writing educational and informative topics for the senior industry for over ten years, and is a frequent and longtime contributor to Seniors Guide.

Terri Jones