The Amazing Benefits of Companion Dogs for Seniors

Senior Couple Taking Dog For Walk In Countryside

Key Points

  • In addition to providing physical, mental, and emotional benefits, companion dogs for seniors offer unconditional love and support.

  • Different companion dog breeds have different grooming and exercise needs, so research is necessary before adoption.

  • Smaller dogs with minimal exercise needs are good companion dogs for seniors.

  • Consider lifestyle and home environment when choosing a companion dog so that both your and the companion dog's needs are met.

While every dog brings joy into the life of their owner, studies show that companion dogs for seniors offer more than just regular companionship. They provide important physical, mental, and emotional benefits as well. 

But how exactly do companion dogs help seniors? Many seniors think they’re too old to have a companion dog. To help dispel the misconception, this article discusses why companion dogs benefit seniors, how these dogs improve their owners' quality of life, and how to choose the right companion dog for seniors

How Do Companion Dogs Differ From Service Dogs?

You've probably seen both companion dogs and service dogs wearing little working vests in public. Do companion dogs have the same roles and rights as service dogs? The answer is no.

Unlike regular four-legged friends, According to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) National Network, a service dog is "any dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability." 

To become officially certified as Service Animals by organizations like Assistance Dogs International (ADI), pups must pass several stringent tests and receive extensive instruction. Once certified, service dogs wear a vest that denotes their status as an assistance animal so people know to only approach them with permission from the handler. 

In contrast, companion dogs serve primarily as pets and do not require specialized training for any particular task. That doesn't mean they aren't smart or well-behaved. Many have been taught basic obedience commands like “sit” and “stay,” but these are more for convenience than necessity. Since companion dogs don't need to perform specific tasks on command as service dogs do, they do not need advanced training or certification. 

Therapeutic Benefits of Having a Companion Dog

Taking your furry friend for a stroll or playing with them brings you multiple health benefits. Research demonstrates that having a pet lowers your blood pressure, cholesterol, and triglyceride levels. Overall, your heart health improves from the increased daily activities. Aside from the daily walks and physical activity, these dogs also provide emotional and psychological support for older adults.


"A dog is a man's best friend" has been a famous saying for quite some time, and this is especially true regarding companion dogs. Seniors often feel lonely or isolated due to living alone, which may eventually cause depression and other mental illnesses. If you're in this situation, a pooch is sure to bring joy into your life. They offer unconditional love and companionship that doesn't even require words.

Two seniors play with small white dog on laps

A Sense of Purpose

Having a companion dog also gives you a sense of purpose and responsibility. Taking care of your pet makes you feel needed and worthy, alleviating feelings of loneliness and isolation. It motivates you to get out of bed to care for your companion every day and keeps you looking forward to the next day's activities.

Reduction of Stress 

Having someone to share your thoughts with is therapeutic, but emotional support dogs also reduce physical symptoms of stress. Studies show that petting a canine companion decreases the cortisol stress hormone and increases the levels of oxytocin, also known as the love hormone, in the brain. When humans experience an increased level of oxytocin, they feel relaxed, happy, and less anxious.

Daily Mind Stimulations

Exercise for the brain is just as important as physical exercise, and companion dogs are a great source of mental stimulation. Taking care of their daily needs, such as feeding, grooming, and walking, keeps you mentally active and focused. Teaching your pooch new tricks or simply having conversations with them sharpens your mind.

Companion Dogs Break Social Barrier

Dogs are notorious for sticking their faces into other people's business. This behavior benefits senior citizens, as these furballs break social barriers and enable you to engage in conversations with others. According to survey results, pet ownership is the third most common way for people in their local communities to make new connections. People often approach seniors if they're walking their companion dog, resulting in conversations that weren't possible before.

A Sense of Security 

Seniors often feel vulnerable in their homes, especially if they live alone or have difficulty getting around due to mobility issues. Having a loyal canine friend by your side gives you peace of mind. If something unexpected happens, your dog is there to alert and protect you. At the same time, this allows you to feel more confident when going out and being active in public settings.

Senior man embraces small white dog

Choosing the Right Companion Dog

When it comes to companion dogs, the best choice depends on the situation and lifestyle of the senior.

Size and Weight

Small breeds are ideal for seniors who live in apartments or smaller homes because they require less walking and exercise than larger breeds. The weight factor also comes into play. For example, the best dogs for elderly women are lightweight small dogs that are affectionate, calm, intelligent, and easy to train. They are also less likely to tug on the leash and are easily picked up in case of an emergency.

Grooming Factor

Some women find higher maintenance pooches more suitable as the daily grooming gives them something to do. On the other hand, low-maintenance dogs for seniors are often the best choice. They don't require as much grooming, so they are ideal for seniors who live alone and have limited mobility.

Worst Dog Breeds for Seniors 

Although every breed has the potential to become a wonderful companion dog, avoid breeds that exhibit these traits:

• Dogs that are very active and need regular exercise

• Breeds that are known to be aggressive or territorial

• Highly energetic dogs, such as herding breeds

• Dogs that require a lot of grooming

• Dogs that are prone to many health issues and require constant monitoring or vet visits

30 Best Dog Breeds for Seniors 

Some companion dog breeds stand out for their special traits and characteristics.

Here is a list of the 30 best companion dogs for seniors:

French Bulldog

French bulldogs are affectionate, loyal, and don't mind small living spaces. This makes them one of the best small dog breeds for seniors and retirees. 

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

Cavalier King Charles spaniels, also known as Velcro dogs (because they stick close to their owner), are exceptionally loving. They are low maintenance and require minimal exercise.

Boston Terrier

Boston terriers are intelligent and friendly. They’re known for their gentle nature and require minimal grooming. They are more suitable for seniors who love to go for short walks and play fetch.

Calming Dog Ad

Senior adults pet their dog


Bologneses require very little exercise and grooming. They make great lap dogs, which is why they're popular among seniors with limited mobility.


Pugs have goofy and loving personalities. These qualities make them great buddies for seniors who need a good laugh every day. 


Chihuahuas are small in size but big in personality. They don't require much exercise and are highly loyal dogs that stay by your side no matter what happens.

Miniature Poodles

Miniature poodles are extremely intelligent and eager to please. They are perfect for seniors who love to teach their dogs new tricks and commands.

Bichon Frise

Bichon frises require regular grooming but don't need to be exercised too much. They are perfect for senior women who enjoy grooming and snuggling with their dogs.

Toy Poodle

Toy poodles are little sweethearts ready for any adventure. They are affectionate and require little exercise but love to join their owners on quick walks and playtime.


Havanese are fluffy white furballs that require minimal exercise. They are known for their intelligence and make great companion animals for seniors who love constant interactions.

Shih Tzu

Shih Tzus are little lions. They have an independent temperament but are also extremely loyal and lovable. They are ideal for seniors who want a dog that alerts them to intruders or visitors.

A senior woman hugs her pet dog

Cocker Spaniel

Cocker spaniels are lovebugs. They're affectionate dogs that want to spend every moment with you. Smart and easy to train, they make perfect companions for seniors.

Miniature Schnauzer

Short-haired miniature schnauzers love a good cuddle. They don't require much exercise and are perfect for seniors who need an early-morning companion to get them going.


Malteses are affectionate and love to be around their owners. They're also relatively low-maintenance and don't need a lot of exercise or grooming.

West Highland White Terrier

West Highland white terriers, also known as Westies, love to play and explore. They're ideal for seniors who don't mind getting out of the house for a quick walk in the park and some playtime with their companion dog.

Scottish Terrier

Scottish terriers are smart and independent. They are perfect for seniors who don't have the time or energy to take care of a high-maintenance companion dog.

A senior man in wheelchair embraces black dog

Yorkshire Terrier

Yorkies are one of the most popular companion dogs for seniors thanks to their small size and playful personality. They are also relatively easy to train and groom.

American Eskimo

The American Eskimo is known for its intelligence and loyalty. It loves to be around people and is highly trainable, making it a great companion for older adults looking for an active pet.


The beagle breed is known for its ability to get along well with other animals in the house and remain calm when needed.


Pomeranians are more independent than other small breeds, so they're ideal for older people who want a companion but not one that needs constant attention.

Pembroke Welsh Corgi

Pembroke Welsh corgis require regular exercise and love. They're affectionate animals that are perfect for seniors who need a hug every now and then.

Coton du Tulear

The Coton de Tulear is a breed known for its intelligence and gentle temperament. It is easy to train and doesn't require much exercise or grooming.


Schipperkes need a lot of love and attention. They are vocal, but they make loyal companion animals for seniors who enjoy interactive activities with their pooches.


Affenpinschers look like fluffy Ewoks from Star Wars. They are smart and loyal, but also goofy and playful. They love to be around people and entertain everyone around them.


Pekingese are gentle sweethearts. Their big dopey eyes are enough to cheer anyone up. Because they are slow in their gait, they are suitable for those who need a dog that matches their walking speed.

A senior couple go for a walk through the woods with their dog

Miniature Dachshund

Miniature dachshunds make great companions as they easily adapt to different lifestyles and environments. They are also smart and have a strong desire to please.

Cairn Terrier

Cairn terriers thrive on companionship and love. They're perfect for older adults who need a loyal dog to keep them company. These little guys are curious and happy. They are always ready to take a walk or snuggle on their owners' laps.

Lhasa Apso

The Lhasa apso enjoys exploring new places and is ideal for seniors who enjoy being out in nature.


Yorkipoos, crosses between Yorkies and poodles, are playful and compassionate. They're perfect for seniors who love little dogs that are calm and attentive to their owners.

Norwich Terrier

Norwich terriers require lots of love and attention. They're perfect for seniors who provide them with the companionship they crave.

Which Pup Will Be Your BFF?

Having a companion dog is a great way for seniors to stay socially active and receive unconditional love and affection. From low-maintenance Malteses to expressive Yorkipoos, there is a companion dog breed out there for every senior citizen.

Make sure to research before adopting as each breed has different grooming and exercise needs. Taking the time to find the right furry friend means a lifetime of loyal companionship and love.

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