Dogs: The Best Pets for Older People

Everyone needs company, especially as they get older. In this article, we'll tell you why dogs make the perfect companions for older people.
Dogs: The Best Pets for Older People

Last update: 09 May, 2019

Everyone needs company, especially as they get older, and having a pet at their side is proven to help combat loneliness in older people. In this article, we’ll tell you why a dog can be the perfect companion for an older friend or family member.

Pets for older people: the best medicine

Having a dog as a pet might just be the best medicine any doctor can prescribe to an older person suffering from loneliness. A dog won’t just keep them company; it will quickly become their closest friend. They’ll have someone to take care of, groom, feed, talk to, play with and love. So, a dog might be exactly what they need.

Before you buy a dog as a gift for an older person, you need to get their consent. After all, the animal isn’t just there to keep them company – they need someone who will take care of them, take them for a walk, pick up after them, play with them, take them to the vet etc.

Having a dog comes with many responsibilities, and is a huge, long-term commitment. So, you need to make sure the person is on-board before you go out and adopt a dog on their behalf.

The best breeds for older people

An elderly woman with her dog.

As everyone knows, dogs’ characters and temperaments can vary greatly, and depend on a whole range of different factors. These factors can be anything from the way they were brought up, to the environment they were brought up in. Even genetics can play a key role.

When you first bring a dog home, you might find that it has some behavioral issues. Maybe it’s a bit naughty, or maybe it’s shy and anxious.

However, with patience and love from its owners, even an adult dog is perfectly able to adapt to a new situation.

Generally, smaller dogs are best for older people, as they are usually easier to handle and to look after than larger ones. So, if you’re looking for a pet for an older person, it might be best to look for a smaller breed.

Rescue dogs for older people

Animal shelters are the perfect place to find a dog for an older person. Some of the best pets you’ll ever have can be found in shelters. Most shelters will also have staff who can help you find the ideal dog, at an affordable price.

You don’t necessarily have to adopt a puppy. You just need to find a dog that can be trained to follow commands, and that has some basic house training.

Yorkshire terrier

Yorkshire terriers usually measure around 7.5″. They are affectionate, happy dogs, but they can be wary around strangers.  Yorkies don’t molt, but they will need daily grooming.

They’ll enjoy playing in the house, either with a toy or another pet, but will also need plenty of walks out in the fresh air. These loyal terriers love the company of other people, and make great companions for older people.

Boston terrier

Another small dog breed, the Boston terrier, measures between 13.5″ and 17.5″ and can live between 10 and 14 years. They are excellent guard dogs, and don’t molt too much. These are a great option for older people.

Cocker spaniel

Cocker spaniels weigh around 22-27 lbs, and measure between 15″ and 16″. They have a lifespan of 14-16 years, and are playful, sensible and sweet animals which can adapt perfectly to family life.


Chihuahuas are known for their small size, weighing between 2.5 and 4.5 lbs, and measuring between 4.5 and 8.5″. On average, they live between 15 and 18 years. They have bags of energy and love running around the house before settling down for a nap on the sofa.

Dogs and the benefits for older people

A dog lying next to its owner.

Having a pet comes with many benefits. When it comes to older people, it can help them maintain their self-esteem. It makes them feel useful and needed, gives them a sense of purpose, and reduces the risk of them developing depression. It encourages them to look after themselves better, take part in animal-related social events, or simply get more exercise.

Studies have shown that, in the case of women, having a pet encourages them to socialize with other people. When it comes to men, having a pet encourages them to do more physical activity.

The relationship between pet and owner is a mutual one, where love and affection are given and received equally. The owner can enjoy the company of their pet, thus reducing loneliness, while the pet finds a home where it feels loved.

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