The best dogs for older folks

Just because getting older comes with plenty of drawbacks (why does everything hurt?) doesn’t mean it can’t have its perks (did someone say senior discount?). Many people who retire, become empty-nesters or are aging gracefully in the next phase in their lives decide that now’s the time for a dog. We couldn’t agree more. When it comes to activity level, size and health, the breeds below are the best dogs for folks deciding to bring home a dog in this next life stage.

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Best breeds for older folk
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Best breeds for older folk
PEMBROKE WELSH CORGI

Life expectancy: 11 to 13 years

Size: Up to 30 lbs.

Her Royal Highness Queen Elizabeth II is obsessed with corgis, so naturally, we are, too. These dogs are short, stout logs of affection with smiles plastered on their faces most of the time. Pembroke Welsh corgis love being surrounded by their people and are great with (grand) kids. Yes, they shed a ton, but their chill demeanor and snuggle factor makes vacuuming worth it.

CAVALIER KING CHARLES SPANIEL

Life expectancy: 9 to 14 years

Size: 13 to 15 lbs.

Cavalier King Charles Spaniels are incredibly adaptable, which means whether their owners live in beach houses with yards or assisted living facilities with long halls, they’ll make themselves at home. Their playful attitude toward life is infectious, without being needy. These pups are also great for anyone who lives alone or is highly sensitive to surroundings. Honestly, is there anything this dog can’t do?

MINIATURE SCHNAUZER

Life expectancy: 12 to 15 years

Size: 11 to 20 lbs.

These goofballs are super friendly, obedient dogs ideal for families. Yes, their double coats require weekly brushing dates to keep skin healthy, but they hardly shed and are generally healthy. As with the Cavalier King Charles spaniel, the miniature schnauzer adapts well to both apartments and large homes (which also makes any transition from one to the other a lot easier).

POODLE (TOY, MINIATURE AND STANDARD)

Life expectancies: 12 to 15 years

Size(s): Anywhere from 6 lbs. to 70 lbs.

Poodles are smart. Like, super smart, which makes training simple. No matter the size, all poodles are also hypoallergenic and steadfastly loyal. Frequent visits to the groomer may be in order, depending on the dog’s coat and the owner’s style. They also adore games of fetch, which means they’ll do all the running necessary for exercise (though keep in mind, a brisk walk for a dog means effective exercise for an owner, too).

WEST HIGHLAND WHITE TERRIER

Life expectancy: 13 to 15 years

Size: 15 to 20 lbs.

There are several cute little dogs on this list, and for good reason. These types of pups, including the West Highland white terrier, are typically enthusiastic and calm (aka they love trotting behind you everywhere you go, and are ready to fall asleep on you at a moment’s notice). What makes this breed stand out is its independent streak. This means a little more time and patience is required during training. But the result is rewarding, faithful companionship.

PUG

Life expectancy: 13 to 15 years

Size: 14 to 18 lbs.

The gentle pug is all about basking in and sharing the love. This is another adaptable breed; kids and adults, big homes and small apartments, other dogs and strangers are all welcome in the eyes of a pug. One bad habit to avoid is overfeeding. Pugs get thick real quick (as anyone with a dwindling metabolism can appreciate), so a healthy diet and regular walks are imperative.

IRISH WOLFHOUND

Life expectancy: 6 to 8 years

Size: 100 to 125 lbs.

Easily the largest breed on this list, the Irish wolfhound is a gentle canine eager to demonstrate his loyalty. The American Kennel Club labels them dignified dogs, though they can definitely be destructive as puppies if left alone too long. However, as adults, they are incredibly calm and even well-suited to be around children.

COCKER SPANIEL

Life expectancy: 12 to 15 years

Size: 20 to 30 lbs.

Any retiree looking for constant companionship should consider a cocker spaniel. These lovable, highly trainable pups start to miss their humans the moment they leave the house, so be sure to set aside plenty of time for playing and cuddling. Aside from needing their long coats brushed regularly, cocker spaniels are healthy and low maintenance.

SCOTTISH TERRIER

Life expectancy: 11 to 13 years

Size: 18 to 22 lbs.

Another hypoallergenic breed on our list, the Scottish terrier is a sensible dog. Scotties enjoy walks, not runs. They’ll train but can be stubborn (treats help). Excellent watchdogs, Scotties also enjoy playtime. They aren’t needy, but they aren’t afraid to show affection. The only high-maintenance aspect about them seems to be their finicky coat, which requires regular brushing (and ideally, hand-shedding).

MALTESE

Life expectancy: 15 to 18 years

Size: 4 to 7 lbs.

The word “dog” itself brings to mind a Maltese. Why? Oh, let’s see: affectionate, playful pups intelligent enough to learn tons of commands but sweet enough to love napping on your lap?! That’s why. Maltese pups also adapt easily, which is great for anyone planning to travel or move around a lot with their canine BFF.

BORDER TERRIER

Life expectancy: 12 to 15 years

Size: 11 to 15 lbs.

Border terriers also make great travel companions. Their zest for life makes roaming new scenes a favorite pastime, though their loyal nature keeps them focused on commands. These generally happy and healthy dogs are perfect for older residents in just about any environment.

ADOPTED DOGS

It’s worth considering adopting a dog rather than buying a young puppy. Puppies require tons of extra work that adult dogs do not (house breaking, teaching commands, hours of playtime, to name a few). Older dogs are often overlooked at shelters, so there’s likely a greater need and more opportunity to adopt these animals.

RETIRED DOGS

Hey, you’re not the only one transitioning into a new phase of life. There are many incredible programs for highly trained dogs who are retired from their old gigs or looking for a career change—Seeing Eye dogs who didn’t necessarily make the cut, for one, or racing track greyhounds that need a loving owner. 

RELATED: THE 10 EASIEST DOGS TO TRAIN

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