There’s nothing like coming home to a furry friend. The sight of a dog’s excitedly wagging tail and the feel of their affectionate nuzzles is enough to brighten even the most miserable of days. While many think of pups as great companions for single young adults or families with children, older adults can experience even greater benefits from owning a dog. For older adults, owning a dog can have enormously positive effects on their mental, emotional, and even physical health—causing them to live longer, happier lives. Canine companions can help prevent loneliness, stress, anxiety, and depression. They can also increase physical health by lowering blood pressure and inspiring seniors to become more active through daily walks, playtime, and general maintenance.

When choosing a dog for older adults, it’s important to keep several things in mind. Consider the dog’s needs for activity/exercise, grooming, and maintenance, then compare those needs to the mobility and overall health of the owner. It’s important to also factor in size, personality, temperament, age, and life expectancy for a chosen breed. 

For seniors living in assisted living communities, dogs are still an option! Many communities, including St. Martin’s in the Pines, allow residents to have small dogs, so long as they’re capable of caring for them. In this case, small dogs that are easy to socialize are the best option, as they’ll need to be comfortable in an apartment space and around other residents. Here are the top 5 small dog breeds to consider for older adults:

1. Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

These sweet pooches are all about affection. The quiet lap dogs range from 11 to 18 pounds. They’re intelligent, easy to train, and get along well with adults, children, and other pets. While they do require some grooming, mainly keeping their long hair brushed and trimmed, they’re relatively easy to maintain and are suitable to apartment living. Their life expectancy ranges from 12 to 15 years.

2. Bichon Frise

No one can resist the perfect white little fluff ball that is the Bichon Frise. These sweet pups have a joyful personality that’s perfect for keeping older adults cheerful and positive. With an average weight of 7 to 12 pounds, they’re extremely easy to manage. Grooming is best left to a professional but is only necessary every one to two months. Bonus: They don’t shed!

3. French Bulldog

Commonly known as Frenchies, these playful dogs are muscular, compact, and active. Their cute smushed faces are impossible not to love, and their primary characteristic is cheerfulness. At around 19 to 28 pounds, they’re a little heavier than other small dogs, but they’re considerably easier to keep groomed due to their short, smooth coat.

4. Poodle

Hypoallergenic dogs are few and far between, so a poodle is a great option for seniors who may be sensitive to fur or have allergies. One of the smartest dog breeds, poodles are known for being loyal, affectionate, and adaptable. Seniors should look for a miniature poodle (ranging from 15 to 18 pounds) or a toy poodle (5 to 9 pounds). They require professional grooming every one to two months.

5. Shih Tzu

For seniors who want a constant companion, shih tzus are a top option. Happiest when by their owners’ sides, shih tzus are always ready for attention and cuddling. They can be playful but do not typically require much more than a short walk each day. It is important to train them early on because they are known to have a stubborn streak that can lead to barking. Both their weight and life expectancy ranges from 10 to 16, pounds and years respectively. 

If you’re interested in finding a welcoming, comfortable living space for the older adult in your life or if you yourself are looking to live up your golden years in a wonderful community full of engagement and activity, please reach out to St. Martin’s in the Pines for a tour by clicking here or calling 205-314-4292 today!