You might not be able to teach an old dog new tricks. However, it’s entirely possible to teach a “mature” person how to choose a small dog. So, in this edition of Animal Facts, we’ll show you which of the best small dog breeds for seniors can be best for you.
What senior wouldn’t want to have a gentleman as a best friend? Well, if you choose a Boston Terrier to kick it with, that’s what you’ll get. Known as the “American Gentleman,” the Boston Terrier lives up to that nickname in every way that matters…tuxedo and all. Bostons are easy-going, smart, and friendly to people and other pets. They’re also easy to train but can be stubborn. So, be consistent and use positive reinforcement when teaching your buddy commands or how to behave around others—or you just might end up getting schooled.
Overall, Boston Terriers are a quiet breed. They don’t bark much, making them a great roommate for the senior who has downsized to an apartment or transitioned to assisted living.
If you’re a senior who gets high mileage on your “silver sneakers,” your Boston will have no problem keeping up with you as they are playful and make lively little exercise buddies, but they can happily chill on the couch when it’s time to relax.
Though they’re friendly, Bostons are protective of their humans, so they tend to make excellent watchdogs, and grooming them is both effortless and economical.
Silver Lining: Bostons are usually in tune with their people’s moods, so yours may seem to know what you want before you do.
As one of the smallest toy breeds, the Maltese is the quintessential companion dog. Like the Boston, these pups are lively, but their size makes them well-suited to apartment and condo living. They don’t mind being inside, so if you find it challenging to get around or don’t get out much, your Maltese will be content curled up on your lap watching TV or scrolling social media for the latest pics of the grandkids.
The Maltese is also a great pick if you want a dog with a luxurious coat but don’t have the time or energy to clean up the mess. They lack the undercoat typical of many long-haired canines as a single-coated breed, so they shed very little. Some people even consider them non-shedding.
We know there’s no such thing as a non-shedding pup, but if you don’t want to deal with the work or allergies that come with pet dander, it’s nice to know that you’ll never have to fret over your Maltese.
Oh yeah, Maltese can train as service, emotional support, and Medic Alert canines. A trainer can teach your pup tasks such as opening drawers and cabinets to retrieve small items and alert you to changes in your body indicative of a medical emergency, such as low blood pressure or blood sugar. If you plan to rely on your buddy for emotional support, no training is needed—that comes naturally to a Maltese.
5. Brussels Griffon – Best Small Dog Breeds for Seniors
Just looking at a Brussels Griffon, you’ll know they mean business. The beard and no-nonsense expression fit a breed that doesn’t suffer fools lightly or engage in child’s play.
Not that BGs aren’t playful, some are, but many have a bossy side and simply prefer the company of adults over that of small children.
Known as a Velcro dog, your Griff will stick by your side from sunup to sundown and all through the night. If you don’t mind showering your sidekick with constant attention and being shadowed in return, then this breed exists for you.
Silver Lining: Since Griffons have extraordinarily human-like expressions and beards to boot, you may feel as though you’re more in sync with your pup’s moods than you would be with another breed.
Love ‘em or not, Chihuahuas carved out a rather cozy place for themselves in the hearts and homes of seniors who don’t mind their sometimes nervous nature. Chihuahuas are incredibly low-maintenance pups, so what’s a little yippy and yappy as long as you’re both happy?
Everyone likes convenience, and it becomes increasingly important to us as we get older. As the tiniest dogs around, Chis are incredibly easy to transport. Just put your fun-sized furbaby into your purse or tote bag, and you’ll be ready to run errands, attend meetings, grab lunch, or whatever else your day brings.
Chis are also relatively easy to groom, and since tiny dogs have tiny stomachs, you’ll save money on dog food, too.
But ask Chihuahua parents, and they’ll tell you that the best thing about life with their quirky little compadre is that there’s never a dull moment with the quintessential “small dog with a big personality.”
3. Shih Tzu – Best Small Dog Breeds for Seniors
The highly adaptable Shih Tzu is an excellent pal for the senior who has lots of friends and enjoys entertaining.
Shih Tzus take their calling as companions to the next level. This is a breed that’s so friendly; not only will they accompany you daily, they’ll accompany your friends, foes, and (after a few barks) even strangers. Plus, they’re more solidly built than most toy breeds, and they like kids (who play gently), so bring on the grandbabies.
Shih Tzus also fit into any housing situation, from cohabitating in a condo to roaming fancy-free on a farm, and they adjust their energy level to yours, falling into step with whatever hobbies and pastimes you enjoy.
Overall, the Shih Tzu is a low-maintenance breed, but if you prefer longer locks for your pup, grooming may be more of a challenge than with the other breeds on our list. If you want to save time and money, opt for a short puppy or teddy bear cut.
You may have noticed that many of the breeds on our list are brachycephalic. Brachycephalic dogs have broad, short skulls that give their faces a flat appearance and make it more difficult for them to breathe. As a result, these breeds are prone to overheating and respiratory distress during strenuous exercise, so they don’t require as much exercise as others. This makes them the perfect workout partner if your mobility is limited or if you need the motivation to get up and out. Our next small fry, the French Bulldog, also falls into this category.
The laid-back Frenchie is a snug fit if you live in an apartment or other multi-unit dwelling. Since they lack the endurance needed to roam a large yard, they feel perfectly at home in a limited amount of space. Frenchies are fun-loving and have a reputation for clowning around, so on any given day, you could either be laughing hysterically or managing mischief. Got grandkids? Well, Frenchies make amazing babysitters. They’re a sturdy, muscular breed that can hang tough with handsy playmates. So, in addition to your hugs, kisses, and cookies, the little ones will also have another reason to visit—a playdate with your pup.
Shelter Dogs are the Best Small Dog Breeds for Seniors
Our number one dog isn’t an actual breed, but a type—the shelter dog.
Go to a shelter or rescue near you, and for a nominal adoption fee, you can walk away with a small purebred or mixed-breed dog that fills all your checkboxes and your heart.
Looking for a sidekick with energy to burn? They’ve got one. Want a snuggle buddy that’s always game to binge-watch an entire TV series in one sitting? They’ve got your match. Would you like to bedazzle your pup in barrettes and bows? They’ve got your glamour queen (or king). There is such a wide variety of dogs to choose from that you’re sure to find one that fits your lifestyle. The possibilities are endless.
Silver Lining: When you adopt a shelter dog, not only will you save a life, you’ll boost your mood, add purpose, and maybe even years to your life.
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