Written by Jordan McElwain — Updated: Wednesday, August 30, 2023
Owning a dog provides a reason to go on a walk and get some exercise and an endless amount of joy. But owning a dog also comes with responsibilities, like daily exercise and feeding. Some dog breeds require more exercise, and, of course, puppies require a lot more time and energy than mature dogs.
As we age, we generally have less energy, or may find that some days, we just aren’t up for a five-mile walk with an energetic beagle puppy. These recommendations are based on older adults who have less energy or may need more breaks from daily walking. It’s important to keep in mind your own lifestyle! If you regularly go for two-mile walks and have a backyard with plenty of space for Fido to play, then a more energetic dog may be a good fit for you.
It’s no secret that young kids and young dogs have more energy than the average 70 year old person. This is why the best dogs for seniors tend to be past their puppy years. Many seniors choose to adopt older dogs, who may appreciate a slower pace and be unfazed by a day without a long walk.
While older dogs are generally considered better for senior owners, that’s not always the case. If you’re an active, retired 65 year old with a spacious backyard, a puppy may be a good fit for you. You have the time to tend to a puppy’s needs, the puppy will help keep you active, and you can simply let Fido out in the backyard for those late-night bathroom trips!
The right age range for you depends entirely on your lifestyle! Think through what you are and are not willing to do. If you don’t have the energy to go outside and play fetch multiple times throughout the day, get a dog who’s past their puppy years. If you don’t want to be tied to a daily, three-mile walk, consider a low-energy dog breed, like the ones we describe below.
Many of the best dog breeds for seniors are good fits because they don’t require a ton of exercise. These breeds tend to be less energetic, requiring a lower commitment to long, daily walks. Keep in mind that every dog needs exercise, just like humans. So, before you commit to getting any kind of dog, be sure you’re up for the commitment.
Shih Tzus are often considered one of the best dogs for seniors (and families). Shih Tzus tend to be very sociable and friendly toward children and other pets and are also adaptable. They’re playful, and not necessarily a lazy breed, but they don’t have high exercise requirements either. Shih Tzus should be taken on regular walks, but because of their flatter faces, they shouldn’t overexert themselves, especially in hotter weather.
Known for their long, hotdog-shaped bodies and droopy face and ears, Basset hounds tend to be as lazy as they look. They still need walks, but tend to take things a little slower, being sure to sniff every scent along the way.
Bulldogs are known for their stocky bodies, rolls of skin, and squishy faces—all of which contribute to them having low exercise requirements. English bulldogs are categorized as a “brachycephalic breed,” which means their snouts are shorter and they have sort of flat faces. Because of their flat faces, it’s actually important that bulldogs don’t overexert themselves. If you get a bulldog, you’ll both have to take extra care to stay safe when the weather gets hot!
Pugs are incredibly popular dogs, especially in pop culture. Like English bulldogs, they are a brachycephalic (flat face) breed. They can be playful, but it’s important to make sure they don’t overexert themselves and overheat because they are prone to respiratory issues.
The Pekingese is a small, flat-faced breed. These dogs are great lap dogs, and don’t need a yard to be happy. They’re loving, loyal, and have low energy levels, making them great dogs for senior owners.
Frenchies, known for their smooshy faces and upright ears, are among one of the most popular dog breeds in the US.
They’re smaller dogs that are often recommended for apartment living, which is why you’ll see quite a few of them if you take a walk through a residential NYC neighborhood. Especially when they’re younger, French bulldogs can be playful, but they generally have lower energy levels than many other breeds. Because of their flat faces, just like with pugs and English bulldogs, you’ll want to make sure they don’t get too wound up.
Many people are surprised that greyhounds, the fastest dog in the world, are actually pretty low energy. Greyhounds are sprinters and have short bursts of powerful energy, followed by long naps. Low energy doesn’t mean greyhounds aren’t loving! They love nothing more than cuddling up on the couch with good company.
Irish wolfhounds are often considered “gentle giants.” Irish wolfhounds are relaxed, affectionate, and good with older adults and children. They’re incredibly loyal dogs that love having company, and they don’t have high exercise requirements. They’re not generally considered great for apartment living, however, due to their large size!
Because of their low energy levels, Chow Chows may be a good fit for older owners. But, if you’re looking for a cuddle buddy or are very social, you may want to consider another breed. Chow Chows are loyal to their owners, but can be aloof, and may need extra training and socialization to behave well around strangers.
Labs certainly do not fall into the low-energy category, but they deserve a spot on the list because of their trainability and great temperaments. Labs prefer daily walks and games of fetch, so, they may not be the best fit for every senior. That said, an older lab may be the perfect dog for an older owner who has a large backyard and gets regular exercise.
Most dogs you find at the shelter will be mixed-breed, so you may not be entirely sure what their genetic makeup is! Furthermore, every dog of the same breed isn’t the same, so it’s important to spend time with the dog you adopt and get to know them before making your commitment.
Which type of dog is the best breed for you depends heavily on your personal preferences and lifestyle. Many seniors choose to adopt dogs that have high energy levels to help keep them active! In many cases, older adults choose to adopt an older dog because most senior dogs, regardless of breed, will have lower energy levels and be okay with skipping the long walk on days when you aren’t feeling well.