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Selecting a Dog Breed: Tips for Seniors

American Kennel Club, Inc. (c) 2011

Whether you're an active senior looking for a hiking companion, an inveterate traveler or a couch potato, there's a dog breed that's just right for your lifestyle.


  • For active seniors: Dogs in the Working, Hound, and Sporting groups are bred for endurance. Herding breeds love the outdoors. You may find a specific breed within one of these groups that is ideal for a certain activity. The breeds in these groups have coats that protect them from harsh conditions such as heat and cold, which the dog may encounter during exercise.
  • Less active seniors benefit from breeds in the Toy or Terrier groups. If you prefer to take long walks daily or have a large fenced-in yard, then you may be able to keep up with the needs of a Terrier. Toy breeds need minimal exercise and are ideal for short walks or a small fenced-in yard.

Where You Live

  • Small apartments are suitable for Toy and Terrier breeds, or small members of the Hound and non-Sporting groups. Large breeds need room to exercise. Rural settings are ideal for large breeds.
  • If you want your dog to cuddle, sit on the couch, or sleep on the bed with you, then smaller breeds are ideal. Toy breeds love to be on their owner's lap and curl up under the covers at bedtime.

Who You Live With

  • How many people live in your home? Do you have grandchildren who visit frequently? If you have several people living in your home or frequent visitors, you should get a breed that is sociable.
  • Many Herding breeds make great family dogs and love meeting new people. Most Toy and non-Sporting dogs have been bred for companionship and crave attention. This is not to say other breeds would not make great family companions. Any dog with proper socialization and training can be an ideal family dog.

Amount of Travel

  • If you travel often or prefer to take your dog on errands with you, then a small breed is for you. Toy breeds are small enough to fit in travel carriers, so they are more apt to receive a friendly response from managers and employees at stores, hotels, and other travel destinations.
  • Small dogs are allowed to accompany travelers on airplanes in carry-on baggage, while large dogs must stay in the cargo hold, which is not temperature controlled.

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