Selecting the best dog breed for an elderly family member or even for yourself as a senior citizen is basically very similar to selecting a dog breed for any other type of individual or family. It is very important to take then time to consider what you want in a dog as well as what special aspects of your life may make one type of dog more suitable or a specific type or character trait in a dog more challenging or difficult.
Some of the best breeds for seniors are dogs that are moderately active but are not highly demanding of lots of outdoor exercise. Of course this really is influenced by how active the person is themselves. An active senior may really enjoy an active dog to walk, jog or hike with them. Generally a moderately active dog that will self-exercise in the house or a small yard is a good match since on cold, wet or busy days the individual doesn't have to always commit to intensive exercising of the dog.
Grooming requirements will likewise be influenced by how involved the soon to be owner wants to be. Short haired dogs are easier to keep up with, however they do still shed. Non or low shedding breeds typically require regular brushing or routine trips to the groomers, which doesn't make them low maintenance dogs in most cases. In addition it is important to keep in mind that while some breeds may be advertised as "hypoallergenic", there is no breed that is guaranteed not to cause a reaction if a person is highly sensitive. Elderly people with respiratory problems may be more sensitive to dog dander, but on the flip side some breeds may be ideally suited.
Choosing between a purebred and a hybrid or a puppy or an adult dog is really a personal decision. The following are typically good options for seniors or elderly due to their affectionate natures, high sociability and ease of training.
Pugs - any purebred or hybrid cross Pug dog is typically a very friendly, low key yet active, relatively low maintenance dog. They have an outgoing personality without being demanding of their owners, plus their short coat is very easy to care for. Since Pugs are relatively healthy and robust they are a good companion for more active seniors that want to spend time traveling or just enjoying their local community.
Pugs are also great with children, making them perfect for when the grandchildren come to visit. Typically most Pugs are not prone to destructive behavior problems such as barking, chewing and digging provided they have obedience training, routine socialization and lots of time with the humans in their lives.
Shih Tzu - these small sized dogs are sturdy and hardy and are highly loving and affectionate dogs. They thrive on human attention and, provided they are not spoiled, are still very accepting of new people and company. Generally the Shih Tzu will bond very closely with one or two people and they do need to have regular, frequent human interaction to be happy. The long coat of the Shih Tzu is easy to care for with regular, daily grooming. They tend to be very low shedding dogs and produce little dander, making them a good match for people with mild to moderate dog allergies. The coat can be clipped short to make care much less intensive.
Schnauzers - there are three different sizes of Schnauzers to choose from ranging from the large sized Giant, medium sized Standard to the smaller sized Miniature. The Giant Schnauzer is not recommended for apartment life and does best with a large acreage or very large fenced area to patrol and keep watch over. All three sizes are typically protective but not aggressive, making them good watchdogs. The smaller sized Standards and Miniatures are good matches for almost any type of living space including apartments.
Schnauzers tend to be rather more than moderately active, especially as puppies. While they are a slightly higher energy breed they are also very playful and social, making them a great choice for an active senior. Their coat does require routine grooming and clipping to stay in good shape, but otherwise they are relatively easy to care for. Highly intelligent the Schnauzer learns new commands very quickly and tends to respond to human tone of voice more than some dog breeds.
Poodles - like the Schnauzers, Poodles come in three different sizes ranging from the large standard through miniatures to toys. Miniatures and toys are by far the most common and are a good match for almost any home, including for senior citizens. Poodles will adapt to how much exercise is provided as long as they get outside time or one or two moderately long walks per day. Miniatures and toys will self-exercise inside which can really cut down on general exercise requirements.
Poodles are good watchdogs and are not yappy if obedience trained and socialized. Like any dog they have to understand that the human is the boss, not the dog. They are very smart and very easy to housetrain when given opportunities to get outside. With their low shedding, low dander coats they are also a good match for most people with mild to moderate allergies.
Boston Terrier - another of the smaller short-muzzled breeds the Boston Terrier is easy to care for, very smart and a highly personable type of dog. They tend to be funny and clownish all their lives and are moderately active indoors. Some Boston Terrier lines have respiratory problems and eye conditions that can be serious and very costly to treat so buying from a reputable breeder is very important.
The Boston Terrier tends to be a good watchdog and they are protective of their space. Generally they are great with children and other pets and absolutely thrive on lots of human attention.
Golden Retrievers - although a large sized dog the Golden Retriever is calm, gentle and very affectionate. Despite their bigger size they can adjust well to apartment living but they do need routine, longer walks or outside time in a fenced yard on a daily basis. The coat of the Golden Retriever will shed moderately all year round with some heavier shedding in the spring.
An excellent watchdog the Golden is usually highly social and not dog-aggressive, plus they get along well with children and other pets. The Golden Retriever can also be trained as an assistance dog, which can be a benefit to seniors that need a bit of help around the house.