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Which dog breed is best in retirement?

27th November 2020


There has been lots of research showing that dogs are man’s best friend, especially when it comes to people who are retired and whose mobility may not be the same as it once was. From reducing loneliness to motivating people to keep mobile, a dog as a companion can often have an enormously positive effect on older adults. For those who do not wish to walk for hours a day or are concerned about their mobility limitations, there is a breed of dog that is perfect for everyone. Whether you have acres of land or are reliant on stairlifts, the perfect dog will be out there waiting for you. 

Michelle from Wet Nose Waggy Tail thinks dogs are a wonderful companion and explains a little more: “It depends on how active an older person is. As a general rule, I’d say, an older rescue dog, one that needs company and moderate exercise, so you benefit from companionship and the outdoor life without having to try and tire a young, energetic breed like a Springer Spaniel!

There are many other benefits; lots of older dogs are already house trained and have basic training too, so it cuts out all the hassle of puppyhood.”

Read on to find out the breeds of dogs which are great in retirement.



Though this breed is known for speed, they are actually gentle giants with a deeply affectionate nature, making them perfect for older adults. Forever Hound Trust, a charity dedicated to rehoming greyhounds and lurchers, spoke about the suitability of greyhounds as pets for those who are retired:

“Many retired greyhounds are wonderful companion animals for older people. They can be calm, gentle and affectionate. They like to go out for a short walk once or twice a day but don’t require a huge amount of exercise. It’s important to find the right dog for a family or individual’s lifestyle and home, and Forever Hounds Trust carefully match dogs with their new owners.” Emma from the trust also mentions the opportunity of adopting an older dog presents:

“Adopting a dog is so important because there are so many rescue dogs in desperate need of a home. There are dogs of all ages in rescue organisations, including Forever Hounds Trust, so adoption is possible whatever the age of dog you are looking for. There are some real benefits to adopting a dog. When you adopt a dog from Forever Hounds Trust you will be given as much information as the charity has on that dog. It will have had a full medical check, be vaccinated, neutered and come with a lead and harness. The charity will continue to offer help, information and support for the life of the dog.”

With any breed, people often have perceptions of what to expect from that kind of dog, however, Emma is quick to dispel incorrect notions about greyhounds:

“People think that they need a lot of exercise, which isn’t true. While they do need one or two short walks a day, most greyhounds are content to spend the rest of the day snoozing on the sofa.”

French bulldogs


This breed has seen a sharp rise in popularity in the last few years. As a small companion dog, they have a lot of character and many qualities that are highly prized, especially if you have limited mobility.

Frenchi Essentials is a company that makes accessories specifically for this breed and were thrilled to share their knowledge about these special dogs:

“In our opinions, Frenchie’s are a wonderful breed of dog for any age! Considering their general low energy, cuddle loving, clown-like personalities, they are perfect for seniors too. Although Frenchie’s can be high energy as puppies, as all breeds are, once they get older, they generally only need a few short to medium walks per day.

“They love getting and giving attention and can always be found around the dinner table waiting for treats and also snuggled under the covers in the human bed. They make the day brighter and time pass quickly as they entertain with their antics of belly rubs, silly dances, snoring, and playing with toys. Frenchie’s are generally a friendly breed of dog, so they make friends fast in the dog park.

“They are typically less than 35lbs (although some are bigger) which make them a great size for an apartment. They are highly intelligent and will learn your routines and adapt to them to please you. Frenchie’s love to cuddle their humans and therefore make great companion pets. Frenchie’s will always prefer to be with their human than away from them. Once someone owns a Frenchie, they join the club of other Frenchie owners who just 'get it' because there is something special and unique to owning this silly loving breed that does not expand outside the breed.

“Older adults could also possibly be a great fit for the French Bulldog Rescue Network (FBRN) which is an organisation that accepts surrendered French bulldogs only and tries to match them with a forever home based upon the Frenchie's needs and preferences. FBRN typically prefers households without young children and with people who are home more often than not.”

West Highland Terriers


West Highland Terriers are often seen as companion pets and rightly so, despite their small stature, they have big personalities. With expressive faces and a lot of quirky characteristics, they make wonderful partners.

Steve Owen, Chairman of the Southern West Highland White Terrier Club shared his own experience with the breed:

“West Highland White Terriers do not require a great deal of exercise. I would say that about 20 minutes twice a day would be enough provided they have a garden to play in. However, once full-grown, they are perfectly able to walk for hours if the owner has the energy.

“I have seen many dogs that are quite happy to walk beside a mobility scooter, but some training would be required. I have owned this breed for nearly 30 years and as I'm now 70 I suppose I come in the "older adult" category. However, the great thing about dog ownership is that you have something to get out of bed for.”

Steve also offered an alternative if you are interested in a Westie: “I have also owned a Shih Tzu for many years and I would say that this delightful breed also makes an ideal pet for older people. Exercise much the same as Westies. Both breeds require regular clipping at a trimming parlour so this ongoing expense should be taken into account.”

Michelle also recommends Westies alongside Greyhounds and Cavalier King Charles Spaniels: “From our experience, the lower to moderate energy dogs that still like the fresh air are the Westies for people who want smaller dogs, Cavalier King Charles Spaniel in the medium size dog bracket and Greyhounds if people prefer a larger dog.”



Poodles are some of the oldest gun dogs, and though a working breed, they have adapted to other positions within a modern lifestyle. Majestic and fun-loving, these dogs are perfect for those with a little more energy, though as they come in three sizes, toy, miniature and standard, they can be suitable for any size living space.

The Poodle Club in Victoria is an authoritative voice on this breed and Linda Johnson and Jo Turnley were happy to share their insight:

“What makes Poodles special is poodles are non-shedding, non-allergenic, low odour, extremely easy to train and they love to be pampered. They come in three sizes so there is a size to match everyone’s living space and exercise routine. They make good watchdogs and will, when trained, alert the hard of hearing to the phone ringing or visitors approaching.

“Toys make good lap dogs but have lots of energy and enjoy a walk. Minis and especially standards need daily exercise. They motivate seniors to get out and about. Poodles having a non-threatening image and can be a social magnet, encouraging seniors to get out and about to the local Obedience Dog Club or dog park creating new friendships with other dog owners/walkers.”  

“All I could really add is that the intelligence of the breed seems to understand especially the elderly. Mine, for example, knows not to jump on my mother who is now 87, I didn't train them this way, they just seem to know. Even when my Mum was younger and walked one of mine from time to time, they would behave perfectly on a walk with her.”

Catherine from Wild Paws also agrees that the toy breeds are also a great option: “The best breeds would be something small and easy to handle. Anything that’s too big or boisterous will be a struggle to control, which will not be enjoyable.

“Toy dogs are a great idea as they don’t have many demands, they just want a warm home and someone to care about. They love nothing more than snuggling up on the sofa, keeping your lap warm and require little more than short walks. Some great dogs for those in retirement would be a Shih Tzu, Maltese Terrier and a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. They were literally bred to be companion dogs so it’s what they do best!”

People who rely on mobility aids can often feel lonely, so the introduction of a furry friend can offer a really positive spin on their lifestyle. Age UK Mobility offers a wide range of straight stairlifts and curved stairlifts UK wide, meaning you are never too far from independence, the perfect home improvement for you and your new four-legged friend.

Best dog breeds for those in retirement:

  • Greyhounds
  • French Bulldogs
  • West Highland Terriers
  • Poodles


This news article is from Handicare UK. Articles that appear on this website are for information purposes only.