Large Dogs and Senior Citizens
As a dog owner, former breeder, and former trainer, I think big dogs can be a great choice for senior citizens. Why? For one thing, you won't have to worry about tripping over a big dog, and this is important for seniors. As a whole, big dogs are calmer and not as temperamental as many small dogs can be. They tend to be more patient, and because they're sturdy and tough, they're usually more forgiving and more tolerant. Generally speaking, big dogs and giant dogs are quiet and are rarely “yappy.” Because of their height, you won't have to bend over to attach a leash, either. Our giant dogs behave wonderfully on leash, and they provide a sense of security. I wouldn't be afraid to walk our neighborhood streets in the wee hours of the morning, as long as I had my big canine buddy next to me.
#5 – Basset Hound
You might be surprised to see the Basset hound on my list because you might not think of this breed as large. In fact, though, Bassets are heavy and dense. An adult male typically weighs around 65 pounds. Think of this hound as a pretty big dog with very short legs.
Basset hounds require little grooming and little exercise. They're very affectionate and calm. They have practically no aggressive tendencies, so they get along with everyone and with other pets. One thing to keep in mind, though, is to keep the dog on a leash when it's not in an enclosed area. Because of their keen sense of smell, they can hone in on a scent and track it a long distance. Also, it's not a good idea to take your Basset swimming because of its density. Drowning is a distinct possibility.
To be honest, Basset hounds aren't typically near the top of the canine intelligence list. They can be stubborn and hard to train. If you just want a sweet dog to cuddle with while watching TV, however, this charming dog fits the bill.
#4 – Golden Retriever
One of the most popular breeds in the US, the golden retriever makes an amazing pet for practically anyone, including senior citizens. These dogs are smart and easy to train. They thrive on pleasing their owners. They're also very loving and affectionate, with no aggressive tendencies. They tend to love everyone they meet, so don't expect any watch-dog capabilities if you choose a goldie. They love kids, and they get along well with other dogs, with cats, and with other animals. Because they were bred as bird dogs, however, I don't recommend allowing them to be around chickens, ducks, or other fowl.
This is the only breed on my list with long hair, but grooming needs aren't excessive. A good daily brushing will usually suffice. Just be sure to comb out the tail and other “feathering” to remove any knots.
A few of the golden retrievers we owned occasionally jumped up on us, but because they respond so well to training, teaching them not to jump was easy.
As puppies, goldens can be pretty active. But as they mature, they become more adaptable. If you have a fenced yard, a secure doggie play area, or access to a nearby dog park, the golden retriever might just be your perfect companion.
#3 – Greyhound
When you think of this breed, the first thing that probably comes to mind is dog racing. In a home setting, however, greyhounds are calm and can be downright lazy. They're also sweet and affectionate. This breed rarely shows any aggression towards humans, including strangers. They don't bark much, either.
Some greyhounds tend to have a high prey drive, so if you have small dogs or cats in the house, you need to make sure all the pets get along before allowing them to be together, unsupervised.
These elegant-looking dogs are usually wonderful companions and can thrive in a small apartment. Their short coats are easy to manage, with a brushing a couple of times a week. They're quiet dogs and prefer a quiet home. They're also very sensitive, so training should be done with a gentle hand.
Many retired racing greyhounds wind up in shelters and rescues, so you should have no trouble finding one to adopt.
#2 – Mastiff
Mastiffs are enormous, with males often weighing over 250 pounds. Once used for bear-baiting and as dogs of war, today's mastiff is a giant teddy bear of a dog. They're kind, patient, and affectionate and like nothing better than snuggling with their masters.
Once mastiffs reach maturity, they're calm and docile. They rarely become overly excited. Of course, their size alone would be a deterrent to burglars, not to mention their booming barks. They're very protective of their human pack members, without being overly aggressive.
The coat is easy to care for, with a few good brushings a week. The wrinkles around the face need to be wiped clean, too. Be prepared: Most mastiffs are heavy droolers, so you might want to keep some baby wipes within easy reach.
When it comes to training, keep the sessions short, and don't be harsh. Mastiffs respond best to gentle training techniques that incorporate lots of praise.
If you're ready to share your life with a gentle, loving, loyal beast, you might want to consider a mastiff.
#1 – Great Dane
The Great Dane is my all-around favorite breed of dog. Yes, they're huge, but they're truly gentle giants. Once they get out of the puppy stage, they're also very laid back. They like nothing more than lounging on the couch, with head in a human lap.
Danes are super easy to groom, and they don't like to get dirty. A good brushing every few days will keep their coat in top shape.
I'm often asked if Great Danes drool. Of all the Danes we've owned, only two have been droolers, and they only drooled when we were eating in front of them.
Great Danes are super easy to train. More than anything, they want to please their pack leaders. Just be sure to establish yourself as pack leader early.
Danes have a wonderful combination of non-aggression and watch dog capabilities. Rarely aggressive, these big dogs are usually very alert to their surroundings, and they can look and sound menacing when someone comes into your yard or knocks on your door. Thankfully, Danes rarely bark unless there's something to bark at.
A good Dane will love you with more canine affection than you can imagine. It will also love your friends, your grandkids, other dogs, and cats and other pets. In my humble opinion, a well adjusted Dane is the best dog in the world!
More Tips for Senior Dog Owners
I strongly suggest getting two dogs. You might think having two dogs will be twice as much trouble, but in reality, having two canines can make your life easier because they'll keep each other entertained. They'll also keep each other happy when you're out of the house, which will lessen the chance of any separation anxiety.
If you have mobility problems and want a dog or two, you really need a fenced yard or a fenced area within your yard. That way, daily walks aren't necessary. My husband and I have trouble walking, so we simply open our back door and let our dogs run and play and relieve themselves in the back yard. Once a week, we hire someone to clean up the area.
You might not want to get a puppy. I realize the temptation of bringing home an adorable pup, but older dogs are much easier to handle. In fact, you might want to consider getting a senior dog. There are lots of senior dogs in shelters and rescues, just waiting for loving homes.
Brian Leekley from Bainbridge Island, Washington, USA on May 21, 2018:
I'm a dog walker and dog sitter for a couple of dog owners in my neighborhood. Every weekday during the noon hour I walk a dog of unknown ancestry. A distinctive waddle in its walk shows it is part Great Pyrenees. To me it looks just like photos of Golden Pyrenees dogs I've seen online. (That's a dog that's part Great Pyrenees and part Golden Retriever.) Beau is very gentle and unaggressive towards people, other dogs, even squirrels. I don't hesitate to give children passing us permission to pet him. He can be stubborn. In the many months I've walked him, I've only heard him bark once. It was loud and deep, like a fog horn. He is a large dog but much smaller than the Great Pyrenees dogs in the neighborhood.
Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on May 17, 2018:
We once knew some people that adopted greyhounds. They loved that breed and even though they are large, they do not require that much exercise which is surprising. I enjoyed reading this article. Currently we are without a dog which is the first time in our lives. We only have one remaining cat. At our ages we have to consider who will care for our pets should something happen to us. We would not wish to start out with a puppy but would consider getting an older dog from a shelter.
Karen Hellier from Georgia on May 17, 2018:
Great article. My family has always had golden retrievers and you are right about how wonderful a pet they can be. I had never given much thought to the fact that it's easier to trip on a smaller dog than it is a large one. Good point! Thanks for sharing this great information with us.