The best Lap Dogs for Seniors

We call them “man’s best friend” for a reason. Dogs are loving and loyal, providing irreplaceable company for kids and adults alike. When the children start having families and the grandchildren are off to college, senior adults can experience boredom and loneliness as such the right dog can be a much needed companion.

So what are the best lapdogs for seniors? The best dogs for seniors are breeds that are calm, affectionate and have low maintenance needs. Dogs that would be the perfect companions for senior adults include :-

  • Boston Terrier
  • Chihuahua
  • French Bulldog
  • Lhasa Apso
  • Maltese
  • Pembroke Welsh Corgi
  • Shih Tzu
  • Yorkshire Terrier

The Perfect Lap Dogs for Seniors

The Boston Terrier

These tough little characters have grown in popularity in recent years, when it comes to professional’s who give dog therapy sessions often to the elderly.

Fun loving Characters

Intelligent, loyal, friendly; these are just some of the positive qualities of a dog specifically bred to be a companion animal.

The Boston Terrier is a pampered lapdog that loves visiting the elderly in nursing homes. These dogs are generally low-maintenance! They are playful but will also be comfortable running up and down a small yard.

Boston Terrier, 1 year old

To groom them, be ready to occasionally bath or shower them so that their coat remains glossy and well-maintained.


Chihuahua’s are extremely loyal, many of them extremely intelligent. There are minimal health issues with these little pocket sized dogs, but they do need a firm hand or they can become territorial and yappy.

They will happily sit with you all day long or bounce along the pavement as you walk.

Despite their reputation of being snappy, I have always found them to be very happy and joyful little characters and are extremely attentive.

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Long Haired Chihuahua’s

The short legged variety have a tendency to put on weight so limit their treats, the longer legged breeds tend not to do so and because many of them are only hitting the scales at just 5 to 10 pounds they are ideal lapdog for the very elderly, not causing any weight issues when sitting on you.

In fact they are one of the very best companions for the elderly.

French Bulldog

Small and stylish with a solid disposition; the bulldog is a great companion that won’t leave your side. While they are not known to be athletic, these canines make great walking partners, if kept trim and fit.

They have enough energy to keep you active but not wear you down. Their small stature and lightweight bodies ensure that you can easily pick them up and pet them on your lap whenever you are in the mood.

However, before you decide to share a bed with them, you should know that they have a tendency to snore, which might require getting accustomed to.

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The Frenchie generally doesn’t need much grooming; they are low maintenance dogs that will give you an easy time caring for them.

 If you are thinking of getting one as a pet, I suggest you take the time to find out more about the health of the dog you are adopting because they are a brachycephalic breed.

Poorly bred French Bulldogs tend to experience respiratory difficulties that are compounded by their flat faces.

Lhasa Apso

The Lhasa Apso is a wonderful companion animal that enjoys sitting around the house. They are relatively pocket-sized, usually weighing not more than 15 pounds. They are happy being around the owner and will spend most of their time sitting next to you if not cuddled on your lap for a petting session.

Despite their miniature physique, the Lhasa Apso makes a great watchdog. They are always alert and will bark continuously to alert you that someone is at the door.

The good thing about keeping these dogs is that they don’t shed much hair despite the fact that if left it will grow very long. Because they don’t shed much hair you won’t have to worry about recurring allergies or dog hair on your couch.

Lhasa Apso with long hair still do not lose a lot of hair so are good for allergy sufferers

Without coaching, their temperament towards visitors or strangers can be a bit aggressive so you want to spare a little time for training sessions. This should be enough to get them to behave when your grandchildren come around.

Lhasa Apso with a haircut, often mistaken for a shih Tzu

The Lhasa Apso is a pretty healthy breed but you might want to watch out for eye and skin issues, although most skin issues I have come across with these happy little digs is usually abated with regular baths or showers. Other than that, these dogs are generally problem-free with an averagely long lifespan of about 14 years.


The Maltese is a fine breed that was built for companionship. The dog has a gentle temperament and friendly personality that attracts them to people. They like making friends and being in the company of their owner, but detest being alone. The Maltese maintain an active mood from puppyhood through their later years.

Their majestic white coat requires regular grooming to keep the dog looking fresh. The fact that they shed less makes them ideal for people who may have allergies.

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Maltese dog

But don’t be fooled by their soft looks, these little cuties are fearless and are known to stand their ground. Their courage will definitely spark your spirit.

The Maltese is a perfect lapdog! Weighing around 10 pounds, they are generally easy to handle, giving you a trouble-free time during training.  They are also incredibly attentive and will pay close attention to what their owners say, making them the perfect companion for the elderly.

Pembroke Welsh Corgi

Yes the same breed as kept by H.M. Queen Elizabeth of England.

If you still have the energy to want an active, smart, strong-willed, and determined dog that will keep you on the move, the Welsh Corgi is definitely the right fit! But don’t worry about getting worn out by its active nature; the Corgi’s strong-will is usually kept in check by its small legs.

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These dogs have a sense of excitement that tends to distract them from the little dangers that surround them. You might want to keep an eye on them while doing your best to prevent them from injuring that long back.

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If you are incapable of bending and lifting then you may need stairs for the couch or bed and ramps for your car. Remember to take it easy when lifting them up. Although they are small in size, the Corgi packs a considerable weight; especially if you’ve been spoiling them with too many treats.

The Corgi promises to keep your sunset years active, which could help to prolong your own life. You won’t find a better companion for the elderly.

Shih Tzu

The Shih Tzu dogs are known to be friendly, playful, and active, yet they will lay down for hours if you are not moving. They tend to have a certain aura of excitement that is instantly contagious when they walk into a room of people.

Their energy and affability can’t be ignored, so if you can take a break from your daily schedule to walk the dog outside or keep him busy with some indoor playtime.

They bark when curious, but not to the extent of being noisy. Shih Tzus are generally healthy dogs that will age with you; they love their owner’s attention and will jump on your lap without waiting for an invitation.

If left to grow their long, luxurious coat necessitates a bit of time dedicated to grooming, however with my own Shih Tzu I have found it far more prudent to have his coat clipped every 6 to 8 weeks.

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If you decide to adopt a Shih Tzu, you should know that a small number are prone to the brachycephalic syndrome and skin issues, though to a lesser degree when compared to the French Bulldog.

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Occassionally, they have underbites as mine has, but it has never caused him any problems, just be sure to have your little guy checked out by the vet so that you are in a position to offer your pet the best care if needed.

Yorkshire Terrier

The Yorkshire Terrier is often a tiny vocal dog. They don’t shed much and require minimal grooming just like its cousin the Maltese.

These dogs originally come from England and make good companions for people with allergies. As a general rule they only shed their loose hairs when you are brushing them, making them ideal for those owners who like to pet their animals.

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These dogs also have an impressive intelligence rating, coming at rank 27 on Dr. Cohen’s book “The Intelligence of Dogs”. This means they are easy to coach and perform fairly well in obedience training compared to other breeds of small dogs and love learning little tricks like dancing and begging.

Although they were originally bred to hunt rats, the Yorkie’s as they are affectionately known have evolved to become mostly companion animals.

An important thing to note about the Yorkie is that these dogs may face some health issues, so it is vital to be prepared just in case. Look out for retained puppy teeth, trick knees in puppies, and eyelash problems that may result in excessive tearing or corneal damage, once again just be sure to have a good health check at your local veterinary practice

Regular trips to the vet should be able to help you stay ahead of these health conditions. If you manage to keep them healthy, Yorkie’s have one of the longest life expectancies among living dog breeds, averaging about 17 years.

Why Small Dogs for Seniors?

Going through the above list, I am sure you have noticed that most of the names belong to a small breed of dogs. My guess is that you are wondering why this is so? Allow me to explain…

The main reason why big dogs aren’t recommended for the elderly is that safety of the elderly and the daily management of the dog matters a lot. A large dog might be more intimidating, which makes them a better candidate for protection, but their size makes them likely to unintentionally hurt an elderly person.

Imagine a German shepherd playfully nudging a frail, old man; this could easily throw him off-balance and end up in an unwanted fall. Unless the dog has been well trained, handling them can prove to be a challenge.

There is also the fact that big dogs require more outdoor exercise and some elderly people will not be fit enough to provide the appropriate amount of exercise that the dog needs.

Other points are that smaller breeds are in general easier to care for. They eat less, have minimal space requirements, and their toys are also smaller. It can also be less stressful to move around with a Chihuahua than with a Golden Retriever.


Whichever breed of dog you choose to have as a companion, be sure to conduct your own research to find the perfect fit. I am sure with a little patience, determination, and the right timing; you can assist your loved one to find the perfect companion during their sunset years.

A good place to start may well be your local homeless dog charity, I have had 3 small dogs from a rescue and given the care and attention which they are likely to get from an elderly person, you could end up with an absolute diamond of a loving dog and most of these dogs have already had the basic training, so no need to toilet train as you do with puppies.

For more specific information on each of these breeds go to our A to Z of Lap Dog Breeds and scroll down to your choice.

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