About Pet Therapy for Older Adults and the Best Dogs for Seniors

Older adult hanging outside with his dogFor many seniors, one of the biggest challenges at home or in a retirement community is keeping active both physically and mentally. At Calvary Homes, we understand just how important it is for seniors to stay active through social interactions and faith-based community events. And, having a pet or participating in pet therapy for older adults is an excellent way for seniors to stay active and be a part of their community!

Why Pet Therapy for Older Adults?

Pet therapy is a great way to keep seniors active in their communities and their homes. Pet therapy often includes three categories—visitation, animal-assisted, and pet ownership. Each of these types of pet therapy for older adults includes several vital benefits—physical movement, social interaction, and emotional inspiration.

Any animal or pet—such as a dog, cat, fish, bird, or even farm animals—may qualify for pet therapy, because we all receive comfort and joy from interactions with pet therapy animals. Pets relieve stress, brighten our moods, keep us active, and make a great form of natural therapy for older adults.

The Three Types of Pet Therapy

While pet ownership may not be possible for every senior, pet therapy is! Since there are several ways to participate in pet therapy for older adults, your loved one still has an opportunity for pet therapy.


If you have ever seen a news story about an animal visiting a nursing home or hospital to comfort seniors, that’s considered visitation pet therapy. It is the most straightforward form of pet therapy in that it is a scheduled event where the responsibility for the animal remains with its caretakers, not the seniors or residency staff.

At Calvary Homes, we offer one-to-one visits with a dog and a cat from a local organization. Our Life Enrichment office organizes these visits because pet therapy interactions are a real encouragement for our residents. Our calendar of activities works to bring our residents closer together in faith and helps keep them active both physically and mentally.


Animal-assisted therapy goes beyond the companionship often associated with visitation pet therapy and pet ownership. This type of therapy works to develop or improve specific areas of a patient’s life— such as speech, movement, or social abilities.

Horses, dogs, and some farm animals are the most commonly used pets for animal-assisted therapy.

Pet Ownership

Pet ownership is an integral part of many people’s lives, not just those of seniors. However, the companionship, joy, and comfort that pets bring to their senior owners can be lifesaving.

At Cavalry Homes, we understand the significant benefits of pet ownership for our residents and allow pets in our cottages and apartments. To learn more about our complete pet policy, contact our office.

Physical, Social, and Emotional Benefits of Pet Therapy for Older Adults

You can see the benefits of pet therapy for older adults from any pet therapy you include in the life of a loved one. Pet therapy often includes physical, social, and emotional benefits for seniors.

Physical Benefits

Some pet therapy may not be able to include many movements—such as patients in a hospital or hospice care who may not be mobile. However, the interaction with an animal during pet therapy can help reduce blood pressure and stress levels.

When pet therapy does include added movement—like walking or grooming an animal—that counts as exercise and can increase mobility.

Social Benefits

Loneliness in seniors is a growing concern, which is why we at Calvary Homes work hard to include social interaction and faith-based activities for all of our residents. Pet therapy for older adults can also help give seniors a sense of belonging, which can help improve the mood and mental stimulation in older adults.

Emotional Benefits

Not only do pets give us companionship, but they also give us a sense of purpose. Whether your loved one can have a pet of their own or looks forward to seeing a pet therapy animal from a local support group, the social interactions from pet therapy can improve their mood and decrease stress and anxiety.

Why Pet Therapy With Dogs is Special

For most people, dogs are a special kind of pet. Dogs tend to love us unconditionally and make exceptional companions. Therefore, it is no surprise that such a loving and loyal companion is a great candidate as a pet therapy animal.

A Few Great Dog Breeds for Older Adults

While many dogs make great companions for older adults, several breeds stand out as being low maintenance, easy-going, and loyal. Here are a few we feel make the best companions for older adults.

Retired Greyhounds

Retired Greyhounds are particularly gentle and calm-natured pets. Even though retired Greyhounds are gentle pets, they are a larger breed dog with specific traits—like preferring quiet homes—and needs—like going for daily walks. Always research any pet you consider bringing into your home or the home of a loved one.

Golden Retrievers and Labs

Golden Retrievers and Labs tend to be friendly animals and eager to please, but they are also active animals and need a human companion that can keep up. These dogs would be perfect for a senior companion that is looking to stay active. Just like retired Greyhounds, Golden Retrievers and Labs are larger dogs and need to maintain a daily exercise routine.

Gentle Toy Breeds

Toy breeds—like Bichon Frise, Miniature Poodle, and Maltese—are smaller dogs and require less space than a retired Greyhound or Lab. These breeds tend to be gentle pets, but may not always be great with children. Each toy breed also has grooming requirements and may need some daily grooming care.

Shelter-Rescued Mixed Breeds

If you have ever rescued a pet, you know that their loyalty and thankfulness knows no bounds. Many shelters run “seniors for seniors” programs that aim to place the right senior dog with the right senior human companion. Contact your local shelter to find out what dogs they have available that would make a great companion for your loved one.

Learn More About Our Active Senior Living Community

Our continuing care retirement community, Calvary Homes, is a faith-based community that considers each of our senior residents as a part of our extended family and God’s family. We nurture this extended family with social interactions and faith-based activities that help to enrich the lives of our senior residents and glorify our Lord Jesus Christ.