Worst Dog Breeds for Seniors: What Not to Choose

Worst Dog Breeds for Seniors

My grandmother always said that picking the right dog in her golden years wasn’t just about finding a furry companion, but about choosing a friend whose energy and lifestyle matched her own slower pace.

While pups can bring immeasurable joy and emotional warmth, some breeds, with their boundless energy, size, or temperament, aren’t quite the right fit for the silver generation. So, if you or someone you know is a senior thinking of adopting a dog, I’ve jotted down a list of breeds that might not be the best match, to ensure a loving and stress-free bond.

The Importance of Choosing the Right Breed

As seniors age, they often have reduced mobility, and their energy levels decrease. Additionally, they may face health challenges or require a peaceful environment. While dogs can provide companionship, affection, and even health benefits, selecting the wrong breed can exacerbate potential challenges. That's why understanding which breeds are less suited to senior life can be crucial.

Why Some Breeds Are Not Suitable for Seniors

Choosing the right dog for senior citizens requires a deeper understanding of both the needs of the elderly and the characteristics of different dog breeds. Here are some important considerations to bear in mind:

Energy Levels

The vitality and activity level of a dog can greatly influence its suitability for an older owner. Many seniors might have decreased physical stamina or health issues that limit their ability to engage in vigorous activities. A hyperactive or high-energy dog might become frustrated or even unintentionally injure its owner if not provided with sufficient exercise and stimulation. Thus, selecting a more sedentary or calm breed might be a wiser choice for seniors.

Size and Strength

The size and strength of a dog can pose challenges for elderly individuals, especially those with diminished physical strength or balance issues. A large or powerful dog, even if well-intentioned, can accidentally knock over or pull an older person. On walks, controlling a strong dog might prove challenging if it gets excited or tries to chase something. Hence, a smaller or more manageable breed might be more suitable for seniors.

Grooming Needs

Grooming is an essential aspect of pet care that can't be overlooked. Some dog breeds have complex grooming needs, requiring regular brushing, trimming, and even specialized skin care. For seniors with mobility concerns or those who tire easily, meeting these grooming requirements can be burdensome. Therefore, breeds with lower maintenance coats or minimal grooming needs might be a better fit for elderly individuals.

Health Issues

Like humans, certain dog breeds are predisposed to specific health issues. This can mean regular trips to the vet, special care routines, and potentially high medical bills. For seniors, especially those on a fixed income or who might find it emotionally taxing to see their pet suffer, it's important to be aware of these potential health problems. Opting for a breed with fewer known health issues or one that fits their ability to provide care might be a more compassionate choice.

The Worst Dog Breeds for Seniors

When it comes to selecting a dog that fits the lifestyle and abilities of senior citizens, several factors must be taken into account. Below are some categories of dog breeds that might present challenges for elderly owners, along with explanations as to why they may be less suitable choices.

High-Energy Breeds

Examples: Border Collies, Australian Shepherds, Dalmatians

Challenges: These breeds are known for their insatiable need for regular exercise, mental stimulation, and interactive play. They're highly intelligent and get restless if they aren't given an outlet for their energy. For seniors, particularly those with limited physical activity or health concerns, keeping up with such an active lifestyle can be quite taxing. This mismatch in energy levels can lead to a frustrating experience for both the pet and the owner, potentially exacerbating behavioral issues in the dog due to pent-up energy.

Worst Dog Breeds for Seniors

Large and Heavy Breeds

Examples: Great Danes, Saint Bernards, Mastiffs

Challenges: These giant breeds present obvious physical challenges for elderly individuals. Their sheer size and strength can make them difficult to control during walks, particularly if they have a strong prey drive or a tendency to lunge at distractions. The risk of these dogs inadvertently knocking over their owners is high, and the consequences can be more severe for seniors, who may already be at a higher risk for falls or fractures. The physicality required to care for these breeds can be overwhelming for someone with limited strength or mobility.

Aggressive or Protective Breeds

Examples: Pit Bulls, Rottweilers, Akitas

Challenges: While these breeds can be incredibly loyal and form strong bonds with their owners, they also have strong protective instincts that can manifest as aggressive behavior under certain circumstances. Though proper training can mitigate some of these concerns, managing a dog with such strong instincts requires a level of physical and mental agility that some seniors may not possess. Given the potential for aggression or strong protective behavior, these breeds might pose safety risks that are particularly concerning for households with older adults.

High-Maintenance Coat Breeds

Examples: Afghan Hounds, Poodles, Shih Tzus

Challenges: These breeds come with luxurious coats that require regular grooming, from daily brushing to periodic trims and specialized skin care. Seniors may find the continuous care these coats demand to be tiring or difficult, especially if they have mobility issues or arthritis. Neglecting grooming can lead to a host of issues for the dog, including matted fur, skin infections, and general discomfort. Breeds with less demanding grooming needs may be a more practical choice for older adults.

Ideal Dog Breeds for Seniors

As seniors contemplate adding a furry companion to their lives, it's essential to consider breeds that align well with the typical lifestyles and needs of older individuals. While some breeds may present challenges, others fit seamlessly into the day-to-day routine of a senior, offering companionship, comfort, and even health benefits. Here are some dog breeds that are often considered ideal for senior citizens:

For senior citizens desiring a canine companion, it's imperative to find breeds that align with their specific needs, energy levels, and living situations. Here's an in-depth look at some of the best breeds for older individuals:

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel


These toy spaniels are adorned with expressive, almond-shaped eyes and a silky, medium-length coat. They come in various color combinations like Blenheim (chestnut and white) and tricolor (black, white, and tan).

Why they're ideal

The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel has a unique ability to mirror the energy of its owner. They are comfortable lounging around the house but are equally enthusiastic about short walks or play sessions in the garden. Their manageable size and heartwarming companionship make them popular among seniors. Though they possess a luxurious coat, its upkeep isn't overly demanding, requiring occasional grooming.

Bichon Frise


Bichon Frises, with their tight, curly white coat and dark, round eyes, have a distinct teddy bear-like appearance. Their coat stands away from their body, giving them a puffball look.

Why they're ideal

Bichon Frises have a cheerful and playful disposition that often brings joy to a household. Their hypoallergenic coat, which sheds minimally, makes them a top choice for seniors who might have allergy concerns. They are sociable dogs that enjoy both indoor play and short outdoor strolls, making them versatile companions for a more relaxed lifestyle.



Pugs are recognized by their squished noses, deep wrinkles, and curly tails. Their stocky, robust bodies carry a lot of personalities. Their facial expressions, often described as “masks,” make them incredibly endearing.

Why they're ideal

These dogs have a laid-back attitude. They are known to be ‘lap dogs,' appreciating the comfort of a cozy couch or bed. Pugs are typically low-maintenance in terms of exercise, requiring just a few short walks daily. Their calm and charming demeanor paired with their adaptability to various living situations makes them excellent for seniors.

French Bulldog


The French Bulldog is a small but sturdy breed. They have a broad, square head, bat-like ears, and a short snout. Their coat comes in a variety of colors, including brindle, fawn, and white.

Why they're ideal

French Bulldogs, or ‘Frenchies' as they're affectionately known, are sociable and easygoing. They are known to form deep bonds with their families, often craving attention and companionship. Their exercise needs are minimal, making them suitable for seniors who prefer shorter walks and more indoor activities. Their low bark tendency also makes them excellent for apartment living.



The Maltese are elegant toy dogs with flowing, straight white hair. Their dark, alert eyes and black button nose contrast beautifully with their coat.

Why they're ideal

Maltese dogs have a spirited yet gentle disposition. They are loving and thrive on human companionship, often following their owners around the house. They are ideal indoor pets and are content with short walks or indoor play sessions. While their long, silky coat necessitates regular grooming, many seniors find grooming a therapeutic activity and a bonding experience with their pet.

Benefits of Owning a Dog in Senior Years

Emotional Support and Companionship

One of the remarkable traits of dogs is their ability to provide unwavering emotional support. Their unconditional love and consistent presence act as a buffer against feelings of isolation or loneliness that some seniors experience. Whether it's a wagging tail greeting you at the door or a gentle nudge for affection, dogs have an innate capacity to make their owners feel wanted and cherished.

Promotion of Physical Health

The necessity of walking a dog or engaging in play ensures that dog owners are more active than they might be otherwise. Even short, daily walks can significantly benefit cardiovascular health, increase stamina, and strengthen muscles. This physical activity can also help in weight management and improve joint flexibility.

Boost to Mental Health

The bond between humans and pets has been shown to have therapeutic effects. Interacting with a dog can lead to the release of oxytocin, a hormone that promotes bonding and reduces stress. Furthermore, pets, especially dogs, can help alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety by providing a constant source of comfort and reducing feelings of isolation.

Introduction of Structured Routine

The responsibilities that come with dog ownership, such as feeding, walking, and grooming, can instill a structured daily routine. Such routines are pivotal in providing seniors with a sense of purpose and regularity, which can be crucial for mental stability and overall well-being. It also helps seniors maintain time management skills and gives a renewed sense of responsibility.

Social Interaction and Connectivity

Owning a dog often leads to increased social interactions. Dog parks, pet stores, or simple walks around the neighborhood can lead to conversations with fellow dog owners, helping seniors stay socially connected and engaged with their community.

Enhanced Safety

Dogs, even those that aren't trained as guard dogs, often serve as a deterrent for potential intruders. Their keen sense of hearing can also alert owners to sounds or disturbances that might go unnoticed otherwise.

Cognitive Stimulation

Training and communicating with a dog can keep the mind sharp. Tasks like teaching a dog new tricks or trying to understand their behaviors can stimulate cognitive processes and improve mental agility.

Reduced Risk of Heart Diseases

Studies have shown that pet ownership, especially dogs, is associated with a reduced risk of heart disease. This is partly because of the increased physical activity but also because of the stress-reducing effects of canine companionship.

Sense of Purpose

Taking care of a dog can give seniors a renewed sense of purpose. This can be particularly significant for those who might feel aimless or struggle with the idea of aging.

Factors to Consider Before Choosing a Dog for Seniors

Living Situation

It's important to assess the living conditions before bringing a dog into a senior's life. Does the senior live in a spacious house with a yard that offers ample space for a dog to run and play? Or are they situated in an apartment which may have space limitations or restrictions on pet sizes and breeds? The environment will dictate the size and energy level of the dog that would be most suitable.

Mobility Concerns

The physical well-being and mobility of the senior are paramount. If the senior has challenges with walking, moving, or stamina, they might be better suited to a more sedentary breed or an older dog that requires less exercise. Conversely, if they're active, they might appreciate a more energetic dog that encourages regular walks and play.

Budgetary Considerations

Owning a dog can come with unexpected expenses. Apart from the initial cost of adoption or purchase, there are ongoing costs such as food, toys, routine veterinary care, potential emergencies, grooming, and possibly pet insurance. It's essential to evaluate if the senior's budget can comfortably accommodate these expenses over the dog's lifespan.

Allergy Concerns

Before introducing a pet, it's important to know if the senior has any pet-related allergies. Some dog breeds are hypoallergenic and may be better suited for those with sensitivities. Regular grooming and cleaning can also help, but it's essential to address this factor from the onset to ensure the health and comfort of the senior.

Lifestyle and Daily Routine

The senior's daily routine and lifestyle can heavily influence the choice of dog. If they frequently travel, they would need arrangements for the dog's care in their absence. On the other hand, if they mostly stay at home, they might prefer a dog that's more of a homebody. Moreover, their daily routines, such as whether they have a regular schedule or more flexibility, can influence the dog's training and adaptability.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q: Should a 70 year old get a dog?

A: Yes, a 70-year-old can benefit greatly from getting a dog, provided they choose a breed and energy level that aligns with their own capabilities and lifestyle. Dogs offer companionship, and emotional support, and can promote physical activity. However, it's essential to consider the longevity and energy of the breed, the individual's health and mobility, and whether they have support in pet-related responsibilities.

Q: What is the lowest maintenance dog to have?

A: Some of the lowest maintenance dogs, in terms of energy and grooming needs, include breeds like the Basset Hound, Chihuahua, French Bulldog, Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, and Shih Tzu. However, “low maintenance” can be subjective and varies depending on an individual's experience and perspective. It's important to research and possibly meet with breeds to determine the best fit.

Q: What dogs are hardest to handle?

A: Some dog breeds are known to be more challenging due to their high energy, intelligence, or stubbornness. Breeds that are often considered harder to handle for the average owner include the Siberian Husky, Border Collie, Belgian Malinois, Akita, and the Alaskan Malamute. These breeds typically require experienced handlers, consistent training, and a lot of physical and mental stimulation.

Q: What is the best dog for a 60-year-old?

A: The best dog for a 60-year-old will depend on the individual's lifestyle, health, and activity level. Generally, breeds that are calm, affectionate, and require moderate exercise are a good fit. Some recommendations might include the Poodle (or its smaller variants), Maltese, Bichon Frise, Lhasa Apso, or even a well-tempered rescue dog. It's advisable to spend time with potential breeds or individual dogs before making a decision.


When selecting a dog breed for seniors, it's crucial to prioritize compatibility and the well-being of both the dog and the owner. Avoiding high-energy, large, aggressive, or high-maintenance breeds is key to ensuring a harmonious relationship between the dog and the senior. Instead, consider smaller breeds with calm dispositions and lower exercise needs, as they are more likely to provide the companionship and comfort that seniors seek.

Remember, every dog is an individual, and while breed traits provide insight, individual temperament can vary. Consulting with animal shelters, breeders, and veterinarians can help seniors make the best choice based on their specific circumstances and preferences.


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Written by Ken Pach

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