There are thousands of dog breeds available ranging in size from the Chihuahua, which can almost literally fit in the pocket, to the Great Dane, which is large enough to take over pretty much any apartment or home. Many of them make great companions and watchdogs for seniors and the elderly, but many of them are considered unsuitable. Some are too boisterous, some require too much care, and others are prone to serious physical health problems that would make them unmanageable for all but the most physically able of people.
Below, we have included a list of 30 dogs that are not considered suitable as senior companion dogs, along with the reasons why they should be avoided.
The 30 Worst Dog Breeds for Seniors
The Dalmatian is a beautiful, well-recognized breed. They are often referred to as the “fire engine” dog and have been used for search and rescue missions.
However, while there is no doubting their beauty or their skills, there is also no doubting their physicality. These dogs require a lot of outdoor exercises, and if they don’t get it, they are likely to become emotionally unstable. They may be destructive and very difficult to handle. They are also stubborn, which means that they are difficult to train except in the most experienced hands of capable handlers. They are also high maintenance as they shed all through the year.
2. Jack Russell Terrier
The Jack Russell Terrier is the archetypal terrier dog. They were bred to hunt and kill rats and other small animals, and they retain this hunting behavior. As such, the Jack Russell will chase virtually anything smaller than them, and a few animals that are the same size as them.
They will pull on the leash if they see a cat, a squirrel, and sometimes even a leaf or a bag. They can jump over fences, dig under walls, and they love to roam and will go looking for the opportunity to do so if it isn’t naturally presented to them. The Jack Russell Terrier can also be nippy, especially if they are not receiving enough daily exercise. They are very stubborn, too, which makes training them a major challenge.
3. Labrador Retriever
It feels counterintuitive placing the Labrador Retriever on any list of unsuitable dogs. They are the most popular breed in the world. They are loving, can be a little bit daft, and they are considered the perfect family pet thanks to their generally pleasant demeanor.
One of the reasons for the Lab’s popularity as a pet is also one of the reasons that they are not suitable as an elderly companion: they require a lot of attention. They also need a very good amount of exercise and they particularly enjoy laying on their owner’s feet, lap, and other available parts of the body.
4. Pit Bull
The Pit Bull has received a lot of bad press over the years. They have proven popular with breeders looking for fighting dogs, and they are often trained to be aggressive. With that said, a well-socialized dog that is discouraged from being aggressive can make a loving and loyal pet. But, one of the reasons for the Pit Bull’s popularity as a fighter is that he has perfect physical attributes for the job. He is naturally aggressive, has a very strong jaw, and he will never back down from confrontation. They also need plenty of time outdoors, or they will act out if they feel like they are cooped up.
5. German Shorthaired Pointer
The German Shorthaired Pointer makes a great family pet for extremely active and lively families. Even with a family of four bowing to their energetic and lively demands, the Pointer will have energy left to spare. And he will use it. He doesn’t act out, per se, but a bored German Shorthaired Pointer will look for innovative ways to entertain himself. And these tend to be quite destructive in nature.
They can be trained, but it takes time, and even when fully trained they still need a lot of daily exercise.
6. Springer Spaniel
The Springer Spaniel is a beautiful and friendly dog, and in most cases has a heart of gold. However, the phenomenon that is referred to as “Springer rage” is real, and estimates suggest that around one-quarter of this breed has bitten somebody.
This is also another very active dog with incredible exercise demands. They love to swim, will roll around in the mud, and will bring most of the puddle home with them. What’s more, this breed’s long and wavy hair takes a lot of care.
7. Border Collie
The Border Collie is the archetypal sheepdog. He will work tirelessly in the field, is considered one of the most intelligent dog breeds in the world, and excels at dog agility and other dog competitions.
Their intelligence means that the Border Collie is always looking for mental stimulation. Their tireless attitude means that they are looking for physical stimulation, too. And because they are so intelligent, they can easily find ways of providing this entertainment themselves. They are another breed, like the Springer, that will bring most of the field home with them in their coat.
The Pug has risen to become one of the most popular breeds in the world. He looks and acts funny, and they can be very loyal. But they also come with a long list of problems.
Breathing difficulties, snoring, bad gas, and a desire to go to the bathroom anywhere in the house are just some of the main problems. Then there’s the litany of illnesses that they are prone to. Owners of this breed tend to spend a lot of time at the vets.
Like a lot of the breeds on this list, the biggest potential problem with the smart Beagle is their high energy demands. This hunting dog must be walked on a leash and will drag his owner for miles at a brisk pace, never slowing down except if he catches what he believes to be his hunting quarry.
They are also very vocal dogs. They bay, howl, and bark to get their owner’s attention. Unfortunately, the level of noise they produce will probably get the attention of most people on the street, too.
10. Irish Setter
Irish Setters are like red-haired puppies throughout their entire lives. And despite looking sleek, they can be quite accident-prone. Their coats require a lot of maintenance. They abhor being left alone and are prone to a host of health conditions that will mean plenty of trips to the vets, too.
The Siberian Husky is a striking looking animal, reminiscent of a wolf. He has been bred to pull carts through the snow for many hours a day with very little need for rest. As it is unlikely you will be using him in this way at home, he will look for other ways in which to expend his massive energy reserves.
He is also loud, prone to howling, and enjoys being up high. He also loves to be outdoors, and he will use every open door or open window as an opportunity to get out. He is a cold-weather dog, so he will shed a lot, too, and this means multiple sweeping and clearing up sessions over a day.
12. Australian Shepherd
The Australian Shepherd shares a lot of the same tendencies as the Border Collie. He will happily run and herd for 12 hours a day and when he’s done, he can probably manage another couple of hours more. He requires this high level of exercise every single day, no excuses, so even if you’re having a slow day, your Aussie Shepherd is not.
13. Cocker Spaniel
Cocker Spaniels are sporting dogs. They look elegant, but they are highly demanding pets.
First, there’s their long coat. It requires daily brushing and will pick up leaves, water, and just about any dirt and debris from the house or yard. Then there are the ears. Their ears are prone to infection, which means that you will have to inspect inside them every day and probably clean them out with a damp cloth. There’s also the energy levels, which are something that we have mentioned in a lot of breeds.
As a sporting dog, the Cocker Spaniel requires time outside running around. He also needs mental stimulation. Finally, they require a lot of cuddles and attention, which sounds great — but it may be too much for one person to provide.
The Rottweiler makes a great guard dog and protection dog. One of the skills needed to excel in these areas is a wariness towards strangers. When combined with their incredible strength, this makes the Rottweiler very difficult to manage when on a leash. And they should always be on a leash. If they perceive any kind of threat, they can become aggressive.
15. Akita Dog
The Akita was bred as a protector in their homeland of Japan, where they were also seen as a sign of prosperity. If you had an Akita, it meant that you had something to protect. Today, they are friendly and loyal to their owners. But they do not play well with other animals. This includes animals in the house, but also in the park and on the street. They also require proper grooming to ensure their coat is kept in the best possible condition.
16. Chow Chow Dog
The Chow Chow has a reputation for being aggressive. Typically, this aggression is aimed towards people and animals that the dog perceives as being a threat to his family, but it can be a real problem.
While they don’t require a lot of exercise, and they enjoy some time alone, they are not suitable pets for seniors, especially those with grandchildren, because they don’t usually get along well with children.
17. Airedale Terrier
Some Terrier breeds are named because they look like Terriers. The Airedale Terrier is not such a breed. He is named Terrier because he was bred to hunt and kill rats and rodents. He retains this prey drive, which means that he can take off at a second’s notice if he sees something small and running. He is high energy and he needs to be well exercised to be happy.
18. Afghan Hound
The Afghan Hound has hair like an 80s glam rocker, and he is going to take as much maintenance as his highly coiffured look suggests. He requires almost constant grooming. He is also high energy, even though running around will undoubtedly cause knotted locks and yet another meeting with the dog brush.
He is a striking dog to look at, but this is perhaps the best approach to this breed – adore him from a distance and settle on a more suitable pooch for your senior years.
19. Basenji Dog
The Basenji is widely considered one of the oldest dog breeds in the world. He is also one of the most active, and not only does he need a daily walk, but he will demand a daily romp. If he doesn’t get this romp outside, he will embark on his own indoor romp, which can mean serious damage to your property.
He can also be very loyal and fiercely protective of his family. Combine this protectiveness with his strength and you have a dog that is difficult to manage on walks but that requires a lot of them.
20. Australian Cattle Dog
Cattle dogs and herders share the same high energy requirements. You can add the Australian Cattle Dog to the same list as the Border Collie and the Australian Shepherd. He will demand multiple walks a day and he will take you over mountains and into valleys. They are also prone to barking and being noisy, so there are several ways in which they simply are not suitable for apartment living and can be a challenge even in a generously proportioned house.
21. Cane Corso Dog
A lot of breeds have made this list because they require huge amounts of exercise every day. The Cane Corso is not an overly active breed, although he does still require some daily exercise. He will enjoy walks more than runs, but several other factors mean he is not considered suitable for seniors.
For a start, the Cane Corso is a big dog. This does not automatically mean that he is unsuitable for the role, but combined with his headstrong and stubborn nature, and his desire to be the dominant, top dog in the house, he will prove too much to handle for the vast majority of owners, regardless of age.
22. Neopolitan Mastiff
The Neopolitan Mastiff is similar in its tendencies to the Cane Corso. He is a big breed that does not require too much exercise, but he is stubborn and will expect to get his own way.
He is also a massive dog that will not do well in an apartment because he will tend to knock things over or stand on his feet. This Mastiff is best left to experienced handlers with a lot of room and experience owning this type of breed.
23. Briard Dog
The Briard is a French dog that was used to herd and round up animals. He is made for outdoor living. As well as the incredible shaggy coat, he even has double dew claws which make him better equipped to deal with difficult terrain than most other breeds.
He is big and strong, he has a tendency to herd anything and everything in his family, and as well as having high exercise requirements, his coat will need regular grooming and it has a tendency to pick up objects like they were magnetized. These aspects don’t make him a good match for a calmer lifestyle.
24. German Shepherd
The German Shepherd is one of the most widely recognized breeds in the world. He is a popular family pet. He is used as a guard dog privately and in service of the Armed Forces and the police. He makes an excellent search and rescue dog and is used to sniff out bombs and drugs in some of the most difficult and trying conditions around the globe.
However, he does have high energy levels. He is also prone to several health conditions which can make him expensive to keep. Finally, although he can be well trained by an experienced handler that asserts their dominance in a non-threatening way, they can be stubborn and difficult to train for others.
25. Belgian Malinois
The Belgian Malinois is another breed that has found regular use as a police dog and service dog in various countries. However, they can be very wary of strangers, which means that they need early and ongoing socialization. They also require consistent training. As a working dog, the Malinois wants a job to do. Ideally, something that will exercise his body and his mind. If he doesn’t get this, he will act up and cause trouble around the home.
26. Bearded Collie
The Bearded Collie is only considered a medium-energy dog. As such, his energy levels could be met by a senior, so this isn’t the problem with this distinctive looking breed. The big problem with the Bearded Collie is his incredible coat. It will take considerable effort to care for and maintain, so you will be spending large chunks of your days brushing and grooming him.
27. Cairn Terrier
The Cairn Terrier is another Terrier that was bred to hunt small animals out of their lair. To do this, they had to be able to pick up scents or spot their quarry from distance. They had to be able to follow them over various types of terrain and then dig and forage in holes until they caught their prey. Some Terrier breeds retain their high prey drive, and the Cairn Terrier is one of those breeds.
This combination means that they are energetic and they like to dig. If they don’t get enough exercise, their digging habits may transfer indoors, so they will try digging up carpet, rugs, and pretty much anything else that stands in their way. Daily exercise can reduce these tendencies somewhat, but even then, they are likely to cause some mess.
The Dachshund is a great little dog with a unique appearance. They tend to be friendly and loyal, too, and they don’t require too much in the way of exercise. However, there are several reasons that this breed is not considered suitable for seniors.
First, one in four Dachshunds will develop a spinal problem that can end in total paralysis. This takes a lot of money to treat, and even with treatment, you are only slowing the progress. Furthermore, they are difficult to house train, they can be noisy, and they tend towards wariness and moderate aggression towards strangers.
The Bloodhound is a scent hound. This means that he picks up on the scent of his prey and then follows it over fields, through hedgerows and rivers, and wherever it may take him. When he has a scent, he is very single-minded and it is incredibly difficult to take his attention away from that. When he is hunting, that is an admirable trait. When you are walking him through the park and he picks up the scent of a squirrel that has run up a nearby tree, it is less than admirable.
He is also noisy with a tendency to bark, and you will have to spend a lot of the few short years that he lives cleaning up his slobber.
30. Boxer Dog
Last on our list is the lovable and goofy Boxer. He can be daft and comical. He is loyal to his owner, too. But he requires a lot of exercise to curb his enthusiasm. He also loves jumping up and laying on your lap. Another good reason to avoid the Boxer is that he is prone to a multitude of illnesses that will cost you a ton in vet bills and could potentially shorten his life considerably.
Conclusion: The Worst Dog Breeds for Seniors
This is a long list of breeds that seniors should avoid, and it might seem like there are few options left, but nothing is further from the truth. There are dozens of breeds that are considered ideal to keep you company during the day and let you know of any visitors at your door without the need for multiple runs a day. Be sensible when choosing a breed, avoid groups like herding and sheepdogs, and ensure that you have a network of people around you to provide exercise for the dog if you aren’t able to.
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