25 Worst Dog Breeds For Seniors (Expert Advice)

There are as many dog lovers as breeds that cater to each of their needs. Dogs and humans have been compatible for years, but that doesn’t mean anyone can own any random breed.

Every dog breed has a specific requirement, and only a select category of owners can own them.

If you get a dog, you’re incompatible with, that could create many problems.

Senior citizens, in particular, need to avoid certain dog breeds.

While there is nothing inherently wrong with these dogs, they have some traits that will be difficult for a senior. High energy and high grooming need are some examples.

Below is a list of the top 25 worst dog breeds for seniors and elderly people. 

The Worst Dog Breeds for Seniors

1. Dalmatian

Dalmatian Dog Standing Outdoors
  • Height: 19 to 24 inches
  • Weight: 48 to 55 pounds
  • Temperament: Outgoing, intelligent, sensitive
  • Life Expectancy: 13 to 16 years
  • Energy: High
  • Grooming: Low
  • Trainability: High
  • Health: High

Opening our list is the Dalmatian, an evergreen Disney sensation and currently a popular and easily recognizable breed.

Because of their constant use by firemen, the Dalmatian is often referred to as a “fire engine” dog.

It is also a good family dog because of its intelligence, its trainability, and low maintenance coat.

However, the Dalmatian is exuberant and has a high amount of energy. They require a lot of intensive exercise, and without that, they will turn destructive.

Though they are trainable, they are also stubborn and need an experienced owner.

Another problem a senior might have with a Dalmatian is its high level of shedding. The standard short coat is quite deceptive, including the rare long-haired Dalmatian variant. 

2. Labrador Retriever

Yellow Labrador Retriever Retriever Standing Outdoors
  • Height: 21 to 24 inches
  • Weight: 55 to 80 pounds
  • Temperament: Intelligent, kind, agile
  • Life Expectancy: 10 to 12 years
  • Energy: High
  • Grooming: Low 
  • Trainability: High
  • Health: High 

The Labrador Retriever remains America’s number one favorite, and if you’re not too conversant with all the different aspects of this breed, you might be surprised that it is on this list.

Labradors have the right combination of good looks and a fantastic personality, both of which endears them to many pet parents.

This breed is affectionate towards everyone, eager to please, and very trainable.

The first reason we place the Labrador on this list is its high energy level. The Labrador Retriever is very boisterous and can’t cope in an apartment, much less with an old person.

Alongside its high energy level is a constant need for attention. Labradors are not always conscious of their size and will want to climb on their owners’ laps.

A younger person might find that sweet, but for a senior, it is problematic. 

Dive Deeper:
English Lab vs American Lab: Different Types Of Labradors

3. Jack Russell Terrier

Jack Russell Terrier Dog Sitting on Floor
  • Height: 10 to 15 inches
  • Weight: 13 to 17 pounds
  • Temperament: Intelligent, stubborn, energetic
  • Life Expectancy: 10 to 15 years
  • Energy: High
  • Grooming: Average
  • Trainability: High
  • Health: High

The word “Terrier” should be enough to explain why this breed is on this list.

The Jack Russell Terrier—also known as the Parson Russell Terrier—was developed to be a hunter, and it still retains the traits that helped it hunt and kill rats.

This is a highly spirited breed, which can turn into a nightmare for a senior.

The boldness and high energy of the Jack Russell Terrier are perfect for hunters and active youngsters, but how would a senior handle a dog with a high prey drive that constantly pulls on leashes, darts after animals, and is a great escape artist?

That’s right; it’s a lot. Plus, the Jack Russell Terrier is challenging to train. 

4. German Shorthaired Pointer

German Shorthaired Pointer Dog Standing on Snow
  • Height: 21 to 25 inches
  • Weight: 45 to 70 pounds
  • Temperament: Boisterous, affectionate, intelligent
  • Life Expectancy: 12 to 15 years
  • Energy: High
  • Grooming: Low
  • Trainability: High
  • Health: High

The German Shorthaired Pointer was developed for the fields, and during its early days, it accompanied hunters and helped trail down prey like deer.

Nowadays, it doesn’t hunt much. Instead, it has become a full-time household companion for many families.

The German Shorthaired Pointer is friendly, affectionate, and smart.

As a past hunter, that surely means that the German Shorthaired Pointer is highly energetic.

In an active and lively family, that’s a good trait. For the senior, however, it can be a bad experience.

When bored, the German Shorthaired Pointer will find ways to keep itself busy. These would be destructive.  

5. American Pitbull Terrier

American Pitbull Terrier Dog Playing with Toy on Grass
  • Height: 17 to 19 inches
  • Weight: 30 to 85 pounds
  • Temperament: Friendly, intelligent, strong-willed
  • Life Expectancy: 12 to 16 years
  • Energy: High
  • Grooming: Low
  • Trainability: High
  • Health: High 

The American Pit Bull Terrier is possibly the most notorious breed in the United States, so much so that the American Kennel Club didn’t recognize it as a breed of its own.

AKC gave it the name American Staffordshire Terrier, and the latter soon became a distinct breed of its own. 

The notoriety of the American Pit Bull is due to its fighting past and recent bite statistics. However, some owners can handle this breed.

In the right hands, they become friendly and affectionate, but seniors aren’t right for them.

Not only will their strength be too much for an older person, but they are also highly energetic. 

6. Border Collie

Border Collie Dog Standing on Field
  • Height: 18 to 22 inches
  • Weight: 30 to 45 pounds
  • Temperament: Intelligent, tenacious, energetic
  • Life Expectancy: 12 to 15 years
  • Energy: High
  • Grooming: Average
  • Trainability: High
  • Health: High

The Border Collie is considered one of the most intelligent dog breeds in the world, and for good reasons.

A herder dog at its best, the Border Collie possesses the right amount of wits and skills to drive sheep.

These attributes haven’t left since then, and the Border Collie has fast become a good family companion. 

Its intelligence and high energy give the owner a lot of work to do. The Border Collie needs to be stimulated both mentally and physically, and it has to be consistent enough for this breed to remain interested. This would be daunting for a senior. 

7. Pug

Female Pug Dog Standing on Grass
  • Height: 10 to 14 inches
  • Weight: 14 to 18 pounds
  • Temperament: Charming, clever, playful 
  • Life Expectancy: 12 to 15 years
  • Energy: Average
  • Grooming: Low
  • Trainability: High
  • Health: Low

At first glance, Pugs seem like the perfect kind of dog to gift your grandma for Christmas.

Their energy level is manageable as well as their size, and because they were bred to be companions, they love being around their owners.

They might sometimes be stubborn, but they’re easy to train. Even new pet parents can handle them. 

Their problem lies not in the area of energy, but in that of health. Pugs are riddled with several health problems, and anyone who wishes to own one will have to get comfortable in the vet’s waiting room.

Other challenges one can face with the Pug include difficulty getting house-trained, snoring, flatulence, and breathing problems.

Recommended:
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8. Irish Setter

Red Irish Setter Dog Standing at Park
  • Height: 25 to  27 inches
  • Weight: 60 to 70 pounds
  • Temperament: Playful, affectionate, fun-loving
  • Life Expectancy: 11 to 15 years
  • Energy: High
  • Grooming: Average
  • Trainability: High
  • Health: Low

The Irish Setter is unique with its red hair and elegant structure, much like the Afghan Hound.

Hardly anyone would look at an Irish Setter and not pause to admire. This bird hunting dog is athletic, energetic, and loving, all of which also serve to make it a good family dog. 

Many problems make the Irish Setter unsuitable for seniors, one of which is its energy. The Irish Setter needs a lot more exercise than the casual stroll seniors are expected to do.

This breed is also accident-prone and hard to groom. Their health conditions are numerous, another difficulty this breed poses.

Related:
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9. Beagle

Beagle Dog Running on Meadow
  • Height: 13 to 15 inches
  • Weight: 18 to 30 pounds
  • Temperament: Amiable, intelligent, gentle
  • Life Expectancy: 10 to 15 years
  • Energy: High
  • Grooming: Low 
  • Trainability: High
  • Health: Low

The Beagle was a hunter first before it became a companion, and similar to most of the breeds we’ve mentioned so far, it has a lot of energy to spare.

The Beagle is an excellent choice for someone who doesn’t mind walking a dog for hours on a leash. Many seniors can’t go that far.

It does make a good family dog with its happy disposition and friendliness.

It is smart and comical, bringing a friendly atmosphere to the home. Unfortunately, it is not advisable for our older folks. 

10. English Springer Spaniel

Close Up English Springer Spaniel Dog Standing on Snow
  • Height: 18 to 22 inches
  • Weight: 45 to 55 pounds
  • Temperament: Cheerful, intelligent, alert
  • Life Expectancy: 9 to 15 years
  • Energy: High
  • Grooming: High 
  • Trainability: High
  • Health: Average

The English Springer Spaniel was well known for its hunting mode, from which it got its name. It was termed the English Springer Spaniel because of how it sprung on prey to flush it out for the hunter.

The English Springer Spaniel soon became a favorite of English Sportsmen, just as it is a favorite companion for a lot of pet parents today.

A challenge seniors might face with this breed is what is called a “Springer rage syndrome.” This is considered a form of epilepsy that manifests in aggressiveness.

The English Springer Spaniel is highly prone to this, and there have been bite cases as evidence. Added to that is the obvious high energy. 

11. Siberian Husky

Siberian Husky Dog at Park Looking Up
  • Height: 20 to 23 inches
  • Weight: 35 to 60 pounds
  • Temperament: Outgoing, friendly, intelligent
  • Life Expectancy: 12 to 15 years
  • Energy: High
  • Grooming: High
  • Trainability: Average
  • Health: High

The Siberian Husky is one other popular and easily recognized breed. With TV shows like Game of Thrones, wolf-like dogs became popular, and the Siberian Husky was at the forefront of that.

There are a lot of seniors in the Husky fan club, but is the Siberian Husky suitable for them? The unfortunate answer is no.

True, Siberian Huskies are friendly with everyone. They’re also beautiful and are good hard workers. However, a senior won’t be able to keep up with the needs of the Siberian Husky.

This breed is highly energetic, and we mean high. It easily gets distracted and poses a lot of training challenges. What’s more, the Siberian Husky’s double coat is high maintenance. 

Dive Deeper:
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12. English Cocker Spaniel

English Cocker Spaniel Dog Standing on Grass
  • Height: 14 to 15 inches
  • Weight: 24 to 28 pounds
  • Temperament: Playful, Affectionate, friendly
  • Life Expectancy: 12 to 15 years
  • Energy: High
  • Grooming: High
  • Trainability: High 
  • Health: High

The English Cocker Spaniel is a dog breed many people would love to have, including old people. One look at it, and it’s obvious why anyone would want it.

The Cocker Spaniel is the picture of elegance, and it also has some amazing personality traits.

It loves to play just as much as it enjoys cuddling, and though it didn’t start as a companion, it plays that role well. 

The energy level is the first problem a senior will encounter with this breed. The English Cocker Spaniel needs a lot of mental and physical stimulation for it to thrive.

Also, the fine coat of the English Cocker Spaniel is high maintenance. It takes a lot of grooming for it to remain clean.

The affectionate and cuddly nature of the English Cocker Spaniel could overwhelm a senior too. 

13. Australian Shepherd

Australian Shepherd Standing Outdoors
  • Height: 18 to 23 inches
  • Weight: 40 to 65 pounds
  • Temperament: Intelligent, affectionate, protective
  • Life Expectancy: 12 to 15 years
  • Energy: High
  • Grooming: High
  • Trainability: High
  • Health: High

The Australian Shepherd is similar to the Border Collie in they were both developed to be herders, and they are working dogs with a high energy level and a love for work.

The Australian Shepherd isn’t meant for an idle household, and it is certainly not meant for a senior.

Not to mention that the coat is hard to groom, and the breed is difficult to train. 

To a younger and more active pet parent, the Australian Shepherd can be a good choice. It is loyal, protective, and affectionate to those it loves. 

14. Akita Inu

Akita Inu Dog Standing Standing Near Bush
  • Height: 24 to 28 inches
  • Weight: 85 to 130 pounds
  • Temperament: Alert, intelligent, courageous
  • Life Expectancy: 10 to 12 years
  • Energy: High
  • Grooming: High
  • Trainability: High
  • Health: High 

The Japanese bred Akita Inu started as a protector in Japan, and it soon became a symbol of affluence.

If you had an Akita, then it meant you were rich enough to protect something.

That may not be the case these days, but the Akita still serves as a protector. Its loyalty is strong, and it is super protective. 

The Akita’s high energy is the obvious first challenge a senior will face. It requires a lot of intensive exercise.

The Akita Inu is also hard to groom, and it can get aggressive towards other animals, including other pets like cats.

15. Chow Chow

Close Up Chow Chow dog at Park
  • Height: 17 to 20 inches
  • Weight: 40 to 70 pounds
  • Temperament: Aloof, independent, loyal
  • Life Expectancy: 12 to 15 years
  • Energy: Low
  • Grooming: High
  • Trainability: Low
  • Health: Average

Imagine a big teddy bear dog that looks like a lion prancing around in your neighborhood. That’s how it feels to own a Chow Chow. The Chow Chow is a serious and devoted guard.

Its loyalty is expressed in quiet ways, and it is often aloof towards strangers. It also enjoys spending time alone and is independent. With its low energy, exercise shouldn’t be an issue. 

The first significant challenge a senior—and any pet parent—will face with the Chow Chow is its aggressive tendencies.

It directs that towards both humans and animals, and while its aggression is meant to deter intruders, it can be a problem.

The Chow Chow is also hard to train because of its independent nature and hard to groom too.

16. Afghan Hound

Afghan Hound Hound with Long Hair Standing Looking Aside
  • Height: 24 to 26 inches
  • Weight: 50 to 60 pounds
  • Temperament: Aloof, dignified, independent
  • Life Expectancy: 10 to 12 years
  • Energy: High
  • Grooming: High
  • Trainability: Average
  • Health: Average

The Afghan Hound was developed in Afghanistan, where it was named Tazi. This breed is the definition of canine beauty, elegance, and dignity.

Lovers of the Afghan Hound like its independent spirit and its physical looks.

Afghan Hounds do not often suffer from separation anxiety as they are used to being alone. 

To seniors, Afghan Hounds offer most of the major challenges we’ve seen with other breeds.

The long hair is high maintenance, and many pet parents opt for professional groomers to take care of their Afghan Hounds.

This breed is as challenging to train as the Chow Chow because of its independent nature. Added to that is the energy level. 

17. Airedale Terrier

Black and Brown Airedale Terrier Dog Standing Sideways on Field
  • Height: 21 to 23 inches
  • Weight: 40 to 65 pounds
  • Temperament: Intelligent, friendly, outgoing
  • Life Expectancy: 10 to 13 years
  • Energy: High
  • Grooming: Low
  • Trainability: High
  • Health: Average

The Airedale Terrier is the biggest of all Terriers, and for that, it was dubbed the “King of Terriers.” Just like the Jack Russell Terrier, Airedales have the strong Terrier spirit within them.

Add the size to that equation, and you’d agree that this breed will be a handful both for seniors and many young people.

The Airedale Terrier has many good qualities, including its work ethic, protectiveness, and loyalty.

However, it is highly energetic and big, which means a lot of exercise and an owner that can handle it.

What’s more, the Airedale Terrier has a strong prey drive and can dart off after prey at short notice.

18. Australian Cattle Dog

Australian Cattle Dog Standing Outdoors on Wooden Floor
  • Height: 17 to 20 inches
  • Weight: 30 to 50 pounds
  • Temperament: Cautious, energetic, obedient
  • Life Expectancy: 12 to 15 years
  • Energy: High
  • Grooming: Low
  • Trainability: High
  • Health: High

Also known as the Blue Heeler, Australian Heeler, Queensland Heeler, and some other nicknames, the Australian Cattle Dog falls under the same category as the Border Collie or the Australian Shepherd.

This breed is highly energetic and has an independent mind. Both exercise and training are challenging tasks, and more so for a senior. 

While the Australian Cattle Dog is a good fit for households that need an active, protective dog breed, seniors should look for other options.

19. Basenji

Basenji running on lure coursing competition
  • Height: 16 to 17 inches
  • Weight: 22 to 24 pounds
  • Temperament: Curious, intelligent, quiet 
  • Life Expectancy: 10 to 12 years
  • Energy: High
  • Grooming: Low
  • Trainability: High
  • Health: Low 

The Basenji is one of the oldest breeds in the world, and it is common in West Africa, where it originated.

It is an intelligent, alert and independent breed that a lot of people consider a good option for their homes. The Basenji is also protective of its family.

It is not a willing to please breed, though. The Basenji has an independent mind and may not always be willing to do what is asked of it.

It is also highly energetic, but ironically it is not the easiest dog to walk because of its strength.

20. Neapolitan Mastiff

Neapolitan Mastiff Dog Standing on Grass
  • Height: 24 to 31 inches
  • Weight: 120 to 200 pounds
  • Temperament: Fearless, stubborn, obedient
  • Life Expectancy: 8 to 10 years
  • Energy: Average
  • Grooming: Average
  • Trainability: Average
  • Health: High

The Neapolitan Mastiff is big, bigger than other dogs we’ve mentioned so far. Its size alone is enough to draw attention, and fortunately, it isn’t highly energetic.

The Neapolitan Mastiff is content with a regular walk and is mellow overall. 

However, the size makes it difficult to handle, a problem for seniors. The Neapolitan Mastiff is also difficult to train because of its stubbornness.

It is best left in the hands of experienced young owners that are proficient in handling big dogs. 

21. Cane Corso

Black Brindle Cane Corso Dog Standing on Grass
  • Height: 24 to 28 inches
  • Weight: 90 to 120 pounds
  • Temperament: Stable, intelligent, alert
  • Life Expectancy: 10 to 12 years
  • Energy: High
  • Grooming: High
  • Trainability: High
  • Health: Average

The Cane Corso is the perfect picture of an intimidating dog. Not only is it big, but it also has scary looks.

The Cane Corso isn’t all bark, either. It has a good amount of “bite” and can be protective to the point of aggressiveness.

Learning to control a big dog like the Cane Corso is one thing, but when you add its energy, it becomes a herculean task reserved for a select few.

The Cane Corso is perfect for people who want a firm and powerful guardian, but “powerful’ can easily translate to “stubborn” with the Cane Corso.

This breed will become the dominant dog if allowed, and it needs a very firm owner. Seniors need not apply.

Dive Deeper:
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22. Briard

Large Furry Briard Dog Standing on Snow
  • Height: 22 to 27 inches
  • Weight: 70 to 100 pounds
  • Temperament: Intelligent, fearless, loyal
  • Life Expectancy: 10 to 12 years
  • Energy: High
  • Grooming: High
  • Trainability: High
  • Health: Average 

The Briard is a herder, in the same league as the Australian Shepherd and co. It was developed in France to herd cattle, and its temperament is similar to other herding dogs.

It is affectionate with family but tends to be reserved towards strangers. It also plays the role of a guard dog and is a good companion.

The Briard isn’t suitable for a calm lifestyle, however. It fits the outdoors more, and even its coat was meant to protect it from extreme weather.

It is more ideal for outdoorsy people than older ones that might prefer sitting indoors all day. Its coat is also hard to groom. 

23. German Shepherd

German Shepherd Dog Standing on Grass
  • Height: 22 to 26 inches
  • Weight: 75 to 95 pounds
  • Temperament: Curious, alert, stubborn
  • Life Expectancy: 10 to 14 years
  • Energy: High
  • Grooming: Low
  • Trainability: High
  • Health: High

The German Shepherd has a lot going for it. It is the ultimate police dog, guard, guide dog for the blind, a search and rescue pooch, and a popular companion.

Little wonder many people easily recognize this breed. Its loyalty is at the top, and it protects its life. 

However, its positives end with seniors. It is highly energetic, can be stubborn during training, and is generally fit for a more active lifestyle.

The German Shepherd loves to work and might get destructive if not exercised well. 

24. Belgian Malinois

Close Up Belgian Malinois Dog On a Leash
  • Height: 22 to 26 inches
  • Weight: 40 to 80 pounds
  • Temperament: Smart, obedient
  • Life Expectancy: 12 to 14 years
  • Energy: High
  • Grooming: Low
  • Trainability: High
  • Health: High

The Belgian Malinois is similar to the German Shepherd, and people tend to confuse one for the other.

Thus, it isn’t surprising that the Belgian Malinois will be on the list right after the German Shepherd.

The Belgian Malinois is not as popular as the German Shepherd, but it is fast rising, and it is also employed by law enforcement and the military and works as a service dog.

The challenges to seniors are similar to those of the German Shepherd. The Belgian Malinois is an active pooch and will not fit with the sedentary lifestyle of many seniors. 

25. Bearded Collie

Bearded Collie Standing on Grass
  • Height: 20 to 22 inches
  • Weight: 45 to 55 pounds
  • Temperament: Lively, alert, active
  • Life Expectancy: 12 to 14 years
  • Energy: High
  • Grooming: High
  • Trainability: High
  • Health: Average

The last breed on our list is the Bearded Collie, another breed in the AKC’s Herding Group.

It is enthusiastic and active with a high level of intelligence and a love for its family members.

The Bearded Collie is an energetic breed, but because certain members of this breed aren’t overly so, some seniors can meet its exercise needs.

The biggest challenge a senior will face with the Bearded Collie is grooming its coat. That takes a lot of effort and time. 

Conclusion

Everyone has the right to own a dog, but when you’re a senior (or you want to gift a dog to an elderly one), some breeds should best be avoided.

Dog breeds that are highly energetic, hard to groom, or fraught with health problems are not recommended for the elderly, making them the worst dog breeds for seniors.

This list regroups a good number of working, herding, and terrier dogs. 

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Authored By

Ben Pierce

Ben Pierce is a canine behavioral and nutritional specialist, professional dog trainer, and the CEO of Puplore. A former military working dog handler, Ben founded Puplore to provide owners with breed-specific information and to act as a go-to guide to health, nutrition, care, and to help them find the confidence they need to step up to the plate and become the best pup parents they can possibly be. A firm believer in treating all animals with kindness and compassion, and that positive discipline is paramount in achieving a harmonious canine-human relationship, Ben’s former and present careers have enabled him to become a leading light in his chosen profession and business.

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