18 Worst Dog Breeds For Seniors (And Why They’re Unsuitable)

Are you an older adult looking to adopt a dog? Finding the perfect dog breed that complements your lifestyle and physical capabilities is crucial.

While many dog breeds can make wonderful companions for seniors, some breeds are simply not cut out for the job. These dogs might be too high-energy or aggressive for your liking, or perhaps they are just too big to handle. 

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at 18 of the worst dog breeds for seniors, examining their personality traits and physical characteristics that could make them a bad match for older adults.

Remember, there will always be exceptions to these suggestions. And there are no “bad” dogs, just bad matches with their human parents.

Worst Dog Breeds for Seniors

So, let’s dive in and discover which breeds you might want to steer clear of if you’re a senior or retiree seeking a new four-legged best friend.

worst dog breeds for seniors
There are no bad dogs, just bad matches with owners!

1. German Shepherd

German Shepherds are among the most intelligent and trainable dog breeds. They have been used for various tasks, such as search and rescue, police work, and guiding people with disabilities. Their keen sense of smell and ability to learn quickly make them perfect for these jobs.

However, proper training of German Shepherds requires patience and consistency. You need to be firm and gentle with them at the same time, as they respond best to positive reinforcement.

They thrive on praise and attention and will do anything to please their owners. With proper training and socialization, German Shepherds can be good companions and protectors for families.

They are a large dog breed, however, and need at least 2 hours of exercise a day, including walks, off-lead exercise, and playtime. This could prove to be difficult for an older person unless they are very active themselves. 

Expect to do a lot of cleaning up after a German Shepherd, as they shed extensively all year round. This becomes particularly intense during Spring and Fall when you may find fistfuls of hair around the house.

german shepherd breed not suitable for seniors
The beautiful German Shepherd is intelligent, but may not be suited to seniors.

2. Labrador Retriever

Labrador retrievers make great companions and are an excellent choice for families and people who require assistance animals. 

However, owning a Labrador retriever requires a significant investment of time, attention, and space for exercise. Additionally, they shed a lot, especially those with double coats like golden labs.

As Labradors are relatively large and robust, seniors may have difficulty controlling them during walks. 

Caring for Labradors can be demanding, and seniors may not have the resources or willingness to provide the necessary care.

3. Australian Shepherd

Australian Shepherds are a breed of medium-sized dogs that are commonly used for herding on ranches. They are known for their high energy and activity levels, making them unsuitable for owners with a sedentary lifestyle. 

These dogs require a lot of time, attention, and daily exercise to keep them healthy and happy, and they are not well-suited to small living spaces like apartments since they need room to move around. 

Although they are known for being affectionate dogs and can make great family pets, this breed may not be the best fit for seniors due to its demanding nature.

4. Golden Retriever

The eager-to-please and happy Golden Retriever needs at least two hours of exercise every day, and because they are a sporting breed, they love to play with their owner as much as possible.

Runs, hunting trips, bike rides, dog sports, and more are all popular with the Golden Retriever, and they are most suited to owners with a very active lifestyle.  

As they are good with people and animals, the Golden makes a great choice for adventurous families. A sedentary owner would not be a good fit for this dog. An older person with fewer active hobbies would find it difficult to provide a Golden Retriever with what they need for their 10–12-year lifespan.

The Golden’s lustrous and long coat also needs regular grooming as they tend to shed throughout the year (and in larger quantities twice a year).

small dog breeds for seniors and retirees

5. Great Dane

Great Danes are gentle giants that are known for their large size and easy-going temperament, but they require a lot of work and aren’t ideal for seniors.

While they don’t shed much and require minimal grooming, they need at least two hours of exercise daily and obedience training to stay in line and under control. 

Great Danes are affectionate and playful, making them great family dogs, but their large size requires strong, experienced owners who can manage them and provide firm reinforcement when necessary.

6. Border Collie

The Border Collie is a herding breed that needs constant activity or responsibility. They are a workaholic breed that is always on a mission to stay busy. They have a strong herding instinct, so they need an active owner or a setting with other animals. 

This breed requires minimal grooming, twice a week brushing is recommended. Border Collies are very energetic and require a daily walk, for a minimum of two hours each day.

They thrive in activities that show off their intelligence and athleticism, including herding events, agility competitions, and obedience practice. 

Training a Border Collie is easier due to their high intelligence, but early socialization with other people or dogs is crucial. They are loyal, playful, intelligent, and active dogs that thrive in the outdoors. 

Due to their instinct to herd, they are not recommended for households with young children, and the ideal owners have a lot of energy and can keep up with their activity levels.

high energy border collie not best choice for seniors
Border collies are intelligent, high energy dogs that may be too much for seniors and retirees.

7. Doberman Pinscher

Doberman Pinschers are powerful, muscular dogs that, according to the American Kennel Club, need a minimum of two hours of exercise daily. This should be spread throughout the day, and some of their exercise time should be spent off-lead in a safe, secure area. Lack of exercise can potentially lead to aggression and other behavioral issues.

A Doberman will thrive best in an active family where there is always someone to spend time with them and give them lots of attention.

Due to their size and strength, and their need for lots of activity, they wouldn’t make a good fit for an older person, and they are not low maintenance.

They need regular grooming and bathing (up to every 6-8 weeks, depending on their hygiene needs), and if a Doberman doesn’t like baths, a strong person will be required to do the job.

Dobermans are loyal dogs and good with children if raised with them, but they do need plenty of socialization and training.

8. Jack Russell Terrier

Jack Russell Terriers are small, lively dogs that are always on the go. They are known for their large personalities, often pushing boundaries and acting in a rambunctious manner. Their high energy levels may make them a bit overwhelming for some elderly individuals.

When it comes to training, Jack Russells can be quite a challenge – especially during potty training. Without a strict routine and consistent approach, these dogs may resort to marking their territory indoors. Cleaning up after them can be quite a burden.

Jack Russells require plenty of physical activity and have a tendency to dig, so be cautious when leaving them alone in an enclosed area. They thrive when engaged in activities like playing catch or frisbee for extended periods of time. Being confined for too long can lead to destructive behavior due to this excess energy.

Because Jack Russells were originally bred for hunting, they are known for having a high prey drive, which means they love to chase moving things. They will chase small animals or leaves or just about moving objects they find when out and about, pulling on the lead to get away.

Worst dogs for seniors include high energy breeds
High energy dogs may not be a good fit for less active seniors.

9. French Bulldog

They are America’s second most popular dog breed for a reason! People love the Frenchies’ flat wrinkly faces, their stumpy short legs, and their even-tempered, affectionate demeanor.

A French Bulldog isn’t necessarily the worst dog for seniors, but it does come with health issues that are hard to ignore. 

Unethical breeding practices have led to respiratory issues (caused by their flat face and narrow airways). Many purebred French Bulldogs have trouble breathing, especially during hot and humid weather, causing them to snort and wheeze.  

Because of their health problems, they need more care than the average small dog. Their distinctive face wrinkles need to be cleaned daily to avoid infection. They cannot be taken for walks in hot weather as they struggle to breathe easily. Trips to the vet can be regular, and vet bills high for a French Bulldog. 

Potential owners need to thoroughly check a breeder’s credentials and make sure that the dog has the relevant genetic health testing and documentation before acquiring a French Bulldog.

Also, be aware that the financial commitment might potentially be higher than with other dogs if the Frenchie has health issues. 

10. German Shorthaired Pointer

The German Shorthaired Pointer (or GSP) is a medium-sized gundog that is often described as “noble” or “aristocratic” looking. They make great family pets, although are quite rambunctious and not recommended for households with younger children. 

The Pointer thrives on vigorous physical activity and loves swimming, running, dog sports, and energetic outdoor activity. 

Although they make a friendly companion, an older person might find it difficult to provide the level of activity needed to keep a German Shorthaired Pointer happy and healthy. Without adequate exercise and activity, younger Pointers, in particular, can become destructive. 

Because they were bred for hunting, their instincts are to bolt if they see potential prey, such as rabbits, birds, or squirrels. Off-leash exercise should be done in a secure area.

Exercise should be avoided for an hour before and after eating and drinking as GSPs are prone to bloat, which can be a life-threatening condition.

11. Saint Bernard

Saint Bernards are known for their loyalty and sweet nature, but they may not be the most suitable breed for seniors. These dogs require a lot of exercise, which could be a challenge for elderly dog owners who have limited physical capabilities.

Additionally, since Saint Bernards are large dogs, they can be difficult to control during a walk, potentially causing seniors to fall. 

These dogs also have a tendency to drool, which can create additional mess and discomfort for an older person. Saint Bernards need effective leadership during training, which can be demanding for seniors who are already preoccupied with their own life matters.

saint bernard breed not suitable for seniors
The large size of Saint Bernards makes them more difficult to control for seniors.

12. Belgian Malinois

The Belgian Malinois is a confident, affectionate, and protective working dog who can fulfill many roles from farming to border patrol to police and military use. These dogs are extremely strong with fast reflexes and amazing jumping ability. 

Because they are mostly bred for work, they will be best suited to someone who can provide the kind of activity levels they need.

Short walks will not be enough for this dog as they are always on the go and need something a bit more challenging. Active families who enjoy hiking or jogging would be well suited to this dog. This dog breed also needs plenty of free play time, dog sports, and long walks.

An older person may find this intelligent, high-powered dog too difficult to train and maintain. Take into consideration that this level of activity will need to be maintained for the dog’s 13-15 year lifespan.

13. Chow Chow

The Chow Chow breed can be traced back to China, and some consider it as the forefather of other breeds, including the Pomeranian and Norwegian Elkhound. The Chow Chow was a hunting and guarding dog, as well as a companion to nobility and emperors, during the Han Dynasty. 

Despite being a medium-sized dog, the Chow Chow is powerful and robust. They are known to be loving and affectionate with their loved ones, but they may seem reserved with strangers, making their temperament quite complex.

Chow Chows need to be active, so their owners should take them for a walk up to four times daily. While they can be stubborn, proper training during their puppyhood can turn them into excellent companions. 

However, the breed requires regular grooming, with the dogs needing to be brushed two to three times per week and bathed at least once a month, and an elderly owner may find their stubbornness and maintenance demands too much to handle.

14. Bernese Mountain Dog

Bernese Mountain Dogs are a large breed that is known for their working abilities. They are commonly used as watchdogs, herding cattle, and pulling carts. Despite their ability to multitask, this breed is not ideal for seniors due to their size and need for activities to stay occupied. 

They have a high-maintenance grooming routine that involves frequent brushing, nail trimming, and bathing. While they enjoy outdoor activities, only a half hour of exercise per day is required.

Mental exercises, such as learning tricks, puzzle games, and testing scents, are also important. Proper reinforcement methods must be used to motivate these sensitive dogs during training. 

Bernese Mountain Dogs have loyal and affectionate personality traits, but they do not like being left alone for long. They require an experienced and active owner who is home often to provide the necessary training and attention.

15. Airedale Terrier

Airedale terriers need plenty of vigorous exercise and lots of attention because they get bored easily, and if they get bored, they get naughty!

Pups are especially rambunctious and love to dig, so keep a close eye on them if they are out in the garden or you may find holes and plants dug up. They are usually friendly, or at least polite with strangers but can get aggressive with other dogs. 

Because of their high exercise requirements, rowdiness, and excitable jumping, they may not be the best choice for an older person. They can get destructive and bark when bored or when they don’t get enough exercise. 

Aggression towards other animals and their natural chasing instincts can make walks tricky as the Airedale terrier is very strong-willed. A firm and confident owner with plenty of time to spend on exercises and fun activities is best for this breed.

16. Australian Cattle Dog

The Australian Cattle Dog is a muscular herding dog that is related to the Australian Dingo (a wild dog found in Australia). They excel in work situations and are particularly good at controlling and moving livestock. 

Because they tend towards work and activity, they wouldn’t make a good pet for someone with a sedentary lifestyle. The Australian Cattle Dog needs to be engaged in regular exercise, work, or sport with their owner to keep them fit and healthy. 

Without being challenged, both physically and intellectually, they can become bored and mischievous. The Australian Cattle Dog is not suited to apartment life and needs plenty of space to run around.

siberian husky breed not for seniors
Siberian huskies need plenty of exercise to stay healthy and happy.

17. Siberian Husky

The Chukchi people from Russia bred the Siberian Husky to be companions, hunting dogs, and sled pullers. The breed gained attention when it helped its owners win sled races in arctic regions in the 1900s.

Siberian Huskies are large dogs that weigh between 35 to 60 pounds and stand 20 to 24 inches tall, and they tend to shed heavily. 

They are very loyal and friendly dogs that enjoy being outdoors where they can play and run around freely. However, the high energy of this breed may overwhelm seniors, who may find it challenging to keep up with their activity levels.

Siberian Huskies require plenty of playtime and may become unhappy without adequate exercise. 

Though relatively low-maintenance, their heavy shedding may require regular cleaning from owners. Additionally, they tend to be somewhat stubborn, which may make training them more challenging.

18. English Springer Spaniel

English Springer Spaniels are affectionate and loving bird dogs with great intelligence and stamina. They are high-energy dogs that are mostly polite with people and good with kids. 

Family activities such as swimming, long walks, and chasing and fetching games are popular with the Springer Spaniel. An owner should be prepared to spend at least 2 hours a day on physical activities with their dog. They need lots of company and don’t like to be neglected. 

Although not common, some incidents of “Springer Rage Syndrome” (where a Springer acts uncharacteristically aggressively out of the blue) have been reported in recent times. They are not typically an aggressive breed, but this could make them unsuitable for an older person.

Disadvantages of large dogs for seniors

What have most of the worst dog breeds for seniors got in common? Most of them are medium to large, high-energy dogs! The following are a few reasons that a large dog might not be the best option for an older person:

Physical demands

A big dog requires more physical effort to care for, including feeding, walking, grooming, and cleaning up after them. Seniors may have limited mobility or strength, making these tasks more challenging.

Space requirements

Large dogs require more space to move around and may need a larger living space or yard, which may not be feasible for senior citizens who live in apartments or smaller homes. 

Exercise needs

They tend to be more active and require more exercise (twice as much) than smaller dogs, which may be difficult for someone in their golden years to provide. 

Health issues

Larger dogs may be more prone to certain health issues such as joint problems or heart issues, which may require more frequent vet visits and expensive medical care.

Safety concerns

The bigger the dog, the stronger and more difficult to control it may be. This can pose a safety risk for older adults who may not be able to handle them or who are at risk of falling or getting injured.

While some older people may be able to care for a large dog, it’s important to carefully consider the potential challenges and risks before deciding.

Consider Smaller Dog Breeds if You’re a Senior or Retiree

Smaller breeds are usually considered to be the best dogs for seniors, as they are typically easier to care for and provide similar benefits and companionship as larger breeds.

For more information, see our article on the Best Small Dog Breeds For Seniors. We’ve reviewed dogs such as the Shih Tzu, Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Scottish Terrier, Cocker Spaniel, Bichon Frise, and more! 

Consider Adopting a Shelter Dog

Sometimes the best dog breeds aren’t really breeds at all. There are many senior dogs in shelters and rescues who are there through no fault of their own. These older dogs are often already housebroken, and trained and are just waiting for a second chance at a happy life.

Older dogs don’t require a lot of attention when compared to puppies. A mixed-breed affectionate dog from your local shelter could be the perfect match for you!

a shelter dog can be a good choice for a senior
Shelters are full of right-sized, already trained dogs perfect for seniors.

Before You Bring Home Your Furry Friend

In conclusion, while dogs can be wonderful companions for seniors, it’s important to choose the right breed to ensure a happy and healthy relationship. As we’ve seen in this article, some breeds may not be well-suited to an older owner’s lifestyle and needs.

But don’t despair – there are plenty of different dog breeds that make excellent pets for seniors! From low-energy lap dogs to easy-to-train companions, there’s a breed out there for everyone. 

The key to finding the right dog breed as a senior is to do your research, consult with your veterinarian or a reputable breeder, and be honest with yourself about your abilities and limitations. With the right preparation and care, a dog can bring companionship, joy, and a sense of purpose to your life, no matter what your age.

worst dog breeds for seniors and retirees
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