20 Worst Dog Breeds for Seniors
Are you working as a CDPAP aide and you want to get your patient a dog? Read this guide on the 20 worst dog breeds for seniors first.
A dog can make a wonderful pet for senior citizens, but they also require time and energy. Different dog breeds have different care requirements and it’s important to take these requirements into consideration when choosing a companion for an elderly individual.
The best breed of dog for seniors would be one that provides unconditional companionship without requiring more time, resources, or attention than their owner can give.
But first let's understand the positive effects that dogs can have on the elderly.
The Positive Effects That Dogs Have on the Elderly
Dogs can be an important source of companionship for the elderly and provide a number of positive psychological benefits.
Studies have shown that seniors who have pet dogs tend to be in a better mood overall and experience enhanced health and well-being benefits as a result of having the daily attention and unconditional love that pets offer. But finding the right dog is essential!
A dog can help keep their owner active and sociable. Dogs require walking and they also give their owners a reason to chat with other people at the park. Senior citizens who live alone may at times feel extremely lonely, but a dog can ease that pain.
Dogs provide a constant source of companionship, but finding the right breed of dog that will be happy and comfortable with a senior’s pace is essential.
Below are the worst dog breeds for seniors along with information about why that breed should be avoided.
The 20 Worst Dog Breeds for Seniors
It seems obvious that a pit bull would be a bad choice for a senior citizen, but some people choose this breed of dog to provide protection to elderly loved ones.
Unfortunately, the general temperament of a pit bull is aggressive so this obviously wouldn’t be a good fit for an older person. They need a lot of activity and plenty of time to get out of the house and run, so a pit bull won’t do well cooped up in an apartment or assisted living community.
Pit bulls were originally bred in the U.K. as a cross between a terrier and a bulldog in the 1920’s. They were bred to be dog-fighters and they have a rather controversial reputation as a result.
They are known for having a tendency to attack humans aggressively and to latch on to their victim while biting. Some independent organizations have noted that pit bulls are responsible for over half of all dog bites even though they comprise only about 6% of pet dogs.
Pit bulls vary in size, but males are normally between 18-21 inches tall and between 35 to 60 pounds in weight. Females are smaller at 17-20 inches tall and 30 to 50 pounds in weight. They require a lot of training by a skilled dog trainer.
The Labrador Retriever is a popular dog breed throughout the world. It was originally bred in Newfoundland as a fishing dog to help retrieve fish that got away and to bring in fishing nets. This dog was definitely bred for hunting and sports! They tend to be friendly, outgoing, and very active and they are known for being obedient and loyal as well as playful.
Labrador Retrievers typically weigh between 65 and 80 pounds (for a male dog) and 55 to 70 pounds (for a female dog). They are moderately large dogs that stand between 21.5 and 24.5 inches tall at the shoulder.
Labrador Retrievers require a lot of attention and time and they must be taken out for exercise on a regular basis. They are athletic dogs that require a lot of exercise to stay mentally and physically healthy and happy.
They are easy to train, which may make them seem like the perfect fit for seniors, but actually, Labs require so much time and attention that many seniors may find that it’s hard to keep these dogs happy and healthy.
The ancestors of the Siberian Husky were bred by the semi-nomadic Chukchi people of northeastern Russia to be loyal family companions, hunting dogs, and sled pullers. They first came to the attention of the rest of the world in the 1900s when the dogs begin helping their owners win sled races in the arctic regions.
Siberian Huskies are large dogs that weigh between 35 and 60 pounds and stand at 20-24 inches tall. They are big shedders. Siberian Huskies are very loyal and friendly and tend to enjoy being outside where they can run and play as they please. It’s difficult to contain the exuberant energy of these dogs, so senior dog owners may feel overwhelmed by this breed.
The Siberian Husky requires a fair amount of playtime and can become unhappy without adequate exercise and activity. They tend to be somewhat more stubborn than other dog breeds when it comes to training. Though they do not require as much in terms of bathing (Siberian Huskies are mostly “self-cleaning”), they do shed a lot and so owners of this dog breed may need to clean regularly to deal with this problem.
Border Collies are medium-sized dogs that weigh between 26 and 44 pounds. They stand between 18 to 22 inches when fully grown.
Border Collies were originally bred for herding and later became popular as a breed for families with young children who had lots of energy to keep this type of dog happy. Seniors on the other hand may find it challenging to keep up with them. These dogs like a little bit of chaos and they also tend to be shedders that require a lot of grooming and maintenance.
The Border Collie was once used to herd livestock and sheep in Northumberland. They’re very intelligent, athletic, and even acrobatic and very easy to train, but they require much more physical and mental stimulation than a lot of other dog breeds. Though they make a great companion animal for younger, active individuals, for seniors, they can get bored and can wreak havoc in the home and garden.
Jack Russell Terrier
Jack Russell Terriers range in size from 10 to 15 inches tall. They weigh 13.5 to 15 pounds.
Some people say that the Jack Russell Terrier is more like a cat than a dog. This dog breed is a natural hunter and, like cats, they like to bring their masters “gifts” of recently killed squirrels or birds. They need plenty of room to run and they don’t do well in apartment settings. Though they’re small, they can be quite stubborn and aggressive.
Jack Russell Terriers tend to require training from a knowledgeable and skilled trainer who can deal with their obstinate tendencies. They were originally bred for fox hunting in England and used by the Reverend John Russell in the 1800’s, so these dogs are extremely energetic and require a lot of exercise and stimulation.
Dalmatians are relatively large dogs (33 to 70 pounds) that originated in Croatia sometime in the 1700’s in the historical region of Dalmatia where they functioned as a sort of status symbol that was used to guard the stables at night. It is thought to be descended from the spotted Great Dane. Today it is a popular family pet.
Dalmatians are notoriously hard to train and they require a lot of outdoor exercise that would overwhelm most seniors. They have a stubborn temperament and they can be destructive if they don’t get enough exercise outdoors. Indeed, some dogs in this breed may be extremely fearful and overly aggressive which is obviously not going to be a good fit for most seniors.
Because they shed all year round, their maintenance level is on the high side for older dog owners. And though Dalmation is very motivated to please its owner which makes it easy to train using rewards and praise, it can be aggressive and somewhat unpredictable making it a poor choice for seniors.
Chihuahuas are very small, weighing not more than 6 pounds, but they have a loud bark that well makes up for their small size. The Chihuahua can be extremely difficult to house train and many owners recommend keeping a litter box in the house just in case. However, these are smart dogs, and a Chihuahua who receives proper training can excel in canine sports. Nonetheless, they often require too much attention for elderly dog owners.
The Chihuahua breed originates from Mexico, where it has ancient roots tied to both the Aztec and Toltec societies. These societies primarily kept the dog as a companion animal. Americans discovered the breed for the first time in the Mexican state of Chihuahua, which is how the dog got its name.
Chihuahuas can be spunky and stubborn, but also very affectionate. The Chihuahua does not shed much and only needs to be bathed every once and a while but they require special attention to dental care, and they should be checked for heart problems and eye disease on a regular basis. Their high health needs are another reason to stay away from this breed for senior citizens.
Pugs are small dogs that stand about 10 to 13 inches tall and weight 14 to 18 pounds. Their small size may make them seem like they’d be a great pet for an elderly person, but be aware that they require a higher level of maintenance than other breeds and they’re particularly resistant to being trained.
There are a number of reasons why a pug is a poor dog breed choice for a senior citizen. They have a lot of respiratory issues and other health problems and they also tend to shed which means they require higher than normal levels of maintenance. And pugs can be hard to housebreak which means there could be a lot of cleanup for anyone who takes this breed as their companion animal. They are famous for being difficult to train.
Pugs originated in China and were brought to Europe in the 16th century. Queen Victoria developed a soft-spot for these animals after they were introduced and popularized in Western Europe. In China, they were bred specifically to be companion animals for the ruling families there. Because of their history, they are well-known for being sociable and very gentle.
Australian Shepherd (Aussie)
Australian Shepherds are medium-sized dogs that were bred on U.S. ranches during the 1800’s. Male Australian Shepherds weigh 50 to 63 pounds and females weigh 30 to 45 pounds. They are closely related to the Border Collie and are likely descendants of the Carea Leonés, Old German herding dogs, and Pyrenean Shepherd breeds.
They became widely known after World War II through their roles in horse shows and rodeos as well as Disney movies that were made for TV.
For a senior citizen who’s living alone, the Australian Shepherd is not a good choice as a dog breed. These dogs require a huge amount of maintenance for the first two years of their lives. They must be exercised daily to work out their super-high energy levels.
Though they are famous for their eagerness to please, inherent trainability, and obedience, in order to bring this dog into a senior’s home, you need a young person around to give it the attention and energy it needs during the first two years of its life.
Beagles are puppies that never grow up! They tend to be self-centered and stubborn throughout their whole lives. And they also have a very distinctive odor and a tendency to whine and howl a lot. They require a lot of maintenance to manage all the shedding and its absolutely essential that owners keep them on a leash at all times.
This breed of dog was developed originally in Great Britain during Elizabethan times as a scent hound for hunting rabbits (which is called “beagling”). They have an amazing sense of smell and they naturally like to track things which is why they’ve been used for detecting agricultural imports at border crossings in some parts of the world. It’s also the reason why owners must keep this dog on a leash when they go out for walks.
Beagles are a popular family pet for households with children because they’re small (20 to 24 pounds) and they have a good temperament and they don’t have a lot of inherited health problems that are common in other breeds. But they’re not the easiest dog to train and their independence can make them less than ideal as a pet for elderly people.
Akitas are a large dog breed that originates from northern Japan where they were trained to hunt elk, boar, and even small bears. They were used for dog fighting in the 1600’s as well and sometimes served as companion animals for Japanese samurai.
They tend to be aloof and territorial with strangers which might make some people think that this would be a great security dog for seniors, but the Akita can also turn on their owners. Combine this with the maintenance required to keep this dog properly groomed and clearly this is a poor choice for elderly dog owners.
If you have any concerns about the neighbors or other members of your community and owning a dog, an Akita is a terrible choice! For seniors, this dog is the second most likely to cause legal problems (the pit bull is first in line) because they can be so aggressive with other people and animals. They’re not very social and they tend to be very strong-willed, so it simply isn’t an option to leave them untrained.
The Akita has long fur and it doesn’t shed all year round, but if they aren’t regularly groomed by skilled groomers, pet owners will find big piles of fur everywhere. Akitas can be trained and they’re obedient and quiet, but they need to know the owner’s expectations. As such, they aren’t a good dog breed choice for older owners.
Male Akitas weigh between 70 and 85 pounds. Females are much smaller at 9 to 12 pounds.
The Rottweiler is sometimes compared to the pit bull when it comes to size and weight. This large dog can weigh between 80 and 135 pounds. Rottweilers are loyal guardians of their owners and enjoy spending close time with their beloved people. They prefer to have an active lifestyle full of activities like walking and swimming, especially when such activities are done with their owners.
Rottweilers are the descendants of Roman herding dogs who bred with German mastiffs when the Roman army marched through the Alps. These dogs were bred to protect the armies and to keep livestock in line during long treks.
The Rottweiler breed does best when it receives a lot of socialization, obedience, and other training at a young age. They need to have plenty of quality time with their owners and they benefit from regular, intense exercise. Owners should bathe the Rottweiler regularly and brush him/her regularly, in addition to performing a weekly toothbrushing and nail trimming. Many senior owners will find that maintenance for a dog like this is too high.
Dachshund dogs are famous for their sausage-shaped bodies and long floppy ears. They’re about 6-8 inches tall and weigh 16-32 pounds on average, and they usually live between 12-16 years. Because of its long back, the Dachshund is prone to spinal issues. This is especially true if the dog is allowed to become overweight, since the extra weight puts strain on their backs.
Though Dachshunds aren’t particularly athletic or sporty, they still have a bold attitude and a lively personality. They can be quite loud and may behave aggressively or suspiciously when around strangers. They are notoriously difficult to house train which is one of many reasons to avoid this breed for seniors.
The word “Dachshund” in German means “badger dog”, which is a tribute to the dogs 600-year history as a badger hunter. This dog was bred to be the perfect shape to glide easily into badger dens, while their mental acuity was bred so that they could outsmart their much heavier opponents.
Bloodhounds are well-known for their droopy, lonesome face and soulful, warm eyes as well as for their incredible sense of smell. This dog breed has been around for thousands of years, with one of the earliest references being in the “Historia Animalium” written by the third-century Mediterranean scholar, Aelian. Even since ancient times, the bloodhound was known for its ability to sniff out and track even the faintest scents.
The adult bloodhound can weigh anywhere between 80 and 100 pounds, so this is one of the largest dog breeds. Unlike some other large dog breeds, bloodhounds have a surprisingly short lifespan of only 10-12 years, so in some cases seniors who are owners of bloodhounds may outlive their beloved companions by many years.
Bloodhounds love to socialize with other people (young and old) as well as with other dogs, and they are often very inquisitive. This dog breed learns fast and retains habits and behaviors over the long term, so owners need to put their dog in obedience training from a young age if they want to ensure that the habits learned are ones that are productive and positive. Bloodhounds are prone to ear infections, so owners should check their dog’s ears daily. These dogs may also need to have more baths than other dog breeds.
The Cocker Spaniel is the classic American dog. It was originally bred in Spain to help bird hunters catch their prey. Though today the Cocker Spaniel is a very specific dog breed, dog lovers will be interested to know that before the 1870s all dogs who weighed less than 25 pounds were classified as “cocker spaniels”!
Cocker Spaniels are great playmates for children and they tend to make good lap dogs, but unfortunately their coat (the ears especially) requires a lot of extra grooming and cleaning. Cocker Spaniels must be groomed on a regular basis, and it’s not easy to make up for an appointment that was missed. This dog breed is also more prone to ear infections than other breeds, and thus owners must ensure that they take their dog for check-ups regularly.
Cocker Spaniels usually weigh between 20 and 30 pounds. They are very sporty and love to spend time exercising and playing. They’re easier to train than some other dog breeds since they love to make their people proud, but still they may become depressed if they are not given enough opportunities to run and play.
The Cane Corso is a large dog bred with a variable weight that depends on the height of the dog (which ranges between 23 and 27 inches). Usually they weigh more than 100 pounds. These dogs live about 9-12 years on average, so it’s likely that their owners (even some elderly owners) will outlive them in many cases. They’re a high-energy breed that’s likely to overwhelm senior dog owners.
The Cane Corso has its origins in the ancient Greek Empire, where it was bred to be a dog of conquests. This dog would have been trained to attack enemies during times of war. Some people have said that the Cane Corso behaves like a bodyguard: loyal, intelligent, and controlled. They are loving dogs who attach quickly to their owners.
This dog breed requires little bathing and coat maintenance, and they also don’t shed very much. However, the Cane Corso is very high energy and requires a brisk walk or run at least two times a day in order to be healthy and happy. These dogs are at their most content when they have a job to do. They love agility and obedience competitions, for example.
The Chow Chow is an ancient dog breed hailing from China. Many believe that these dogs were the ancestors of other distant breeds, such as the Norwegian Elkhound or even the Pomeranian. During the Han Dynasty, the Chow Chow was a companion to emperors and nobility as well as a hunter and guard dog.
Chows weigh between 45 and 70 pounds, making them a medium-size dog, yet they are also surprisingly powerful and strong. They are loving and affectionate with their owners and other loved ones, though they adopt a more reserved attitude with strangers. Some people describe the Chow Chow’s temperament as “complicated” because these dogs can be finnicky.
The Chow Chow loves to be active, and owners are advised to walk these dogs up to four times a day. They are rather stubborn, but with proper training in puppyhood they can grow up to be excellent companions. Chows must be brushed two or three times per week and they must be bathed at least once a month so their maintenance requirements, complex temperament, and stubbornness is likely to be too much for an elderly owner.
German Shorthaired Pointer
German Shorthaired Pointer dogs were originally bred in Germany as hunting and birding dogs. The breed was perfected sometime in the 1800’s and they continue to be one of the most effective and successful hunting dog breeds around today.
The German Shorthaired Pointer is a dog that is eager to please and very intelligent. They are happiest when they have the opportunity to swim, run, and play frequently because they are highly energetic dogs. German Shorthaired Pointers only require an occasional bath and a weekly brushing, though they can be big shedders during certain times of the year, which is one of the primary reasons why this dog is not appropriate for senior dog owners..
This dog breed weighs between 45 and 70 pounds, so they are a medium size breed. Though they have a lot of energy, the German Shorthaired Pointer can maintain its focus and enjoys learning new tricks or behaviors (in contrast to other dogs with more stubborn personalities).
The Briard was originally bred in France during the time of Charlemagne. The dog was primarily a sheepherder and flock guardian, so speed, agility, and burliness are all qualities possessed by this breed. Briards have been a large part of French history for a long time as companions and working dogs during all times of war and peace.
Briard dogs are by far one of the most high-maintenance breeds on this list when it comes to grooming. With a long shaggy coat and a lot of dog to cover (this breed weighs between 55 and 100 pounds), seniors may find it difficult to keep up with a daily, full-body brushing schedule in addition to a monthly or even weekly bath.
Briards can be a bit difficult to train, but they are fast-learners and they love to make their owners happy. They prefer to be in a home where they have a job they can do or where they will have a lot of regular, vigorous activity and exercise.
English Springer Spaniel
The English Springer Spaniel is a super-high energy dog that requires a lot of grooming. Additionally, it has an angry temperament that can cause them to attack without provocation. One survey revealed that one out of every four Springer Spaniels has bitten somebody, so this breed is not a good choice for older individuals.
This type of dog was bred as a gun dog for retrieving wild game. They were bred in the mid 1800s from Norfolk or Shropshire Spaniels. Today, they’re often used as “sniffer” dogs because of their ability to flush out birds and hunt. They are medium-sized dogs that weigh between 40 and 55 pounds.
The average life expectancy of this breed is 12 to 14 years. Though they tend to be cheerful dogs that are attentive and easy to train their propensity for anger makes them a poor fit for senior citizens.