The 5 Lowest and 5 Highest Maintenance Dogs

©Scott Sheaffer, CDBC, CPDT-KA, USA Dog Behavior, LLC

When selecting a dog breed, it’s important to consider the time and resources available to you for the care of your new dog. While individual dogs are different, breeds can provide a good indicator of what your responsibilities will be with your new family addition. 

As always, be extremely careful that you don’t buy from a puppy-mill. Rather than buying a puppy from a breeder, how about considering a rescue dog

The following are my selections for the highest and lowest maintenance dog breeds. The parameters I used were: 

•    exercise needs
•    space requirements
•    trainability
•    sociability with children, adults and other dogs (i.e., temperament) 
•    grooming needs

Highest Maintenance Dogs

5th Place: Anatolian Shepherd

An absolutely gorgeous dog with funny rear paws (i.e., an extra one or two dew claws). Anatolians need an owner who is an experienced dog handler who can provide mental and physical stimulation. Their challenging behaviors can include aggression toward other dogs and humans. Get the help of a good dog trainer to help you guide the development of this regal breed.

4th Place: Norwegian Elkhound

This is a really beautiful breed of dog. Originally bred for hunting large game, they are athletic and strong. They can become very attached to their human family and suffer from separation anxiety sometimes as a result. They are high maintenance dogs in many areas, but their attribute that stands out the most is their bark. They really like to bark and it's sharp and loud. They make great watchdogs as a result; they are probably not the best choice for most people as a family pet.

3rd Place: Rhodesian Ridgeback

This is certainly one of the most athletic of all dogs. They were bred to hold lions and baboons at bay without fear while hunters closed in for the kill. It takes an athletic breed as well as one with a lot of heart to do this. This dog is the NFL running back of dogs. Not exactly the right dog for couch potatoes or dog newbies.

2nd Place: Akita and Japanese Akita

Maybe one of the most beautiful dogs in God’s creation in my opinion. If you don’t know the story of the Akita named Hachiko, check out the myriad of books, articles and movies about him. I have personally owned one and they do not disappoint. However, their behaviors include a strong assertive nature and they don’t tolerate poor dog handling. This is a bold breed that does not suffer fools gladly. Not a dog for inexperienced dog owners.

1st Place: Afghan Hound

This is the dog that everyone oohs and ahs over when they see one. Aren’t they just magnificent looking with their silky coat and magnificent feathering? To see one run at sprint with her hair flowing in the wind will give a grown man chills. This is the highest maintenance dog in my opinion. There is a reason you don’t see one being walked at every street intersection. In addition to being a really big shedder, she can be a bit grumpy about being trained and frequently won’t love other humans or dogs all that much.  Yes, believe it or not, this sometimes uncooperative girl is overrepresented in aggression and resource guarding behaviors. Put your dog trainer, groomer and behavior consultant on speed dial. Beauty has a price. Doesn’t it always?

Lowest Maintenance Dogs

5th Place: Chihuahua

Chihuahua.jpg

I may be the biggest defender of Chihuahuas on the planet. Unfortunately, many people think of Chihuahuas as yappy, fearful, aggressive and annoying dogs. However, in my opinion, this view is primarily caused by owners who unknowingly do things to foster these behaviors. A Chihuahua that is not from a puppy-mill or backyard breeder (almost all of them are unfortunately) and is raised by knowledgeable owners can be a great family pet. 


4th Place: English Bulldog

Who doesn’t love an English bulldog? We love them because they are neotenous which means they keep their baby or puppy-like physical features all of their lives. They are also brachycephalic which means they have very short noses that make their face appear a little more human-like.  These are really low maintenance dogs except for some common physical issues such as allergies, fold dermatitis, elbow and hip dysplasia and breathing problems associated with brachycephalia. A veterinarian who specializes in English bulldogs should be able to help you manage these issues. For a lot of reasons, this breed should never be purchased from a breeder in my opinion; rescue one instead. If you live in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, contact Lone Star Bulldog Rescue about adopting and tell them that I sent you.

3rd Place: Havanese

This has to be the best-kept secret in the entire dog world. A wonderful, well behaved, small little beauty of a dog that comes in an array of colors. They are affectionate without being overly needy as some breeds can be. I have no idea why we don’t see more of these dogs as family pets, but the fact that they aren’t that popular has kept them away from puppy-mills which has helped preserve the integrity of this breed.

2nd Place: Maltese

This tiny dog has beautiful white flowing hair. The best part is that its shedding is very minimal and thus low maintenance. Its behavior is well balanced and family friendly. I rarely see behavior issues such as aggression, separation anxiety, fear, resource guarding, etc. in this breed. Possibly one of the most interesting, and surprising, things about this breed is that it is one of the oldest known to exist. Records of the Maltese date back 2,500 years to 500 BC. For a breed to stay around that long means it has to have something going for it. And it does. 

1st Place: Bichon Frise

Could this be the perfect dog for someone who wants a temperamentally balanced and affectionate tiny dog that is also low maintenance? Well, yes. Let me provide some information from the AKC (American Kennel Club) standard on this breed as evidence: “merry”, “cheerful”, “gentle mannered, sensitive, playful and affectionate”. Bichons were bred to be companion dogs. They weren’t bred for anything else and loving human families are the beneficiaries.