Dogs are truly one of the best pets and companions one could ever hope for. But in exchange for that endless affection, dogs require plenty of time, care, attention, and maintenance. Finding a “low-maintenance” dog breed isn’t a simple process. There are no categorically “low” or “high” maintenance dogs; rather, dogs vary in terms of the time and expense required to deal with different qualities (i.e., grooming or training). So when you’re looking for a low-maintenance dog, what should you keep in mind?
I spoke to dog trainer Derek Anovick from Barkbusters Los Angeles, certified master groomer Joy Bonehill of The Barking Lot in San Francisco, and Sharon Town Lee, proprietor of Paws & Effect Pet Spa, to get their thoughts on which dog breeds in their experience they've found to be lower-maintenance than others. . One thing all the experts agreed on is that low-maintenance is going to mean something different for everyone. Anovick advised prospective owners to think about the different aspects of dog maintenance and consider what traits are important for your individual lifestyle. “Temperament, energy level, personality, the climate where you live, what your lifestyle is like (i.e., if you’re an athletic person a herding or athletic dog is perfect for you, if you’re sedentary get a sedentary dog) are all important things to consider,” he says, adding: “Every dog has the same fundamental needs: food, safety and security, entertainment, and shelter.”
Grooming is another major factor to include when considering maintenance.
“The most important thing about grooming is do your homework before you get a dog, and if you’re getting a full breed or a poodle mix they’ll need grooming, and you’ll want to find out how much it’s going to be costing you," says Bonehill.
But that doesn’t necessarily mean shorter-haired dogs are automatically easier.
“Choose which thing you most like to tolerate, says Paws & Effect Pet Spa proprietor Sharon Town Lee.
"The truth is that short haired dogs shed and they tend to smell worse, so they have to be bathed regularly, although they generally don’t need a haircut. Long haired breeds tend to have hair instead of fur, and when you have that long hair they’ll need to go in for grooming."
Both groomers I spoke to suggested looking breeds up on AKC (they have a great tool for finding out which dog breed is best for your lifestyle), or getting advice from your local ASPCA. With that said, here are some commonly suggested low-maintenance dog breeds, with information on traits that make them easier to care for, plus the traits they have that will need more attention.
The summary: low shedders, low energy demands, moderate grooming, potential special medical needs.
Yorkies are adorable, tiny breeds who have long hair (rather than short fur) that tends not to shed. As a small breed, they have lower exercise demands than large dogs, but will still need walks and playtime. Their grooming needs, depending on the individual dog, can be moderate.
"A Yorkie, if you get used to combing it, you can get away with getting it groomed three times a year since their hair doesn’t grow as fast as say a Bichon Frise or a Poodle," says Joy Bonehill. But if you can't comb that long coat routinely, you will need to take your Yorkie in for regular grooming, or risk mats and knots.
Yorkies also may run up your vet bill if you're unlucky. "Yorkies have the highest predisposition to liver shunts," Derek Anovick warns.
2. English Bulldog
The summary: low activity, quiet barkers, high grooming, predisposition towards medical issues.
The English Bulldog may look grumpy, but they've got a shy, quiet personality. "If you live in the city, some breeds aren’t barkers: bulldog breeds don’t bark much, whereas terriers bark more," Bonehill says.
Anovick says that bulldogs require less exercise, but they tend to have medical issues that may be expensive: "That dog is low-maintenance from a walking and activity standpoint, but conversely the maintenance from the preexisting congenital and health issues requires money and maintenance — they tend to have heart murmurs and arthritis."
Additionally, despite their short coat, they need to be brushed regularly: "Old English Bulldogs have to be groomed weekly," Joy says. The Daily Puppy recommends brushing your Bulldog three times a week, with special care taken to clean their wrinkly faces.
3. French Bulldog
The summary: low activity, quiet barkers, moderate grooming, predisposition towards medical issues.
"The French Bulldog is very popular, so entertaining and hilarious, and they don’t require a lot of exercise (they actually refuse exercise). Also, they’re not bad barkers," Joy tells me. Like the English Bulldog, they will require regular face cleaning and some amount of skincare and brushing.
4. Miniature Poodle
The summary: minimal shedding, moderate/high grooming, moderate/high energy level.
Poodles and doodles are popular breeds due to their intelligence and beauty, but they can be high maintenance when it comes to grooming. "Families are really excited about the doodle and poodle breeds, they’re really friendly, they’re fun to train, and they see their friends with those types of dogs and they want one too. But any kind of doodle or poodle needs monthly services, with alternating baths and haircut every four weeks. It’s typically around $149 for a haircut for a large poodle or doodle, and it takes about half a day," Sharon Town Lee tells me.
If you're in love with the poodle look, Sharon advises you go for the mini version: "What I would like for people to consider who love doodles and poodles (especially when they have little kids and a busy life), is that there’s an option to get a small dog. A Miniature or Toy Poodle is a lot easier to maintain, grooming is less expensive and easier, easier to clean up after. You have to consider whether the money and time will fit into your lifestyle."
Though they're smaller than a Standard Poodle and thus will need less exercise, the Toy Poodle still requires regular exercise according to Dog Time. And as they're very intelligent, they'll need extra mental stimulation.
5. Toy Breeds
The summary: lower shedding, lower grooming needs, lower energy levels, potential special medical/physical needs.
The smaller the dog, the lower the grooming costs and overall time spent grooming/cleaning up after your dog, and generally the less exercise and space they'll need. Toy breeds offer benefits in these areas, but there can be medical issues that arise specific to smaller breeds. For example: anal glands. The anal glands are located near the anus of the dog, and are full of a smelly substance that helps them mark territory. In small dogs, sometimes these need to be manually emptied or they risk becoming impacted. "Large dogs express their anal glands when they have a bowel movement. But small toy breeds sometimes can’t express them, and the groomer will check to see if it’s full and will express it," Joy Bonehill explains.
6. Irish Setter
The summary: family-oriented, good temperament, high shedding, moderate to high grooming needs.
While the Irish Setter has a glorious coat that demands attention (and sheds plenty), they have personalities that make up for it. "Another breed that’s not small but really family-oriented and beautiful is an Irish Setter, they’re amazing and easier to maintain than a doodle," Sharon Town Lee says.
7. Bichon Frise
The summary: minimal shedding, easy temperament, moderate energy, high grooming needs.
"There are some dogs that lend themselves to a little bit lower maintenance, more like lap dogs. Shitzu, Bichon Frise, and the Maltese: these are the former dogs of royalty and lapdogs," says trainer Anovick. However, the Bichon Frise's fast-growing coat will need to be groomed regularly.
8. Shih Tzu
The summary: low shedding, mild energy lap dog, high grooming needs, potential special medical issues.
Like the Bichon Frise, Shih Tzu's are lap dogs with low energy demands. However, there are some unique requirements for this breed. Derek advises, "So let’s take a Shih Tzu, they’re pretty easy going dog, but if their hair grows long that takes maintenance, and they have some genetic issues where sometimes their teeth require extraction, cherry eye issue. Any breed that has eyes that are protruding more tend to have that issue."
The summary: low shedding, mild energy lap dog, high grooming needs.
Another lap dog, the Maltese is happy enough cuddling you most of the time, but that beautiful coat will need regular care and maintenance, along with the other potential issues of the previously mentioned lap dogs.
10. Italian Greyhound
The summary: minimal grooming needs, low shedding, high energy levels.
Italian Greyhounds may not seem like a candidate for a low-maintenance dog, given their high energy demands. But if you're someone whose lifestyle can accommodate an athletic dog, Italian Greyhounds have minimal grooming needs. They're one of Sharon Town Lee's picks for a great family dog: "Italian Greyhound is an amazing dog. They have super sweet personalities, they love little kids, and they have very low grooming needs."