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the search for a dog
As a low-energy dog breed, two pugs relax on sofa.

The essentials

  • Apartment dwellers, this might be the dog for you — A low-energy dog might be a good fit for someone with little space for dog running and playing. However, breeds prone to separation anxiety need someone who sticks close to home.
  • Giant breeds can be low energy, too — Despite a reputation for aggression, large breeds such as St. Bernards have earned a solid reputation as caregivers to young children in the family. They are only leery of strangers or other animals who aren’t part of their household.
  • Low-energy breeds still need daily exercise — Even low-maintenance dogs need a walk. Aim for a couple of 30-minute walks each day.

A low-energy dog may sound appealing if you live in a small apartment and don’t need an energetic pup bouncing off the walls or your career doesn’t allow you to spend several hours a day on walks.

These 12 breeds require an hour or less of exercise each day. However, low energy doesn’t mean zero energy. Lethargy can be a sign of serious illness, so if your dog is non-responsive or seems listless, take them to the vet.

1. Basset hound

Low-energy dog breed, the Basset hound
Average Height 11 to 15 inches
Average Weight 40 to 65 pounds
Description A hunting dog with aristocratic origins

The howling basset hound is thought to have originated from St. Hubert’s Hound, a breed of hunting dogs developed by monks in medieval France. Around the time of the French Revolution, they were hunting dogs or sometimes kept as pets by the upper class.

Today, they are one of America’s favorite hounds. Although they don’t require a lot of exercise, you should aim to walk your basset hound at least once per day to keep them from becoming obese. Basset hounds are prone to hip dysplasia and back trouble, conditions exacerbated by excessive weight. This isn’t the best breed for apartment living since basset hounds are prone to barking and howling.

2. Bolognese

Low-energy dog breed, the Bolognese
Average Height 10 to 12 inches
Average Weight 6 to 10 pounds
Description A hypoallergenic breed that likes to lounge

The Bolognese is an Italian dog breed closely related to the bichon, but don’t let its family ties mislead you into thinking this dog has bounds of energy. Content to relax, the Bolognese is an ideal lap dog companion that would rather stay inside and chill than go on long walks. They’re also prone to separation anxiety, so they would be a suitable choice for someone who works from home or has flexible hours. While the Bolognese tends to get along with children, they might not be the perfect fit for a family with younger kids who like to play energetically with their dog.

Caring for your Bolognese is an easy task since the breed doesn’t shed. You’ll simply need to brush its coat a few times a week and have its fur trimmed every couple of months to ensure it doesn’t get matted.

3. Cavalier King Charles spaniel

Low-energy dog breed, the Cavalier king charles spaniel
Average Height 12 to 13 inches
Average Weight 13 to 18 pounds
Description A breed fit for royalty

The Cavalier was King Charles’s best friend in the 1600s, and it’s one of the most popular breeds in American households today with its large, round eyes, characteristically curly hair, and easy-going nature. Cavaliers enjoy short walks and may even like activities such as hunting or playing fetch since they descended from spaniels. Ultimately, they’re a pretty low-energy breed that prefers to spend their days curled up on the sofa with you rather than romping in the field.

Like many low-energy breeds, Cavaliers don’t like being alone. You won’t need to carve out hours of daily exercise, but you will need to spend a significant portion of your time with them or else they might develop destructive behaviors. They’re genetically prone to heart disease, so maintaining a healthy lifestyle and regular vet visits may help offset the risk of early onset.

4. Chow chow

A low-energy dog breed, the chow chow, lays on sofa
Average Height 17 to 20 inches at the shoulder
Average Weight 40 to 70 pounds
Description The dog with the lion’s mane

The chow chow is called “songshi quan” in China, the breed’s country of origin. It has fluffy fur similar to a Pomeranian, but chow chows are significantly larger and not as friendly. They need socialization and early obedience training and frequent grooming. Because of that lion’s mane of fur, exercise your chow chow in the cooler hours of the day because they can overheat in warmer temperatures.

In addition to genetic problems common in multiple breeds such as hip and elbow dysplasia, chow chows are at risk for developing hypothyroidism and pemphigus foliaceus, an autoimmune disease that causes hair loss, itchiness, thickened paw pads, and skin lesions. The shortage of thyroid hormones results in various health complications including hair loss, recurring skin and ear infections, and unexplained weight gain.

5. French bulldog

Low-energy dog breed, the French bulldog
Average Height 11 to 13 inches
Average Weight 16 to 28 pounds
Description A charming urban dweller that loves its people

The French bulldog has soared to the top of many most popular dog breed lists in the United States. Similar looking to pugs except for its characteristically raised ears, the Frenchie is a perfect duo of sweet and cute. They don’t require much exercise, are well-suited for apartment living, and thrive with your company.

Taking care of your Frenchie requires a little extra consideration. Its short, thin coat offers little protection from the cold but French bulldogs aren’t not built for hot weather either. Brachycephalic breeds like the French bulldog have a facial design structure that makes it harder for them to breathe, so limit their time outdoors in hot climates to avoid overheating. Frenchies are also prone to narrow nostrils that make it difficult for them to breathe well. Surgery may widen the nostrils to help them breathe normally. This breed is also prone to skin infections and ear infections secondary to allergies.

6. English bulldog

Low-energy dog breed, the English bulldog
Average Height 14 to 15 inches
Average Weight 40 to 50 pounds
Description The predecessor of all bulldog breeds

Nearly everyone knows the English bulldog’s wrinkled face and brawny legs, and many prize the bulldog as the ideal combination of gentle and strong. Like the French bulldog, the English bulldog is a brachycephalic breed that needs limited outdoor time in the summer because its short facial structure makes it hard to breathe in hot, humid weather. They also can be born with narrow nostrils, elongated soft palates, and other upper airway issues that may require corrective surgery.

Although they’ll adapt to city or country living, English bulldogs make great apartment pets because they’re low-maintenance dogs that require only a few short walks a day.

7. Dogue de Bordeaux

Low-energy dog breed, the Dogue de bordeaux
Average Height 23 to 26 inches
Average Weight 120 to 140 pounds
Description A gentle giant with ties to humans dating back to ancient times

Bordeaux is a name associated with French wine and relaxation, and the Dogue de Bordeaux follows suit as the ideal pet to spend a relaxed cocktail hour with. Over 100 pounds, this gentle giant doesn’t need much exercise; a couple of walks each day will suffice.

The Dogue de Bordeaux tends to develop an intense loyalty to their family, making them a good fit for households with children or who need an extra set of eyes and ears to guard the house. The history of the Dogue de Bordeaux goes back at least to the 12th century when it was first used as guard dogs and hunters in the region now known as France.

Bigger dogs tend to have shorter lifespans, but you can help them maintain good health for as long as possible by feeding them a well-balanced diet and giving them moderate exercise. The Dogue de Bordeaux is prone to hip dysplasia due to its size, so make sure to purchase from a reputable breeder who only breeds dogs without a family history of hip dysplasia.

8. Great Dane

Low-energy dog breed, the Great Dane, relaxing
Average Height 28 to 35 inches
Average Weight 100 to 200 pounds
Description One of the biggest dog breeds in the world, with an equally large heart

Standing almost a yard tall, the Great Dane is known as a gentle giant that loves its family and can be protective of those it loves most. They’re typically well-adapted for households with small children and enjoy lounging on your lap or a sofa nearby.

Take your Great Dane on a few short daily walks to ensure it’s in optimal health, but wait just a bit after meals — Great Danes are at risk for bloat, which can be fatal. Great Danes are also at risk for developing hip dysplasia, so make sure they receive enough exercise to maintain healthy body weight but don’t overexert themselves, especially growing puppies.

9. Pekingese

Low-energy dog breed, the Pekingese
Average Height 6 to 9 inches
Average Weight Up to 14 pounds
Description The lap dog that’s fit for a king

The “king” in the middle of the name hints at this breed’s ancient royal ties. Pekingese were first bred in China to accompany emperors, and they haven’t forgotten their regal history. They’re endowed with a lion’s mane of fur that forms a beard and often trails down to the floor, giving it a majestic appearance.

This toy breed will make your sofa their throne and probably won’t want to exercise much beyond a couple of daily walks. Although they can live in a house with small children, the Pekingese probably won’t tolerate much roughhousing, so they’re better with older children or adults.

10. Pug

Low-energy dog breed, the pug, panting.
Average Height 10 to 14 inches
Average Weight 14 to 18 pounds
Description A classic toy breed with large round eyes and a big heart

Pugs originated in royalty, bred by the Chinese for emperors and later for the nobility in other countries such as England and Japan. They’re typically beige or black and similar-looking to French bulldogs, but their ears fold down instead of sticking up.

The pug is another brachycephalic breed, so make sure they don’t spend too much time outdoors in the summer or over-exert themselves. They’re prone to various health problems common to brachycephalic breeds as well as recurring ear infections and pug myelopathy, a breed-specific neurological condition that can result in paralysis. Taking care of your pug with moderate exercise and a healthy diet should extend their lifespan and reduce the risk of health issues such as obesity.

11. St. Bernard

Low-energy dog breed, the St Bernard.
Average Height 26 to 35 inches
Average Weight 120 to 180 pounds
Description The gentle giant dog that’s every child’s best friend

The caring St. Bernard has long been regarded as the nanny, referring to its fondness and protective nature for little children. This giant breed loves its humans but can be more skeptical of strangers or other animals. Originating in the Swiss Alps, these dogs have been used as search-and-rescue dogs and guard dogs for centuries and have a strong bond with humans.

Despite their large size, this breed only needs a moderate amount of exercise. An air-conditioned home with plenty of space to stretch their legs is also ideal. Like most large breeds, St. Bernards are genetically prone to hip dysplasia and bloat, so make sure they receive an average amount of exercise and not immediately following a meal.

12. Shih tzu

Low-energy dog breed, the shih tzu.
Average Height 9 to 11 inches
Average Weight 9 to 16 pounds
Description A little companion dog known for its long life and lion’s mane

Meaning “lion dog” in its native country of China, the shih tzu typically has long, flowing fur with a double coat that can come in many colors. It’s a fairly adaptable breed, a great companion dog for older adults, and an energetic playmate for young children. The shih tzu’s small size enables it to inhabit practically any space, and they typically require little exercise.

Most of the shih tzu’s health concerns are centered around its eyesight and teeth, although they may have rare congenital diseases such as renal dysplasia and patellar luxation . Otherwise, it’s a relatively healthy breed that simply wants to go where you are. A couple of walks and a few games of fetch should suffice for a day’s play.

Low-energy dog training

A low-energy dog might run out of steam quickly, so be patient when training them as young puppies. Short, frequent training sessions will be more successful than hour-long marathon sessions.

Even though the breeds on this list may be considered low-energy, all dogs need moderate exercise to live their longest and best lives. Some low-energy breeds are at an increased risk of obesity — watch their diet and exercise habits to ensure they don’t pack on the extra pounds. Large dogs that don’t exercise much are at an increased risk of hip dysplasia from carrying all of the extra weight but don’t run them excessively lest they damage their joints. Food and exercise in moderation are the keys to keeping a low-energy dog in good shape.

Feeding low-energy dogs

Some low-energy dogs are at risk for obesity, so talk to your vet about the right diet for your particular breed. They might recommend a therapeutic diet, foods that help pets feel fuller longer, or those that help speed up a pet’s metabolism. You could supplement a diet balanced in protein and essential nutrients with low-calorie snacks or safe “people foods” like steamed or raw vegetables.

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Other considerations for low-energy dogs

Low-energy breeds tend to be loyal, wanting to be wherever you are. While they might not enjoy aimlessly meandering around the dog park, they’ll probably like going on walks with you a couple of times a day to keep in shape. Just make sure to give them plenty of water and avoid walking them during the hottest times of the day.

Although most of these dogs would make fine apartment dwellers (except for the Great Dane, St. Bernard, chow chow, and the Dogue de Bordeaux), they shouldn’t be left alone for the majority of the day. Low-energy dogs are particularly dependent on human connection and many develop separation anxiety if they’re regularly left alone for long periods.

Frequently asked questions

What are the best low-energy dogs?

The best low-energy dog breed for you depends on your living environment and household. For example, some breeds are better suited for apartment living where they can relax in the AC, but others prefer to roam the countryside with plenty of space. Breeds like the cheerful shih tzu are more tolerant of young children compared with the stoic Pekingese that prefer not to be bothered.

What breed of dog has the lowest exercise needs?

The bulldog is often regarded as the laziest dog breed, but even it needs moderate exercise to stay healthy. A couple of walks a day should do the trick as long as it’s fed a well-balanced diet.

What are some low-energy, low-shedding small dog breeds?

The shih tzu and the Bolognese are low-energy dog breeds that are also considered hypoallergenic. Although no dog is completely allergen-free, hypoallergenic dogs don’t shed, so it’s easier to control the spread of the allergen in their dander.

How much exercise does my low-energy dog need?

No matter how lazy the dog may appear, every animal needs some exercise. Aim for a couple of 30-minute walks each day, preferably in the cool of the early morning and late evening. Brachycephalic breeds, such as the bulldog and the pug, especially need to limit their time outdoors during extreme temperatures since their compacted noses struggle to breathe well in hot and humid climates.