17 of the Most High-Maintenance Dog Breeds to Own
Dogs are a lot of work. Many need lots of exercise. Others want tons of cuddles. Some are difficult to train and control. And of course, they all need food, water, medical care, grooming, and plenty of love. Although many people want a dog who’s easy to own, others end up with a dog who’s a little more high-maintenance.
Many dog breeds are high-maintenance because they’re strong-willed or fiercely independent. Others just don’t place a priority on pleasing their humans. Some are fearful or suffer from intense separation anxiety. Still others have high energy levels they quickly channel into destructive behaviors. And some just don’t tolerate children or are aggressive toward other pets.
Check out 17 of the most high-maintenance dog breeds you can own — if you’re up for a challenge.
The Akita is both strong-willed and independent. So it’s pretty obvious this is a high-maintenance dog. The American Kennel Club notes the Akita is a somewhat active dog who needs a fair amount of exercise. Just as important are the dog’s training needs. The Akita “must be well socialized from birth with people and other dogs.” They train well. But only if “a firm but loving hand is applied beginning in puppyhood.”
According to the Akita Rescue Society of America, “Akitas like to take charge — an inherited trait from their wolf ancestry — and may at some time, challenge you for the dominant position. This behavior cannot be tolerated, and a firm, consistent correction should be your immediate response.”
Akitas often show aggression against dogs of the same sex. And many prefer to be the only dog in the house. They also don’t like being left alone in the yard. Plus, they are sensitive dogs, and stress can trigger autoimmune diseases.
Next: Australian shepherd
2. Australian shepherd
The Australian shepherd has both boundless energy and a high intelligence level. It takes a lot of energy (and creativity) to keep this dog happy and occupied — which makes for a high-maintenance pup.
According to the AKC, the Aussie displays an “irresistible impulse to herd, anything: kids, birds, other dogs.” And that impulse, combined with the breed’s high activity level, “can make Aussies more dog than a sedentary pet owner might bargain for.” Plus, Aussies are very intelligent. So they are “quite capable of out-thinking an unsuspecting novice owner.”
The Australian Shepherd Health & Genetics Institute reports some Aussies suffer from a neurological disorder called rage syndrome. Such dogs “go into a kind of seizure that makes them attack anyone or anything that happens to be in the vicinity. ” Plus, a third of Aussies have some degree of noise phobia, “an exaggerated fear of thunder, fireworks, gunshots, etc.” That can cause chronic stress for the dog, which can lead to health problems.
Next: border collie
3. Border collie
The border collie is another herding dog. And, as with the Aussie, that instinct can be difficult for a border collie to curb.
According to the AKC, the border collie has a high energy level. And he’s also “extremely intelligent.” If you give him ample physical and mental exercise, he’ll become a happy and healthy member of your household. The AKC reports, “Having an outlet, a job to perform, like agility — or herding or obedience competition — is key to border collie happiness.” But this dog might develop compulsive behaviors if you don’t give him enough to do.
According to a border collie rescue organization in Texas, some border collies end up at the shelter because they’ve bitten someone, generally a running child, in an attempt to herd. But even more border collies end up at the shelter “because they are ‘hyper’ and far too difficult to handle. Most people are either not willing, prepared, or able to put in the large time commitment it takes to adequately exercise a border collie.”
Next: Brussels griffon
4. Brussels griffon
The Brussels griffon loves his people. (According to the AKC, these dogs “are like Velcro with four legs. They prefer being close to their owners.”) But the breed is famously prone to separation anxiety and can display less-than-ideal destructive tendencies when left alone. “They have a low threshold for loneliness, though, so families who are home often will be the best fit for this breed,” according to the AKC.
According to the Brussels Griffon Rescue, “They attach themselves to one person in the family, sometimes two, and need to be with that person 24/7.” Additionally, these dogs are notoriously difficult to house train. Many also try to dominate other dogs, even those much larger than themselves. And because of their lack of a homing instinct and “their sense of self-importance,” they will get lost if they escape from your home or yard.
Next: chow chow
5. Chow chow
The chow chow has only a medium energy level — but he’s not so easy to take care of as you might think based on his teddy bear-like face. According to the AKC, these dogs have “cat-like personalities” that make them “independent, stubborn, and less eager to please than other breeds.” They need early socialization and training. And the AKC warns of this high-maintenance breed, “The strong willed, stubborn chow needs an equally strong willed, stubborn owner.” These dogs are often suspicious of strangers. And they need more training and discipline than many other dog breeds.
According to the Chow Chow Club’s welfare committee, “Chows are very perceptive and quickly pick up on people’s emotions.” But they want their people to think they don’t need them. So a chow is typically “not very eager to please his master.” Plus, “Chow chows are not ‘pack’ dogs and can be dog-aggressive toward other dogs of the same sex even when spayed or neutered.”
Next: cocker spaniel
6. Cocker spaniel
The AKC reports the cocker spaniel is a happy and gentle dog with a “sweet, trusting, and playful disposition.” So it might surprise you to hear the cocker spaniel is another relatively high-maintenance dog who hates being left alone. This dog breed can display serious separation anxiety that will leave both you and your dog frustrated. They have a medium energy level, and they can channel a lot of that energy into destructive behaviors — which might begin as soon as you pick up your keys or put on your coat.
Plus, the Los Angeles Times notes according to a recent study, the English cocker spaniel might be the world’s most aggressive dog breed. Researchers found “English cocker spaniels were more likely than other dogs to act aggressively toward their owners as well as unfamiliar people.” They also numbered among the dog breeds who are most hostile to other dogs. Proper training can help any dog curb unwanted behavior — whether that’s separation distress or aggression.
The AKC reports the Dalmatian is a high-energy dog that needs daily exercise. They love going on walks and make great running companions, especially for long distances. But even the most active dog owner will need to provide plenty of things for a Dalmatian to do. According to the AKC, “The Dalmatian has a low tolerance for boredom and can become destructive if ignored.”
According to Dalmatian Advice, stubbornness is a common temperament issue for this high-maintenance breed. These dogs can also be both “manipulative and obstinate.” Those traits make them more difficult to train than many other breeds.
Another common major temperament issue for Dalmatians? Separation anxiety. Plus, some Dalmatians are also aggressive. And they might develop habits, such as growling, biting, jumping, or snapping, if you don’t carefully keep their behavior in check.
Next: fox terrier
8. Fox terrier
Fox terriers — both smooth and wire — display what the AKC calls a “medium” energy level. But that doesn’t fully capture the extent of this high-maintenance dog’s energetic nature. The AKC concedes that “training can be challenging,” thanks to the breed’s bold personality. According to The New York Times, “The fox terrier will surely obey your command to ‘lie down’ — whenever it is asleep, which is one of his two moods. The other is … on fire.”
Plus, the AKC admits though the fox terrier is friendly and good with families, “they are, though, terriers — with the independence and prey drive possessed by all members of this feisty canine clan.”
The American Fox Terrier Rescue reports these dogs might end up at the shelter because they have “more energy than the family can deal with.” Plus, they don’t often get along with other dogs or cats. Some will even kill cats, and most will kill small pets, such as birds, hamsters, or chickens. An hour a day of aerobic exercise is the “bare minimum” for these dogs, and a quick leash walk won’t be anywhere close to sufficient.
Next: German shorthaired pointer
9. German shorthaired pointer
The German shorthaired pointer is smart and strong but extremely energetic. You’ll need to commit to giving this dog lots of exercise and attention each day. The AKC notes this breed “thrives on running and exercise.” And a German shorthaired pointer will always want to be at the center of your family’s activities. They get bored easily if you don’t keep them busy. And they might channel that boredom into destructive behaviors around your home.
According to the NorCal GSP Rescue, German shorthaired pointers “retain a puppy level of energy throughout their lives. They require physical and mental stimuli to help keep this energy at a manageable level.” You can’t just open the door for the dog to run around by himself either. The rescue organization explains, “Devoting necessary time to fulfill a GSP’s drive to ‘work’ and learn through training and play and to satisfy its need for human companionship is essential.”
Next: Irish setter
10. Irish setter
The Irish setter is a beautiful and outgoing dog that can be incredibly sweet. But this hunting dog has a very high energy level, according to the AKC. They need regular exercise even as puppies, but you can’t take them jogging or biking until they’re 18 months old to protect their maturing joints. Additionally, the AKC explains, “Their high spirits can make it difficult to train them for long periods. Short, positive training sessions are best for these upbeat, sensitive dogs.”
According to the Irish Setter Club of America, “The Irish Setter is a slow-maturing dog, both mentally and physically. It stays a puppy for a long time.” Some people love the idea of a dog who will act like a puppy for more than a season. But that can be frustrating, too. You’ll need both the time and the space to exercise an Irish setter. But your dog won’t just need an area to safely run and play. He’ll also need supervision to make sure he stays within your yard — which makes this breed a little more high-maintenance than most dog owners prefer.
Next: Jack Russell terrier
11. Jack Russell terrier
The Jack Russell terrier is a small but incredibly energetic dog. And he needs an attentive owner to make sure he’s using his energy in constructive, not destructive ways. The AKC characterizes this dog as “eager” and “tireless.” And the organization advises these high-maintenance terriers need lots of playtime and exercise. Though these dogs seem fun to have around, the Jack Russell Terrier Club of America has warned most people underestimate the demands of owning one of these little dogs.
They are strong-willed with their people and often aggressive toward other dogs. And though the club advises “most behavioral problems are due to a lack of companionship, discipline, activity and exercise,” there’s no one-time fix for the problem. These intelligent dogs “continue to test their limits throughout their life.”
Next: Kerry blue terrier
12. Kerry blue terrier
According to the AKC, the Kerry blue terrier is a medium-energy dog who’s smart and alert. But the organization adds these dogs “possess a typical terrier personality though and require daily exercise and firm and patient training.” According to the Kerry Blue Terrier Foundation, “The Kerry is extremely intelligent, hence requires training.” Some only obey when it suits them. And the foundation adds, “This is a breed that is quick to learn exactly where and under what circumstances it can get away with not obeying, and for this reason is not a good choice for a wishy-washy, overly indulgent, or submissive owner.”
The New York Times notes just about all terriers are high-maintenance dogs. The Kerry blue terrier is no exception. According to the publication, “The Kerry has demanding socialization requirements, both with dogs and people, to curb their dog-aggressive tendencies and to fulfill their need for constant human interaction and love, acceptance and attention from the people around them.” This isn’t the kind of dog who will be happy to chill out all day in your yard.
The Pekingese is known for its tendency to bark. And the AKC reports with this breed, “Training should begin as early as possible and continue as the puppy grows into adulthood.” They are intelligent, opinionated, and self-important. And though their small size makes them a good candidate for apartment life, they can be difficult to housebreak.
According to the Pekingese Club, the breed is known for its stubbornness. They bark at strangers and unknown noises. Many act protective of their owners. That means “possessiveness can become a problem if the Peke is not trained.” And training itself is difficult and “takes time, as the Peke is slower at learning than other breeds.” Another area where the Pekingese needs more attention than other breeds? “As Pekes age, they will require care from the veterinarian — more so than many other breeds.”
Next: Siberian husky
14. Siberian husky
The Siberian husky was bred to run long distances. So it probably doesn’t surprise you to learn this breed has tons of energy, as per the AKC. The organization reports the husky loves to run. “If allowed to run loose, they will run away. A fenced yard and willingness to use a leash any time you’re outside of that fence make keeping your Siberian safe and at home much easier.”
Plus, the husky can adapt to any climate, but you should never exercise one during the heat of the day. A husky is very intelligent and sensitive. But they can quickly turn to destructive behavior if they don’t get enough exercise.
According to the South Florida Siberian Husky Rescue, “Siberians are escape artists and need a securely fenced in yard if you want to let them off a leash.” They can jump or climb fences, or even dig under fences. Plus, the organization notes, “Leaving them in a yard or kennel unattended for great lengths is not appropriate for this breed as they are highly intelligent and they will find a way out.”
Next: springer spaniel
15. Springer spaniel
The English springer spaniel is a high-maintenance dog in terms of both exercise needs and grooming requirements. The AKC reports this medium-energy breed is very active and will want to join in on any family activity. But what makes the springer spaniel a particularly high-maintenance dog is the aggressive behavior for which the breed has become notorious in certain circles.
According to The Atlantic, many springer spaniel owners refer to the breed’s odd but notorious streak of aggression as “springer rage.” (The Atlantic notes the term is applied “only slightly tongue-in-cheek.”) According to a survey cited by the publication, 27% of springer spaniels have bitten a person — a rate at least twice the average for all dogs.
The English Springer Spaniel Field Trial Association reports many such dogs display a severe form of dominance aggression. In many cases, an expert can evaluate your dog, treat him, and help modify his behavior. But changing the dog’s behavior still takes time and work — and can put you (and any children in your household) at risk of injury.
The Weimaraner is beautiful and highly intelligent — and not often recommended for inexperienced dog owners. As the AKC notes, this medium-sized dog has the challenging combination of a high energy level and high intelligence. “Weimaraners love exercise and must have plenty of it, along with lots of quality time with their humans.” These strong-willed dogs need you to take charge. And they can act like puppies for the first two, three, or even four years of their lives. So training and socialization will take a lot of your time.
According to the Iowa Weimaraner Rescue, these dogs often follow their owners from room to room. The organization adds, “The Weimaraner is not a breed to be left in a kennel or the backyard with little attention. Such neglect might cause your Weim to become hyperactive, destructive, or mentally unstable.”
This high-maintenance dog needs rigorous exercise. And the rescue group warns that even a 2 mile jog around your neighborhood might not be enough exercise for this breed. If he doesn’t get enough exercise, a Weimaraner might amuse himself by chewing, digging, or escaping your home or yard.
Next: Yorkshire terrier
17. Yorkshire terrier
The Yorkshire terrier is a small dog with a lot of personality. The AKC characterizes them as “bundles of energy and enthusiasm.” They are small, so they need only moderate amounts of exercise. But they need daily attention from their owners.
Plus, the Yorkshire terrier has a coat that, long or short, needs a lot of maintenance. A Yorkie with a long coat needs daily brushing and a weekly bath. But even one with a short coat needs a lot of brushing — plus regular trips to the groomer for trims.