Dr. Mark is a veterinarian. He has been working with dogs for more than 40 years.
Are you looking for a calm dog that will not shed around your house? They are not so easy to find. Dogs are individuals. Even within the same litter, some puppies will be calm, others hyperactive, some may even be aggressive.
There is no guarantee that any one dog will have a personality like most others in a breed, but if you choose a dog from this list you have a great chance of finding what you are looking for.
- Shih Tzu
- Lhasa Apso
- Brussels Griffon
- Hybrid Giants (Bernedoodle, Newfypoo, St. Bernadoodle)
How Calm Are They? This little dog is a sweet and gentle lapdog that is often devoted to their family and happy to spend time being calm when with them. They often become attached to one person but also do well as family dogs.
Shedding? Although they are one of the dog breeds that shed very little, the Shih Tzu does need to be groomed. The coat needs to be brushed several times a week if it is long and even if you want to keep your dog short the coat needs to be clipped every month to six weeks. (I have been told that dogs that have their hair clipped short tend to shed a little more since the loose hairs are not removed during brushing and may just fall out on the carpet. If you brush your short-haired Shih Tzu once a day the dog will barely shed.)
Can They Be Left Alone? I have seen a few “outliers” that are okay with being left alone but in general, this dog breed is not one that can be alone all day. The Shih Tzu was bred as a companion, a lap dog, and will become stressed out if alone too much. (If you are just going out for a few hours and the dog will be alone try playing the music in the video I have attached.)
Behavioral Issues? Since these dogs do not need much exercise, some owners do not take them out enough and they can develop house-soiling problems. They are almost always friendly but can develop “small dog syndrome” if treated like a baby and not a dog.
Health Issues? These are usually well-built dogs but kids tend to see them as little stuffed animals so they can be injured during rough play. Most of their other problems are related to their anatomy; the dogs have short noses that lead to respiratory problems and prominent eyes that suffer from a lot of diseases. About a fifth of these dogs have hip dysplasia, which is way too much for a little dog.
How Calm Are They? Lhasas were bred to keep their Tibetan monks' laps warm so were selected to be calm. They are not a tiny dog (about six or seven kilograms, or around 15 pounds or more), make great watchdogs (not guards though, of course), and tend to bark a little more than the Shih Tzu.
Shedding? This breed does not shed much. They do need to be groomed, however, but can be kept in a short “puppy cut” if you are not willing to brush the dog out thoroughly a few times a week. (Keeping the dog in a puppy cut may cause the dog to shed a little more. Shedding is still minimal.)
Can They Be Left Alone? These dogs are lap dogs and were bred to be companions. They are not as much of a “Velcro” dog as some others but are not considered to be a dog that can be left alone all day.
Behavioral Issues? Most of the behavioral issues we hear about are due to the dog´s guard-like personality. They make a great watchdog since they are suspicious of strangers and bark when they hear anything strange. Lhasas are also known to be “headstrong” on occasion and stubborn if allowed to develop small dog syndrome. They are not recommended for homes with small children but are considered one of the best breeds for seniors with quiet homes.
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Health Issues? Lhasas do have more skin problems than some other breeds and are also prone to eye problems and kidney disease. If you get a puppy from a breeder be sure to check that his parents were certified free from hip dysplasia. If healthy they usually live over 15 years.
How Calm Are They? There is no scale for calmness, but most owners of this rare dog breed report that they are calmer than others of this type (like the Bichon Frisé). They still need daily exercise but are less vocal than many other small dogs.
Shedding? Like their relatives the Bichon and Maltese, these little dogs are a breed that sheds very little. They do need to be groomed at least three times a week as the hair will mat, but if this is not something that you want to do they can be kept cut short in a “puppy cut”.
Can They Be Left Alone? Although they are less vocal than some of the little breeds (like the Maltese) they are not considered to be one of the dog breeds that can be left alone all day.
Behavioral Issues? Like all dogs, these dogs should have daily exercise to stay calm and decrease behavioral problems. They are not known to bark as much as some of the other tiny dogs but there is still a lot to be learned about this dog since they are a rare breed.
Health Issues? Luxating patellas are a problem in almost all small breeds and the Bolognese is no exception. Some dogs have also been found with hip dysplasia but it is not as common as it is in larger dogs.
How calm are they? The Maltese is considered one of the lazy dog breeds because of their relatively calm demeanor. If it weren’t for their barking they would be considered the calmest dog breed. (Among the small dogs I think the Shih Tzu wins that award. If you are interested in a hybrid the Malshi is a good choice but there is no guarantee that the dog will not be a barker.)
Shedding? This dog has a “hair” coat instead of the furry coat associated with many dog breeds and does not shed. If kept long, the hairs will break off, so to prevent that problem your Maltese can be kept with short hair. Even with short hair, they should be brushed at least 3 times a week (especially under the ears) to prevent matting, a serious problem in Maltese and Maltese hybrids.
Can they be left alone? This is a calm house dog and one of the best dogs for families that have to leave all day for work. All dogs are social animals and are much happier when with a companion but since this dog breed has low prey drive and gets along well with cats and most small animals their full-time companion can be about any other pet.
Behavioral issues? Excessive barking is the main problem I usually hear about these dogs. (My Maltese never had this problem but he usually went everywhere with me.) This problem is often related to their being excessively spoiled as some owners will not correct their puppies if they bark too much. I have also seen some Maltese that are very shy around strangers and big dogs. (Adequate socialization early will usually prevent this problem from even developing.)
Health Issues? Although they are fairly healthy, Maltese do have tiny dog problems like dental disease, luxating patellas, and eye problems. (One problem, tear staining, is mostly cosmetic, but they also suffer from the cherry eye.) Maltese can also develop congestive heart failure and some dogs have hypothyroidism.
Brussels Griffon (Rough Coated Variety)
How calm are they? These small dogs are known to be calm and content when curled up on the couch with their owner. They are probably not calm when alone. They get along fairly well with cats and other small pets.
Shedding? Although the rough-coated variety of this dog is considered low shedding, it does shed more than a dog like the Lhasa Apso, Shih Tzu, or Maltese.
Can this dog be left alone all day? One complaint that some owners have with this dog is that they can be very “needy”. They appreciate spending time with their owners and do not do well if left alone all day.
Behavioral problems? These are excellent dogs for retired seniors but there can be a lot of issues if the dog is not in a quiet home. (Griffon breeders sometimes refuse to adopt to families with lots of rough kids.) They sometimes develop small dog syndrome and act out in ways that would drive the average dog owner to the shelter.
Health Issues? These dogs have very prominent eyes and they are prone to both trauma and inherited problems like cataracts. Since they have flat short faces, they are also prone to developing respiratory problems. Dental problems are also an issue with these dogs since they have small mouths and the teeth are pushed close together. (Along with the grooming, plan on a short daily tooth brushing session.) When taken care of, they are healthy dogs and live anywhere from ten to fifteen years.
How Calm Are They? Many owners comment on how calm their dogs are when at home with the primary owner. They are not dogs that thrive in noisy households though and need a situation appropriate for them. (The toy and miniature varieties are often lap dogs and will be especially calm, but the breed is alert and the larger variety is sturdy enough to be a guard dog.)
Can They Be Left Alone? Xolos are not recommended for someone who works all day. They like company and will become anxious if left alone most of the time.
Shedding? The dogs that are mostly hairless barely shed at all but there may be a few hairs around the forehead and tail. Xolos do not have a double coat so even those with a coat shed very little. The small amount of hair that some dogs have does not need brushing and will never form a mat. (If you are worried about grooming but do not mind giving your dog an occasional bath they are an excellent choice.)
Behavioral Issues? The main complaint I have heard about these dogs is that they are often of the “Velcro” type and can be too dependent on being close to their owner at all times. They do need exercise so having a backyard to run around in is recommended. If left alone too much they do whine excessively, bark a lot, and will also destroy their homes by digging and chewing.
Health Issues? Although they do not suffer from many health issues like other purebred dogs, their hairless skin does make them more prone to certain problems. The skin can become dry and may need colloidal oatmeal baths and coconut oil applied to any rough spots. These dogs can also have some inherited missing molar teeth but they do not cause many problems if the teeth are taken care of normally.
How Calm Are They? Although they are a large working dog breed, the Bergamasco is more akin to the giant livestock guard dogs and is unusually calm and quiet. (Like the Great Pyrenees, but that breed does shed a lot. Like all livestock guard dogs, they are quick to alert.)
Shedding? The coat does not need to be brushed and loose hairs stick to the dreadlocks so do not fall to the floor. If you like a medium to large-sized breed (50 to 80 pounds) but do not want to deal with loose hair or excessive grooming, this breed is a good choice.
Can They Be Left Alone? They are independent dogs. Unlike some of the large dog breeds that are left alone day, it is not recommended for this dog unless he or she has some other type of company.
Behavioral Issues? They are usually free of behavioral problems if not left alone all day. Like any dog breed that is bored when alone they can become destructive. Since they are so large, this can become a serious problem.
Health Issues? Although very healthy, they can suffer from hip dysplasia. Parents should be certified by the breeder. They are also prone to bloat, and since this is due to their conformation it is not really something that can be prevented by breeding.
How Calm Are They? There are a lot of very calm giant dogs but one problem is that they shed a lot. The only calm giants that do not shed much are the poodle hybrids. (English Mastiffs are very calm dogs but Mastipoos are a little more excitable. Newfipoos are another great choice, and you can watch the video attached to see more pictures of the calm Bernese Mountain dog/poodle hybrid.)
Shedding? Many people that are allergic to dog hair, or just do not want a dog who sheds, choose a Poodle hybrid (Bernedoodle, Goldendoodle, Labradoodle) so that they can benefit from the Poodles lack of shedding. (Sometimes this works out, but not always. You can ask the breeder for a guarantee but most families are not willing to turn a puppy back to the breeder after he or she has been with them a few months.) If you do decide on one of these dogs remember to brush daily to prevent matting.
Can They Be Left Alone? In general no, but this varies a lot depending on the individual. Giant breeds like the Bernese are some of the calmest dogs available but are also very attached to their families and become stressed if forced to be alone all day.
Behavioral Issues? Most of the behavioral issues I am aware of stem from the dogs being such a great family pet. They get very upset when alone and develop separation anxiety and destructive behaviors.
Health Issues? The hybrid giants sometimes have fewer health problems than the purebred giants but do not expect one of these dogs to live more than 10 years. Be sure to ask the breeder for screening for hip and elbow dysplasia and heart problems. As soon as you bring your new puppy home take him to the vet for a full examination and ask about any health problems.
How to Train Your Dog to Be Calm
When you decide on the calm breed you want there are a few things to do to make sure that your new dog is ideal for your environment. Dogs that go through the following steps are much more likely to bond with their owners and find a “forever home”.
- Obedience-training: A lot of dogs that just hang around the house could be considered calm, but the real test is when you take the dog out for a relaxing walk and he pulls or stops in his tracks. The best way to improve your dog's calmness when out of the house is by enrolling him or her in an obedience class and socializing during the puppy´s sensitive socialization period. One of the other great benefits of obedience training and early socialization is that your dog is much less likely to become dog aggressive.
- Socialization: All puppies need to be socialized during the sensitive socialization period which is up to about 16 weeks. (Even after the sensitive socialization period you should continue to take your dog out as much as possible and let him or her meet new people and other dogs.) Socialization is important early but continues throughout life. Socialization includes taking your dog for walks in new places, meeting new people, and, of course, meeting and greeting new dogs.
If you are nervous about your dog's vaccine status and your vet has recommended that you keep your dog off of the streets until after 16 weeks when the last vaccine is given, you can arrange to participate in “puppy parties” where your dog can meet other dog owners and puppies that are vaccinated but have not yet completed their vaccination series.
- Canine Good Citizen Training: Besides helping you teach your dog to walk on a loose leash, classes to help you prepare for the canine good citizen award will help you train your dog to accept strangers and new dogs. If you live in an area where these classes are offered, then I suggest you take advantage of them (you can search for classes near you on the AKC website).
Finding That Calm Dog That Does Not Shed
When you have decided which of these great dog breeds you want to add to your family the first thing to do is check with your local animal shelter. You may not have much luck, as none of the dogs on this list are commonly released to humane societies, but it is definitely worth checking.
You can then try Petfinder.com to see if there are any dogs for adoption in your area. You can also type “rescue, the kind of dog you want, your city and state” (for example, “rescue Maltese St. Louis Missouri”) into your search engine and see what is available.
If you are searching for a rare breed you will probably not have results with those other searches. You will have to look around harder for one of these dogs but here is an article on finding an ethical breeder. Read the section on red flags carefully, and follow her advice on checking out the breeder through your search engine. You should plan on paying more from a reputable breeder so be sure all genetic testing is done to provide you with a puppy more likely to stay healthy.
Do not ever resort to buying a puppy from a pet shop or an internet site that markets many different breeds of puppies. They are both just fronts for puppy mills and other unscrupulous breeders, and even if it seems like an easy solution at the time you are setting yourself up for a lifetime of problems. Take the time to find a reputable breeder.
Your new puppy is going to be worth the effort. Have fun!
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.