Canine couch potatoes: Is there such a thing as “lazy dog breeds”?

Written by Napo HQ
Reviewed by Dr Louisa Lane
7th Jun 2022
6 mins read
A healthy dog is an active dog, and all dogs need some exercise every day.
Some dogs don’t need as much exercise as others, but they still need daily walks. 
Many of the “lazy dog breeds” are actually dogs who find exercise uncomfortable or painful. Exercise intolerance is typically a symptom of illness.
With so many of us living in flats and urban areas, we can’t always offer tons of space, roomy gardens, or long walks to keep our dogs happy. Not to mention, it’s difficult finding the time for a hike with the hound every day.
There are some so-called “lazy dog breeds” that have become increasingly popular because they don’t need large spaces to live and don’t require long walks.
However, even the laziest dogs still need daily exercise. This begs the question, is there such a thing as a lazy dog?
We’ll take a look at some of these so-called “lazy dog breeds”, what exercise they need, and whether or not these canines deserve to be called couch potatoes.

What makes a "lazy dog breed"?

There are a few things in common amongst so-called “lazy dog breeds”, specifically their breed purpose, size, and shape.
But these dogs aren’t necessarily lazy, it’s just that how humans have bred them has affected how much exercise they need, or can safely do. So what dog breeds need less exercise?

Working dogs need more exercise

Every dog breed was created with a purpose in mind. Hunting dogs like Springer Spaniels and Labrador Retrievers and herding dogs like Border Collies and German Shepherds were bred to have the stamina to work in the field all day, every day.
Other dogs like the Pug or the Shih Tzu were bred to be companions, so their job was to be small, sweet, and snuggly.
Most “lazy dog breeds” tend to be these companion breeds. However, they aren’t actually lazy, they just need smaller walks.

Smaller sizes (usually) means smaller walks

Many toy and small breed dogs need less exercise than bigger breeds. After all, if you’ve only got little legs, you don’t need to walk as far to get a good workout.
These small dogs are often companion breeds too, so they were never bred to be endurance athletes anyway.
But do be aware that some small breeds were also working dogs, and so have tons of stamina and need lots of exercise.
For example, Jack Russell Terriers were used for hunting and require a lot of exercise and enrichment to keep their active bodies and minds healthy.
In fact, many companion breeds are alert, lively, energetic, and playful pups.
No matter what your dog was bred for, all dogs need some daily exercise to keep them fit and healthy and to provide stimulation.

Giant dogs don’t always need giant walks

Although smaller legs often mean smaller walks, many massive dogs can make do with less exercise too. Many giant breeds are often labelled as “big lazy dog breeds” but they need less exercise because of their physical shape and stamina.
A good example is the Dogue de Bordeaux, which is a big dog that only needs about an hour’s exercise every day. (Which is the minimum you should expect to provide any pooch.)

Some breeds were built for speed, not stamina

Another example of a “lazy dog breed” that might surprise you is the Greyhound.
Although Greyhounds are famed for their speed, they’re also known as “the world’s fastest couch potato”.
These dogs are built for speed, not stamina. That means they’re happy with about an hour of exercise every day, the same as many small breeds. But just like every dog in this list, they aren’t a “lazy” dog, they just have different exercise needs than other breeds.

Your dog’s personality might make them “lazy”

Just like humans, every dog is different and has their own personality and preferences.
Some dogs are very active and alert and require more stimulation to keep them happy. Other dogs prefer a sniffy stroll or a swim over a strenuous hike or a run. Other dogs will prefer smell or food-focused puzzle games and scent games, rather than active games like fetch or tug.
Knowing what your dog likes and adapting their exercise to be more appealing can encourage them to be more active.

Some dogs aren’t always in shape

Certain shapes of dogs seem to earn the title of laziest dog breeds more often.
Bulldogs immediately come to mind when asked for examples of “lazy dog breeds”, but these dogs were once bred to be prized fighters strong enough to take on bulls. So why are they now seen as lazy lovers, not a fighter?
The Bulldog’s move from fighting to sofa-flopping was to do with what traits we humans wanted in the last hundred years.
When blood sports were outlawed in 1835, people stopped needing beefy Bulldogs that could fight bulls. Instead, they began to favour laid-back dogs that made good companions.
Additionally, humans wanted Bulldogs with flatter faces and bigger wrinkles, and breeding for specific looks took priority over breeding for strength and stamina.
Over time, the physical changes to the Bulldog’s appearance (and other flat-faced breeds like Pugs) impacted their ability to exercise.

Laziness could be a symptom of sickness

Many flat-faced breeds, like Bulldogs, are affected by health conditions which make breathing difficult and exercise becomes uncomfortable or even painful. That’s why sick dogs tend to move less and snooze more.
This perception has sadly stuck, and rather unfairly, many people now believe that it’s normal for brachycephalic (flat-faced) dogs like Bulldogs, Pugs, and French Bulldogs to be “lazy dogs”.
However, the lack of activity and indifference to exercise could be a sign that their dog is unwell. After all, if any other breed of dog didn’t want to go for a walk, you’d probably worry that something was wrong.
Many flat-faced breeds who receive BOAS surgery turn into brighter and more active dogs, suggesting that a lazy dog might just be a sick dog.
Similarly, problems like obesity can make movement more difficult (and more exhausting) for some dogs. It can also aggravate conditions like arthritis, which could cause your dog to stop wanting to go for walks.

Are they “lazy”, or did they learn not to expect much?

If a dog’s physical and emotional needs aren’t being met they can become withdrawn and indifferent. Dogs are famous for their lust for life, which makes a lazy dog seem out of the ordinary.
But if a dog is living in a home where the owner isn’t playing with them or walking them, then the dog will become "lazy" and apathetic because no one is engaging with their emotional and physical needs.

What can owners do to stimulate and exercise “lazier” pets?

Although some dogs don’t need as much exercise as others, all dogs need
exercise every day to keep them happy and healthy.
Every dog needs 1-2 daily walks to keep them fit, prevent obesity and illness, and provides valuable enrichment.
Without proper exercise, many pets become frustrated and bored which can turn into problem behaviours like chewing, barking, pacing, and even aggression.
Walkies isn’t the only way to exercise your dog, there are other stimulating games and activities your dog can enjoy that will help to keep them fit and active.
From swimming to scent games, here are some ideas on how to exercise your dog other than walking.
Just remember that the exercise you offer your dog must be adapted to their health and age. For example, old and arthritic dogs will enjoy a few short strolls rather than one long walk.

Jump to

How long does it take to toilet train a puppy?
How long does it take to toilet train a puppy?
Puppies aren't born knowing to toilet outside, so we have to train them to do it. It can take a few weeks to months. But by 5-6 months, you'll probably notice fewer accidents in the house.
Can dogs eat pineapple
Can dogs eat pineapple
Pineapple's packed with essential nutrients and can be a tasty, tropical treat for your dog. Be careful with younger pupswho might struggle to digest it. Not all forms of pineapple are healthy either, like juice, which is high in sugar. Always remove the skin and core before giving it to your dog.
Everything you need to know about Border Collies
Everything you need to know about Border Collies
Smart, loyal and agile. The Border Collie is well known for its herding skills, which also makes them amazing pets for active people!
Breed guide