With the right guidance and early socialization, any dog can be friendly and outgoing. Every dog is an individual, and a dog’s temperament largely depends on what they’re exposed to in their first months of life—specifically, positive interactions with new people, other animals, and situations.
But some breeds have been bred (for centuries, in some cases) to live and work alongside humans. If you’re looking for the friendliest dog breeds, check out one of the pups below and chat with your breeder or rescue about what socialization steps they’ve taken.
1. Golden Retriever
The poster pup for friendliness, Golden Retrievers are widely known and loved for their social disposition. They can make excellent family dogs—as long as they get exercise every day to work out their energy. But for pet parents who prioritize daily walks, Goldens are intelligent and fun companions that get along with nearly anyone.
2. Labrador Retriever
As furry as she is friendly, the Labrador Retriever will go up to anyone to get a pat. Labs are highly affectionate and highly energetic—a fun combo for children looking for a four-legged playmate. But, like Goldens, it’s important for Labs to have an outlet for all that energy, whether it’s going on walks or swimming (one of their favorite activities).
3. Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
One of the friendliest small dog breeds is the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. Bred to warm the laps of English royalty, these cuddly dogs are happy to carry on their inherent duties with whoever is close by. Despite their toy-sized build, Cavs are also active sporting dogs that need about 30 minutes of exercise every day.
4. Irish Setter
Affectionate and energetic, the Irish Setter is a very friendly dog that loves people and isn’t shy about it. Pet parents who have small children should be careful that their Irish Setter doesn’t knock a child over in her enthusiasm to say hello. Early training, with plenty of praise and treats, can help your Irish Setter lavish her love on people appropriately.
Bred in ancient China to be companions, Pugs are wrinkly pups that crave affection. And while Pugs can live long lives of 13–15 years, this brachycephalic breed faces a fair share of health issues, including respiratory distress, overheating, and issues with their eyes, ears, and teeth.
Beagles are medium-sized dogs with strong noses and an even stronger desire to please. Bred to hunt alongside humans, Beagles are loyal and like spending time with their people, whether in the hunting field, playing in the backyard, or lounging on the couch. Their long tails are always wagging, but pet parents should know that this can sometimes lead to limber tail syndrome.
7. Border Collie
The friendly Border Collie is commonly referenced as the smartest dog breed, and for good reason. This brainy pup can thrive in a family environment as long as she has lots of things to keep her mind busy and her paws in motion. But because Border Collies were bred to herd livestock, they need to be taught that children are not something to be herded.
The Newfoundland earns his “gentle giant” nickname for being cuddly, affectionate, and big: These dogs can weigh 150 pounds or more. Make sure you have room in your house before bringing home this large and friendly dog. Pet parents must also be prepared to brush his thick coat at least once a week and be OK with wiping up copious amounts of slobber.
The Boxer is a playful dog with a spring in her step—literally. The breed is known for having an excitable personality, which commonly manifests as a tendency to jump up for attention. Because of this behavior (and the breed’s size of 65–80 pounds), Boxer puppies need to be well-trained to keep all four paws on the ground so they don’t accidentally knock anyone over.
When thinking of the friendliest dogs, Lassie might come to mind. Collies like Lassie are affectionate and typically love being around children. While the short-haired smooth Collie doesn’t require the regular grooming that long-coated rough Collies demand, both varieties need at least an hour of exercise every day to be happy.
11. Pembroke Welsh Corgi
As happy, peppy dogs, Pembroke Welsh Corgis were beloved by Queen Elizabeth II and make great pets for first-time dog parents. Though they’re short and sturdy, Pembrokes need to exercise their little legs every day; they were originally bred to herd cattle and sheep.
12. Boston Terrier
Nicknamed the American Gentleman for their tuxedo coat and good manners, Boston Terriers tend to be curious and rambunctious companions. Because of their short snouts and flat faces, they can be prone to breathing problems and overheating, so keep exercise limited during the hottest hours of the day.
13. English Bulldog
With distinguished wrinkles throughout his face and body, the English Bulldog is a friendly breed that prefers snoozing next to their pet parents to joining them for a jog. You might want to invest in some ear plugs before bringing this dog home, too, as their flat faces make them prone to snoring.
14. Shih Tzu
Shih Tzu were bred in Tibet to be companions. And because of their long lifespans (Shih Tzu typically live 10–18 years), this toy breed will be your BFF for a long, long time. Because of their lengthy history as companions, Shih Tzu don’t like being left alone for long, so make sure to bring this pint-sized pup with you on errands.
Whether you prefer the Toy, Miniature, or Standard Poodle, one thing is certain: You’ve found yourself an eager-to-please dog. The Standard originated in Germany, where they were bred as birding dogs. The pups were eventually bred to be smaller, but all three sizes are smart and tend to have friendly dispositions.
16. Petit Basset Griffon Vendéen
The Petit Basset Griffon Vendéen is a small, energetic, and outgoing dog. Bred to hunt rabbits in France, PBGVs love the company of humans and other pets alike, especially when they’re socialized properly as puppies. But if this people-loving dog doesn’t get the affection he deserves, he’ll let you know with his bark.
17. Staffordshire Bull Terrier
The Staffordshire Bull Terrier is well-known for her abundant display of affection and loyalty. In fact, the breed is known as “the nanny dog” because of their caring and gentle nature toward those they love. Their short coat doesn’t need much upkeep, but these athletic dogs do need to keep busy with activities like agility, long walks, hiking, or scent work.
Havanese are another of the friendliest small dog breeds. This tiny dog craves attention from people—so much so that he won’t enjoy being left alone for long periods of time and may develop separation anxiety. These dogs are highly adaptable and can fit into any family that’s willing to put in the work to train and groom them.
Featured Image: Getty/mladenbalinovac
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