17 of the Friendliest Dog Breeds for Your Family
Sure, dogs are known for being man's best friend, but not every pup will be the perfect match for your lifestyle. There are lots of things to consider when adding a new dog to the family, including size, age and activity level of the pooch and of your existing family members.
But one of the most important aspects to consider is the dog's level of friendliness. Read on to see which pet experts agree are the friendliest dog breeds.
Labrador retrievers, commonly known as labradors or labs, are popular in Canada and the United Kingdom. And in the United States, they are the most popular breed of dog, according to the American Kennel Club (AKC). "Many children have grown up sleeping with their heads nestled against these family-friendly breeds, who are typically more tolerant of small children than many smaller breeds," says Sally Morgan, author of "Dances of the Heart - Connecting with Animals" and a holistic physical therapist who works with pets and people.
"These breeds love to play fetch in the yard, love to swim, love to romp with children, and have provided decades of fun and love for many American families," Morgan adds. "These dogs also make wonderful therapy dogs because of their love for humans and easygoing attitudes."
Labrador Retriever Breed Summary
Labrador Retriever Overview
Temperament: Friendly, Active, Outgoing
Height: 22.5-24.5 inches (male), 21.5-23.5 inches (female)
Weight: 65-80 pounds (male), 55-70 pounds (female)
Life Expectancy: 10-12 years
Labrador Retriever in Action
While it is hard to rank which dogs are most popular, golden retrievers are also at the top of the list.
According to the AKC, goldens are "an exuberant Scottish gundog of great beauty [that] stands among America’s most popular dog breeds" who have "an endearing love of life." Nearly every expert we spoke with listed the golden retriever as one of the friendliest dog breeds, too. "[They are] very friendly and outgoing social butterflies. Goldens seem to never quite grow up and always keep the happy-go-lucky attitude of young puppies," says Steffi Trott, a professional dog trainer with SpiritDog Training in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
As a veterinarian of 21 years, Jim D. Carlson has seen tons of great dogs and some favorite breeds, but goldens top his list. "As a dad, I would count the golden retriever as a top choice for the best family dog and friendliest patient. The golden's sweet, eager-to-please personality is topped with a remarkably easygoing nature," Carlson says. "These dogs are naturally in tune with owners, fun loving and nearly human-like in their care, concern, and compassion for children, adults, family and strangers."
Golden Retriever Breed Summary
Golden Retriever Overview
Temperament: Friendly, Intelligent, Devoted
Height: 23-24 inches (male), 21.5-22.5 inches (male)
Weight: 65-75 pounds (male), 55-65 pounds (female)
Life Expectancy: 10-12 years
Golden Retriever in Action
If you're looking for what pet experts would consider a gentle giant, then the Newfoundland could be the right dog for your family. They are so famously friendly that they are often referred to as the nanny dog. "They’ve been called 'nature’s nannies' for their innate love of children," says Sadie Cornelius of Canine Journal. "The sweet, gentle-giant Newfoundland, or Newfie as it’s commonly called, is the perfect accompaniment to families with room to romp as they tend to drool and shed — a lot — though they’re such great companions, you’ll hardly even notice."
Their large size is worth noting as the AKC says, "the massive Newfoundland is a strikingly large, powerful working dog of heavy bone and dignified bearing." A male can weigh up to 150 pounds, and female pups can weigh up to 120 pounds. But as long as you have space, these beautiful dogs are an excellent choice.
Newfoundland Breed Summary
Temperament: Sweet, Patient, Devoted
Height: 28 inches (average male), 26 inches (average female)
Weight: 130-150 pounds (male), 100-120 pounds (female)
Life Expectancy: 9-10 years
Newfie in Action
Another large dog that the folks at the Canine Journal consider one of the friendliest is the standard poodle. "They’re smart, gentle and make good playmates for children," Cornelius says. "Poodles are also hypoallergenic which makes them great for families with allergies."
Plus, they can sport some fascinating haircuts that other breeds would seemingly never tolerate. "The poodle stands proudly among dogdom’s true aristocrats. Beneath the curly, hypoallergenic coat is an elegant athlete and companion for all reasons and seasons," according to the AKC.
While the larger breed — the standard poodle — is considered a great option for families with kids, the smaller versions are less so, especially for families with young children. "Toy and miniature poodles are not usually a great fit, as they can be high-strung and nervous," Cornelius says.
Standard Poodle Breed Summary
Temperament: Active, Proud, Very Smart
Height: Over 15 inches
Weight: 60-70 pounds (male), 40-50 pounds (female)
Life Expectancy: 10-18 years
Standard Poodle in Action
If you grew up in the '90s, you'll remember falling in love with St. Bernard dogs thanks to the “Beethoven” movies. If you didn't, let’s catch you up: The Newton family gets an adorable puppy that quickly grows up to be a giant dog. They name him Beethoven, and the sweet dog gets into all kinds of adventures, including taking down a local vet who is up to no good. Like the fictionalized character, Saint Bernards are known for being big softies. They're famously watchful, patient and charming.
"These dogs were originally bred to be farm and watchdogs in the French Alps. Their use as avalanche dogs started through the concern and interest the dogs took in their masters' well-being," says Trott. "The dogs were never specifically trained to complete search and rescue operations; instead, the young dogs came along on rescues and learned from the older, experienced ones."
A St. Bernard will bring lots of love to your home, and they'll always keep a watchful eye on family members.
Saint Bernard Breed Summary
Saint Bernard Overview
Temperament: Playful, Charming, Inquisitive
Height: 28-30 inches (males), 26-28 inches (female)
Weight: 140-180 pounds (male), 120-140 pounds (female)
Life Expectancy: 8-10 years
Saint Bernards in Action
If a medium-sized dog seems like a better fit for your family's needs, you'll want to consider a whippet to see if they could be the perfect dog for your home. Whippets are also known as the "poor man’s racehorse" for their quick speed and sleek, sweet faces.
"I get to see lots of doggos, but I've fallen in love with whippets," says Marissa Rocheleau, who runs Mutt Menagerie, a doggy daycare in Fernandina Beach, Florida. "They are medium-sized, easy to groom and super friendly.”
Whippet Breed Summary
Temperament: Affectionate, Playful, Calm
Height: 19-22 inches (male), 18-21 inches (female)
Weight: 25-40 pounds
Life Expectancy: 12-15 years
Whippet in Action
The greyhound is another sleek, medium-sized dog that experts recommended for their friendly natures. "Greyhounds are excellent family dogs who have a sense of gratitude toward their families and a laidback outlook on life," says Carlson. "Greyhounds are often used in animal hospitals as blood donors for other dogs and maintain their calm personality throughout most of life's ups and downs. You can always count on a greyhound's friendliness and calm demeanor when out and about."
Despite being famous for their highly athletic nature, greyhounds are just as happy to hang out around the house and cuddle. "Greyhounds like two things: running and sleeping. Unless they have their daily 5-minute spurt of energy, you will find a greyhound mostly interested in snuggling up with you in a warm place," says Trott. "Greyhounds are very friendly with all people and very cautious with other dogs, especially little ones, as they are careful not to hurt them."
Plus, lots of retired racing greyhounds need new forever homes.
Greyhound Breed Summary
Temperament: Gentle, Independent, Noble
Height: 28-30 inches (male), 27-28 inches (female)
Weight: 65-70 pounds (male), 60-65 pounds (female)
Life Expectancy: 10-13 years
Greyhound in Action
Boxers are like that one friend you can take to any party because they are so friendly that they'll always have a great time. They were first bred to help police and military teams, according to Animal Planet. But because they're so fun and photogenic, they also starred in some of Hollywood's earliest movies. "Boxers stand out as the clowns among all dog breeds," Trott says. "They are endlessly funny, and their sense of humor is a constant source of amusement for their family and everyone around."
The medium-sized dog is silly and playful with those it knows but protective of its family, so not the friendliest pet to total strangers. That can be a bonus, though, if you're looking for a friendly dog that can also be a good guard dog. One other important thing to note: Boxers have a lot of energy, but won't necessarily play well with all types of other dogs.
Boxer Breed Summary
Temperament: Bright, Fun-Loving, Active
Height: 23-25 inches (male), 21.5-23.5 inches (female)
Weight: 65-80 pounds (male), 50-65 pounds (female)
Life Expectancy: 10-12 years
Boxer in Action
Big- and medium-sized dogs aren't the only breeds that pet experts consider to be among the friendliest. There are lots of adorable and cheerful small pups that would make a great addition to your family, too. A quick scroll through YouTube or Instagram, and you'll learn that pugs have a ton of fun. So, it isn't surprising that they're considered an amiable breed.
"They're known for being great family dogs because they're great with all ages — children, adolescents, adults and the elderly," says Candy Pilar Godoy, who pens the popular blog Boogie The Pug. "They were bred to be lap dogs for royalty, and they often prefer humans to other dogs. In fact, they're known as ‘velcro pugs’ because they stick to their human like velcro, becoming your shadow and best friend."
Plus, their wrinkly little faces are beyond cute.
Pug Breed Summary
Temperament: Charming, Mischievous, Loving
Height: 10-13 inches
Weight: 14-18 pounds
Life Expectancy: 13-15 years
Pug in Action
Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
While the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is currently in the top 20 rankings for most popular dog breeds in America, the pup has always been beloved in the United Kingdom. Mary, Queen of Scots, owned one of the most famous Cavalier King Charles, who was found under her skirts at the moment she was beheaded. Needless to say, the small doggos are quite loyal and are known for being affectionate, gentle and graceful.
"These small dogs are easygoing and make great pets for seniors or families with older children," says Morgan. "They love to sit close to their people. My sister loves the breed so much that she has had up to eight of them at one time."
Their large, round eyes and regal grace make them part of "dogdom’s noblemen," notes the AKC. "They just want to be with their people and enjoy meeting new people,” adds Morgan. “They tend to be easygoing with strangers and make good companions."
Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Breed Summary
Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Overview
Temperament: Affectionate, Gentle, Graceful
Height: 12-13 inches
Weight: 13-18 pounds
Life Expectancy: 12-15 years
Cavalier King Charles Spaniel in Action
Another friendly pup that traces its origins to the United Kingdom is the bulldog. It's hard to mistake the small, stocky breed for anything else because they have such distinctive faces, featuring furrowed brows and pushed-in noses.
"These tough guys can take a lot. A bulldog is sturdy enough to handle whatever your kids may throw their way, but they’re also low on the energy scale and perfect for lightly active households," Cornelius says. "Tolerant and sweet, bulldogs live well in both small and large homes making them very versatile mates."
In addition to being friendly, they're famous for being loyal. Whether you live in the city or the country, a bulldog will happily follow its human wherever. The AKC has this last bit of advice for those considering a bulldog: "Don’t mistake their easygoing ways for laziness — bulldogs enjoy brisk walks and need regular moderate exercise, along with a careful diet, to stay trim."
Bulldog Breed Summary
Temperament: Friendly, Courageous, Calm
Height: 14-15 inches
Weight: 50 pounds (male), 40 pounds (female)
Life Expectancy: 8-10 years
Bulldog in Action
Pembroke Welsh Corgi
Corgis are famous for being the chosen dog of Queen Elizabeth. You can even find many adorable videos of her and her dogs on social media.
But some pet experts recommended the breed to us commoners as well. "I have been a Pembroke Welsh Corgi lover and guardian for more than 35 years," says Morgan. "While these dogs are not the best for very small children, they are herding dogs and therefore love to follow family members around the house, love to go on family outings and are a smaller size, which can make for easier care."
Plus, did we mention how cute they are? They're smart doggos, too. "Like many herding breeds, they are intelligent and highly trainable to learn tricks that will amuse older children. Herding breeds are dogs that have been bred to work with people and take direction from people, so they pay close attention to the people in their lives," Morgan adds. "Corgis are also very friendly, and all of mine have been great therapy dogs, working with seniors in nursing homes and people who have cancer.”
Pembroke Welsh Corgi Breed Summary
Temperament: Affectionate, Smart, Alert
Height: 10-12 inches
Weight: Up to 30 pounds (male), up to 28 pounds (female)
Life Expectancy: 12-13 years
Pembroke Welsh Corgi in Action
Smaller dogs can get a bad rap, but one of the most famous breeds is known for its friendliness: the Shih Tzu. The tiny pups were bred in China and are sometimes referred to as Chrysanthemum dogs or Chinese lion dogs.
"The Shih Tzu is notorious for its flat face and long hair. However, it should also be known for its ability to be happy anywhere, its long lifespan (11 to 16 years) and its ability to get along with everyone, especially the elderly," say the puppy experts at PuppySpot, which places puppies in happy homes. "Being cute is a way of life for this lively charmer.”
Shih Tzu Breed Summary
Shih Tzu Overview
Temperament: Affectionate, Playful, Outgoing
Height: 9-10.5 inches
Weight: 9-16 pounds
Life Expectancy: 10-18 years
Shih Tzus in Action
If your family is looking for a dog with an upbeat attitude who loves fun, then consider the Brittany breed. "Looking to up your exercise? This beautiful, high-energy furry friend could be good motivation to get out and get moving," says Nikki Wardle of Intermountain Pet Hospital in Meridian, Idaho. "Ideal for a family that wants to spend a good amount of time outdoors, Brittanys don't require much grooming and are a snap to train."
But make sure you are ready to keep up with these pups. The AKC describes these doggos as agile and energetic. "Bright and eager at home, and tireless afield, Brittanys require a lot of exercise, preferably with their favorite humans," according to the AKC.
Brittany Breed Summary
Temperament: Bright, Fun-Loving, Upbeat
Height: 17.5-20.5 inches
Weight: 30-40 pounds
Life Expectancy: 12-14 years
Brittany in Action
The cockapoo, aka the cockapoodle, was one of the first designer dogs dreamed up as a mixed breed. They are part cocker spaniel, part poodle and all charm. "If there was ever a mixed breed to steal the show, it’s the cockapoo," says Colleen Stinchcombe of Rover, which matches humans with the nation’s largest network of pet sitters and dog walkers.
"Although it wasn’t the first doodle breed, the cocker spaniel/poodle mix is certainly one of the most popular and for good reason — they’re fabulous pets," Stinchcombe says. "It’s hard to know exactly where certain traits in dogs come from, but for whatever reason, this mix tends to create some of the friendliest dogs on the planet — and they have some of the best smiles, too."
They are a small breed and only grow to be about 20 pounds, but they have an endless amount of love for their humans. "This is a dog that will happily greet you at the door, eagerly follow you around a room and happily curl up next to you on the couch or directly on your lap. Wherever you go, the cockapoo will follow," Stinchcombe adds. "It’s this friendly, sociable personality that makes these dogs excellent therapy dogs [and] great for people who can be a bit nervous around dogs."
Cockapoo Breed Summary
Temperament: Outgoing, Loving, Active
Height: 10-15 inches
Weight: 12-24 pounds
Life Expectancy: 14-18 years
Cockapoo in Action
While we've listed several breeds that are known for their friendly nature, plenty of mutts can be just as lovely — especially since mutts are often a mix of several affectionate breeds. "One stellar quality of many mutts is that their mix of breeds often makes them less extreme in any one characteristic or breeding line as some purebred dogs, which can often make for a more balanced temperament," Cornelius says.
In addition to friendliness, the best part about mutts is they’re usually easy to find at shelters and come in every shape and size. Plus, they are likely slightly older, which means you'll have a good idea of what to expect from the dog.
Kristi Benson, a dog trainer with the Academy for Dog Trainers, also recommends considering a super mutt, a mixed breed dog that has characteristics of more than three types of breeds. "The closest thing to a guarantee that a dog will be friendly is to find an adult dog who is known to be friendly in the dimensions that are important for your family. Does your new dog need to be friendly with kids? Find a kid-friendly super mutt! What about friendly with dogs? Find a dog-friendly, social-butterfly super mutt," Benson says.
"Once dogs are socially mature, which happens between the ages of about one to three years, they are 'what you see is what you get,'" Benson adds. "A three-year-old dog who is friendly to kids is very likely to stay friendly to kids, so this is an opportunity to avoid (as much as is possible with living, breathing animals) the element of chance that always exists when acquiring a younger dog."
Invest Time in Training
There are so many kinds of dogs out there that this list should not hold your family back from adopting a great dog. Several of the animal experts we spoke with mentioned how dog breeds who aren't as famous for friendliness can be just as loving and outgoing. "The one huge point I would like to make as the executive director of an animal rescue is that any breed can be friendly or become not so friendly, especially without very critical socialization," says Jamie Thomas of Motley Zoo Animal Rescue.
"Many times people spend so much time researching breeds when what they should be researching is how to ensure any dog grows up to be socialized and well trained," Thomas adds. "Working your dog through the fear-impact periods is one of the most important things you can do for your dog."
Your Pup's First Year Is Special
The fear-impact periods are part of your dog's journey from pup to full-grown doggo. Just like kids, the first year of your dog's life is incredibly essential and involves various milestones. Pet experts agree that working with your pup during the stages can help them become friendly and well-socialized dogs. "Lack of socialization in very loving, well-intended homes is one of the biggest reasons we see dogs surrendered to us," Thomas says.
Everyone Thinks They Have the Best Dog!
While the breed of the dog will give you somewhere to start, it's important to remember that love, training and socialization will play a massive role in ensuring your puppy grows up to be a friendly dog.
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