Companion dogs take the whole “man’s best friend” notion to a whole new level. These dogs are generally happiest when they’re with their human pack. While some breeds are born to work jobs such as herding livestock or guarding property, companion dogs typically love to sit by you and be engaged in whatever activity you’re doing. They tend to be eager to please, friendly, and exceptionally loving. Here are 13 dog breeds that make excellent companion dogs.
Many of the most popular companion-dog breeds are part of the American Kennel Club toy group. But breeds from the sporting, hound, and terrier groups are represented as well. They include some of the largest and smallest dog breeds as well as dogs of varying energy levels to allow you to find the right companion for your lifestyle.
While certain breeds are known for being friendly and eager to please, all dogs still need ample training and socialization to make them suitable companions. Plus, it’s important to remember that individual personalities within a breed can widely differ.
With a lively expression and alert ears, the papillon is always on the lookout for fun. These small companion dogs were a favorite of European royalty and are also beloved by children for their playful nature. Considered a toy spaniel, the papillon is petite in size. But it is still quite energetic and intelligent, requiring a fair amount of daily exercise and mental stimulation.
- Height: 8 to 11 inches
- Weight: 6 to 10 pounds
- Physical Characteristics: Long, straight coat with feathering; white with markings in red, sable, black, or lemon; prominent ears
Chihuahuas tend to develop a strong bond with their owners and enjoy spending time with them, especially curled up in their laps. They have relatively low energy and adapt to life in a house or an apartment equally well. But, ever alert, they will sound the alarm if they see unfamiliar people or animals on their turf. Be sure to socialize this breed from an early age to help develop a friendly demeanor as the dog can be wary of strangers.
- Height: 5 to 8 inches
- Weight: Up to 6 pounds
- Physical Characteristics: Prominent ears and alert expression; short or long coat in many different colors, including black, white, fawn, blue, and more
Easygoing and friendly, the French bulldog makes an ideal companion. Popular with apartment dwellers, the Frenchie doesn’t require a big yard or room to roam. Of course, it will benefit from one or two solid walks each day, but the breed is otherwise known to be calm and relaxed. Anyone looking for an affectionate companion dog will enjoy this petite bulldog’s even-tempered personality.
- Height: 11 to 13 inches
- Weight: 19 to 28 pounds
- Physical Characteristics: Compact with a large head and short snout; ears stand erect; smooth coat in a number of solid colors or brindle
Sweet-tempered and affectionate, the golden retriever has never known a stranger. This companion dog is suited for those who want an extremely friendly, easygoing, and eager-to-please canine. The golden retriever’s pleasant disposition and attentiveness to human needs also make it an ideal choice for a service dog or therapy work.
- Height: 23 to 24 inches (male); 21.5 to 22.5 inches (female)
- Weight: 65 to 75 pounds (male); 55 to 65 pounds (female)
- Physical Characteristics: Large head with expressive eyes; coat is medium length and ranges in shades from light golden to red
Believed to have originated in Tibet, these toy dogs became a favorite companion of Chinese emperors. They would sound the alarm when potential intruders approached. Other than that, the Shih Tzu’s chief occupation seems to have been a lap warmer. Today, the Shih Tzu thrives when it can spend time with its human companions. The breed tends to have a calm disposition, making it adaptable to life in an apartment or a house.
- Height: 8 to 11 inches
- Weight: 9 to 16 pounds
- Physical Characteristics: Petite but sturdy; round face with short snout; long double coat in many different colors
If you’re looking for a big dog that makes a great companion, the Irish wolfhound is a calm and loyal canine. This supersized dog breed has a heart to match. The breed is known for being an excellent family dog that is attentive and loyal. Just be sure to give these dogs a long walk each day and room to stretch their legs. Otherwise, they’re generally happy to lounge with their owners and are friendly to familiar faces and strangers alike.
- Height: 30 to 32 inches
- Weight: 120+ pounds (male); 100+ pounds (female)
- Physical Characteristics: Tall and lanky; wiry double coat in black, gray, white, brindle, and more
American Staffordshire Terrier
American Staffordshire terriers look like they’re perpetually smiling, which matches their happy, goofy personalities. Despite their medium size, they’ll often be found trying to sit in someone’s lap. These dogs love to cuddle, but they also need plenty of exercise and mental stimulation. They’re an ideal companion dog for those who want a jogging, hiking, or biking partner.
- Height: 17 to 19 inches
- Weight: 40 to 70 pounds
- Physical Characteristics: Muscular build; square head; short, smooth coat in many different colors
The unmistakable mug of a pug is sure to bring a smile to your face. These small dogs were originally bred to be friendly companions, and they continue in that role today. They love to be by their human’s side and preferably in that person’s lap. Pugs are generally easygoing dogs that don’t need much space. But they do need some solid physical and mental exercise each day to prevent boredom and keep them healthy.
- Height: 10 to 13 inches
- Weight: 14 to 18 pounds
- Physical Characteristics: Square body with some wrinkles; short legs and smooshed face; short, smooth coat in colors including black and fawn
German Shorthaired Pointer
While German shorthaired pointers are not your typical little lap dog, they do make great companion dogs for those who want a running, hiking, or hunting partner. They also excel in just about any canine sporting event, so they’re a great choice if you’re looking to get into agility, fly ball, dock diving, and more. They’re known for being friendly, energetic, and affectionate and were bred not only for their hunting abilities but their willingness to cooperate with people.
- Height: 23 to 25 inches (male); 21 to 23 inches (female)
- Weight: 55 to 70 pounds (male); 45 to 60 pounds (female)
- Physical Characteristics: Athletic build; long legs; short coat in solid liver or liver and white
From the Mediterranean comes the dainty Maltese, a popular companion dog breed for centuries. It’s believed that women of Roman nobility would often tuck one of these dogs into their dresses. Today, the Maltese still loves to be cuddled and carried. These dogs are alert and will bark at intruders. But, otherwise, they are generally very sweet and even-tempered little dogs.
- Height: 8 to 10 inches
- Weight: 4 to 7 pounds
- Physical Characteristics: Petite body; solid white fur that is long and silky; dark, alert eyes; black nose
Sometimes called “Velcro dogs,” dachshunds often become very attached to their humans. Originally bred to hunt small game, today’s dachshunds are better known for burrowing deep under a blanket than into a rabbit hole. Available in both standard and miniature sizes, the dachshund has an animated personality and loves to keep watch for intruders on its turf. It also will often follow its favorite person from room to room and can’t wait for them to sit down and snuggle.
- Height: 8 to 9 inches (standard); 5 to 6 inches (miniature)
- Weight: 16 to 32 pounds (standard); up to 11 pounds (miniature)
- Physical Characteristics: Long body with short legs; coat varieties include smooth (shorthaired), longhaired, and wire-haired in many different colors with various markings, including dapple and brindle
Intelligent, friendly, and versatile, the poodle is one of the most recognizable dog breeds. All three sizes of poodle—standard, miniature, and toy—make excellent companion dogs. They all are fairly energetic, with the standard poodle needing more exercise than its smaller counterparts. Thus, the larger poodles typically make better companions for people who lead active lifestyles while the smaller poodles tend to be a great fit for those who enjoy taking strolls around the neighborhood.
- Height: Standard: 15 inches; miniature: 10 to 15 inches; toy: 10 inches and under
- Weight: Standard: 45 to 70 pounds; miniature: 15 to 18 pounds; toy: 5 to 9 pounds
- Physical Characteristics: Curly coat in many different colors; alert expression; fluffy ears
The Boston terrier is a friendly and adaptable companion dog. These little dogs are well suited to city life in apartments or condos, as they don’t need much space to get their energy out and tend to be easygoing even when there’s commotion around them. With a couple of walks and some playtime each day, they’ll be ready to cuddle up on the couch with you.
- Height: 15 to 17 inches
- Weight 12 to 25 pounds
- Physical Characteristics: Compact but sturdy build; round face; upright ears; smooth coat in solid colors or accented with white
Breeds to Avoid
Some dog breeds are independent and aloof by nature. While they still make great pets, they might not give you the cuddly companionship you’re looking for. Examples of such breeds include the Shiba Inu, Akita, and chow chow.