All dogs bring great joy to your life, but the friendliest dog breeds can be more affectionate and outgoing than others. While some of our four-legged companions, such as the Chow Chow and Shiba Inu can be aloof and feisty, friendly mutts tend to be easy-going and mild-mannered – perfect if you're a first-time owner or have a young family.
Some dogs are just naturally programmed to adore people and, in many cases, other animals too. Behavioral differences are related to the development of a dog's nervous system, according to scientists at the National Institutes of Health in a study published in Cell, and there are 10 genetically distinct lineages with similar traits.
In this list, we take a look at dogs who will easily transition into new homes, enjoy cuddles and be attentive to strangers. Among them are the best dogs for kids and some of the most popular small dog breeds (although size isn't actually an indicator of friendliness – there are obedient large dog breeds too).
Of course, you still need to train dogs, even if they are inherently friendly. After all, the best service dog breeds, which excel at caring for humans need guidance as well! But, with care and attention (and access to the best dog toys to ensure your pet is mentally and physically stimulated), you're going to find yourself showered with love with this little lot.
- Best service dog breeds: Which canines excel at caring for humans?
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- Best dog food: Make sure your faithful friend gets the best diet possible
- Best dog toys: Six options to keep your pet pooch amused
PetsRadar’s guide to the friendliest dog breeds
1. Golden Retriever
With their gentle demeanor and calming energy, Golden Retrievers are a wonderful pet to add to the family. Naturally, they made this list, as the Golden is usually one of the first dogs you think of when considering the friendliest dog breeds. As a breed, they're generally excellent with kids and are well-known for being particularly loyal, big-hearted, and sweet.
These cuddly canines were bred to work with people and are always eager to please their owner, whether they're acting as a guide dog, a hunting dog, or used in therapy.
With their adorable faces and wide grins, you can't help but smile when you see a Pug. These friendly dogs love people, cuddles, and affection, and can be hilariously mischievous. Pugs will certainly keep you entertained, as they're playful, cheerful, and affectionate. They make excellent companions and often love meeting new people.
3. Border Collie
Loyal and eager to learn, the Border Collie loves being around people. Naturally, this makes them excellent working dogs and are best-known for their work on the farm herding sheep - but Border Collies are also incredibly affectionate dogs that fit in very well with families. Alert and graceful, with a high stamina, these cheerful canines are full of boundless energy that loves greeting new people.
Thanks to their kind and loving nature, cute appearance, and high intelligence, the Labradoodle makes a great addition to the family. They're relatively easy to train and are both super cuddly and delightfully friendly to all who come into contact with them. Just be sure you have plenty of space outside to let them roam. Labradoodles have plenty of energy and need at least an hour or two of exercise per day.
Anyone who's ever seen or read 101 Dalmatians is sure to immediately fall in love with these lovable spotty dogs. A Dalmatian is typically loyal and highly energetic. They're generally very good with kids and are usually friendly to people - just beware of their strength and size as their natural energy and enthusiasm can be difficult to reign in! They may not be a great fit for very young children.
6. French Bulldog
The French Bulldog is a playful and energetic breed with a hugely lovable personality, in an adorable miniature size (which makes them great for any size home). These affectionate canines are generally welcoming to strangers invited into your home; they love people and are great with children. They are good around other pets, too, especially if they've been exposed to them from a very young age – good socialization as a puppy is therefore key.
With their super fluffy coat and mischievous grin, who can resist the charm of the Pomeranian? Fortunately, these adorable little dogs love to receive all the attention they get for their distinctive appearance. You can easily greet and pat a Pomeranian with no trouble at all; their curious minds are often eager to explore what's going on around them. They’re lively, perky, and adore making their humans laugh, so they make the perfect furry family friend for those in search of a spirited companion.
8. Great Dane
Don't be fooled by their large appearance, these canines are the gentle giants of the dog world. Great Danes are affectionate, loving, sweet, and adore people. They are indoor dogs - contrary to their appearance, the Great Dane is typically a pretty laid-back dog. Not much ruffles the fur of this calm and placid pooch, making him suitable for a wide range of living situations. They love being part of the family and are both friendly and patient with both adults and children. Great Danes make great companions - just be careful not to be accidentally bowled over by these impressively sized canines!
9. Bichon Frise
The Bichon Frise has a sweet and loving nature that makes them wonderful family pets. Their cotton-like fur makes them ideal cuddle companions and their loving temperament means they're more than willing to accept them.
One of the friendliest dog breeds that are also easy to train and highly adaptable, this breed does, however, require regular professional grooming to keep them looking stylish.
With their gentle spirit and friendly demeanor, they're sure to relish the attention given to them, whether it be from within the family or outside of it.
10. Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
Gentle yet playful, the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is renowned for its easygoing nature and friendly smile.
Essentially a miniature spaniel, this adorable pup is one of the sweetest dogs around. You'll often see them obediently trotting behind their owner loving every moment of life, showing kindness and compliance to every human and pooch they meet and greet in the park.
Have you ever seen an aggressive Poodle? Neither have we, and it seems that we're not the only ones.
As well as being incredibly intelligent, they're loyal and easy to train, making short work out of learning commands and tricks if given the correct instructions.
The aforementioned loyalty ties in with their inherent friendliness, as this allows them to quickly and easily create bonds with family members that last for a lifetime. Even with strangers they may bark occasionally, but are seldom anything approaching aggressive.
Newfoundland dogs are absolutely huge – they can grow in size from anywhere from 100 to 150 pounds – but don't let this put you off. While a dog of their size unsurprisingly requires special care and a good about of space in which to go out, they really are gentle giants; they aren't known as 'nanny dogs' for no reason.
They have previously been used as water rescue dogs, and this capacity for safeguarding life manifests itself in their behavior towards people. While they are protective of their owners – they are known to physically place themselves between their owners and strangers – they are incredibly gentle, especially towards children.
Housing such a huge dog is a big ask, but it's worth it for the love that they will bring to your household.
Having been bred to live in packs, it is therefore no surprise that Beagles are a very friendly breed, having been brought up to live in peace with other dogs. Beagles will likely be relatively easy to introduce to members of your household, such as children, cats, and other dogs.
If done correctly, they will see their new housemates as part of their pack, and treat them accordingly. They’re very sociable and energetic, hate being left by themselves and require regular exercise but they always prove themselves a brilliant house guest by being incredibly rewarding and friendly pets.
Boxers may seem intimidating due to their size, but in reality they are one of the friendliest dog breeds around. They’re incredibly enthusiastic and boisterous dogs, love being around humans, and are very loyal to family members.
Like many other dogs on this list, they require a lot of exercise, and don’t like being left by themselves, so you should make sure that your household is geared towards looking after a big dog. Even so, their stature shouldn’t be used as a deciding factor when looking for a dog; they’ll always be gigantic puppies in our eyes.
15. Irish Setter
Irish Setters are instantly recognizable by the seemingly permanent grin attach to their faces, and as one of the friendliest dog breeds around, they’ll give you plenty to smile about.
While they can be a handful at times, and require a good amount of training, they are incredibly sociable, loving to be around other pets, and hating being left alone. While their boisterousness can sometimes prove to be an obstacle, it’s never malicious, meaning they are perfectly safe to be included as members of a young family. In short, there’s a lot to be said in favor of getting an Irish Setter.
16. Boston Terrier
Requiring regular exercise and thriving off human contact, Boston Terriers are the archetypical people’s dog, and it’s a reputation they’ve well and truly earned over the years. They’re pretty easy-going – belying their early 19th century origins as a fighting dog – and their compact size makes them easy to travel with. Even so, they get bored easily, so will need plenty of attention and stimulation.
Handily, they’re also very adaptable to different situations, so are great with new people or when being introduced to different environments. Sometimes their friendliness can manifest itself in the form of over-excitement, but with that smile on their face, you’ll forgive them pretty quickly.
A gentle soul, a Havanese dog will be your best friend from the day you meet them. Renowned for following their owners from room to room due to their dislike of being alone, they are incredibly affectionate and mild mannered, not tending to bark very often.
Their incredibly laid-back demeanor makes them particularly popular with those who live in busy towns and cities, as they will readily adapt to whatever environment they’re put in, just as long as there are people present. Originally bred as watch dogs, they’ll bring this dedication to whatever family they’re dwelling with.
18. Shih Tzu
The Shih Tzu can sometimes be thought of as an angry little dog, but it’s a reputation that has been unfairly earned, as they have a lot of love to give.
In reality, they’re calm and even-tempered, although if you have a young family then you might want to be careful: they can be nervous around young children who are a bit hands-on, and may perceive them as a threat. But as long as you show them the requisite level of respect, you will find them to be lovable and loyal pets who you won’t be able to imagine your life without.
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Ashleigh is Digital Editor on PetsRadar. With over 8 years of experience in print and digital media, she has acted as an editorial lead on a variety of projects, with animal themes a keen interest. As an avid animal lover, you can often find Ashleigh checking out the newest trends in animal care or looking at cute cat videos on TikTok.