If you are looking for a puppy or dog to add to your family, you may be giving some thought as to what breed you would like to choose. One of the factors you might be considering is how friendly the breeds are; especially if you have small children at home. So, can we choose a breed that’s likely to be friendly? 

What does “friendly” mean?

Part of the answer to this question depends on what you mean by “friendly”. More specifically – friendly to whom? 

For example, breeds that were originally created to be guard dogs are likely to be friendly with their own family, but unfriendly towards visitors or strangers. This would include breeds like German Shepherds (Alsatians), Akitas, Dobermanns, and Rottweilers. However, sometimes these dogs may also be unfriendly towards certain family members, too.

Other kinds of selective breeding may also influence how “friendly” our dogs appear. For example, herding breeds (Collies, Corgis, Sheepdogs, Heelers, and so on) were often taught to nip at the heels of the animals that they were herding. And so they may be more likely to snap than other kinds of dogs. Even if they generally have a friendly demeanour. 

Are some dog breeds friendlier than others?

Some dogs have been bred specifically to be companions for humans. And so friendliness to all humans has been seen as a desirable trait. Many of these started out as working dog breeds, but their purpose has changed over time. These include Labradors, Golden Retrievers, Yorkshire Terriers, Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, and Poodles of all sizes. 

Many of the trendy “designer crossbreeds” will mix two of these companion breeds, aiming to replicate their generally friendly nature. This would include Labradoodles, Golden Doodles, Cavapoos and Yorkipoos. 

Companion breeds with extreme physical characteristics are less likely to have been bred purely for temperament, as breeders must focus on producing the desired look rather than good behaviour. This would include brachycephalic (flat-faced) dogs such as Bulldogs (English, French or American), Pugs, or Boston Terriers, as well as chondrodysplastic dogs like Dachshunds or Bassets. Rare breeds may suffer from similar issues, as the small gene pool means that breeders must make decisions based on how closely related the dogs are, rather than on their temperament. 

However, don’t think that breed is the only factor

Breeding alone does not determine how friendly a puppy will be when it grows up. A large amount of the way a dog behaves is down to how they were brought up. Not what breed they were.

How can I choose a friendly puppy?

If you are planning to get a new puppy, then there are several important things to think about

Choosing the right breed is important 

Not only for behaviour, but for your home, lifestyle, and experience level. For example, large dogs and working breeds need lots of exercise and stimulation, or they can become bored and develop behavioural problems. Guard dog breeds need an experienced owner to train them correctly, or they can become unfriendly and difficult to handle. They are not a good choice for a first pet. 

Selecting the right breeder is also important 

Choose one who breeds dogs purely as pets, rather than one who breeds working dogs, as these may be less suited to being companions. Puppies should not leave their mother and siblings before 8 weeks of age, as they learn valuable social skills with other dogs. So do not choose a breeder who tries to rehome them before this stage. 

Make sure the puppies are growing up in a home environment

So not ones from kennels or a barn, and make sure that they are used to meeting new people. There is a critical period for puppies between the ages of 3 weeks and 12-16 weeks where they learn to understand the world around them – what is normal, and what they should be afraid of. A puppy’s experiences during this time will generally shape their behaviour (including how friendly they are) more strongly than their breed. 

Once the puppy is home with you, then you need to continue to socialise them

Initially this should be at home, but once their vaccinations are all done, it is important to get them out and about as soon as possible. Introduce them to lots of different people, and also to other dogs who you know are well-behaved and friendly. This will give your puppy the best positive social experiences and help them to develop into a friendly adult dog. 

How can I choose a friendly adult dog?

If you are rescuing an adult dog, then ideally you should do this through a reputable charity. They should be able to do a behavioural assessment of the dog, and let you know how friendly they are with humans, and with other dogs. 

If you are rehoming a dog from a friend, be sure to meet the dog several times, in several different locations and situations. This is so you can get an idea of how the dog behaves. If you are unsure, speak to a qualified animal behaviourist for advice before agreeing to rehome a dog. 


Friendliness in dogs is partly down to breed, but much more about how they are brought up, especially in the first three to four months of life. Choosing a particular breed cannot guarantee that a dog will be friendly, and you must always invest the time and energy in proper training. If your dog is anxious or aggressive around other humans or dogs, then speak to a qualified animal behaviourist for advice.

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