Welcome to our informative guide about how to choose the best companion dogs.
As the world’s first domesticated animal, dogs have been kept by humans for thousands of years, enjoying a unique bond.
The best companion dogs are those that adore the company of people and love nothing better than being by their owner’s side.
But finding the right companion dog is not easy because everyone has different personalities, lifestyles and needs so it is essential that you do your research.
When searching for the best companion dogs, you not only need to consider if the breed you want is suitable for your way of life and requirements but what you can offer in return so the dog is happy too.
Below, we examine some of the best companion dog breeds and their characteristics to help you choose which one is right for you.
What Is a Companion Dog?
A companion dog is a domestic pet who provides companionship and does not carry out a specific task such as hunting, guarding or being a service dog.
Although many toy dogs are bred specially for human company, the best companion dogs can be any number of breeds that possess friendly, loving and loyal natures around people.
Research has proven many times that owning and petting a dog is good for your health and linked to lowering stress and blood pressure levels. Owners are also less likely to suffer from depression.
Let’s look at some of the best companion dogs for different lifestyles.
Best Companion Dogs for Families
If you have decided to bring a companion dog into your family home, you must choose wisely.
The ages of your children are an essential factor.
Toddlers may be rough with small companion dogs, and risk either being nipped or hurting the animals. However, a large dog could easily knock a small child over. It is vital that young children and dogs are always supervised by an adult.
When searching for the ideal family companion dog, you should look for a breed that has a kind, patient and tolerant nature. The dog should also be known to be good with children, along with its energy levels and exercise requirements.
Golden retrievers, originally bred to assist in hunting sessions by retrieving, make great companion dogs for families because they are gentle and will tolerate hair pulling from small children. They love to please and are easy to train.
This popular breed has plenty of energy, requiring lots of daily exercise. These medium sized companion dogs are ideal for active families with older children who love the outdoors.
Their coats require daily brushing to remove loose hair. They shed all year round so there will more than likely always be hair around the house.
The golden retriever has a life span of 10 to 13 years and is generally healthy, but many have a high chance of getting cancer. They are also prone to hip and elbow dysplasia and eye disorders.
The stunning Irish setter was bred to assist hunters by sniffing out prey and pointing. This docile breed is one of the best companion dogs for families because they adore the company of people and get along well with other pets.
These sweet-natured dogs are patient and gentle with small children, but they could knock one over due to their exuberant personalities. They are playful and energetic, making them ideal for active families with older children who have the time to exercise and play with them.
The Irish setter does not like being left alone for very long so they are best suited in a household where someone is at home for much of the day. Their coats require regular brushing, and they are moderate shedders.
The Irish setter is a healthy breed and can live up to 15 years old but is prone to progressive retinal atrophy and hip dysplasia.
One of the best medium sized companion dogs for families is the basset hound, who was initially bred as a scent hound to track small game. This dog comfortably fits into any living space.
The loveable, short-legged dog with long floppy ears is one of the friendliest and kind-natured breeds around. He gets along well with children and other pets.
For families that are not particularly active, the slow-moving and lazy basset hound is ideal because he requires only moderate exercise, although you need to make sure he doesn’t become overweight.
This former pack dog is quite difficult to train, requiring patience and consistency. They are also renowned droolers. They need regular brushing and are moderate, all-year-round shedders.
Basset hounds live between 10 to 14 years and are prone to hereditary conditions such as glaucoma, von Willebrand’s disease and intervertebral disc disease due to their long spines.
Best Companion Dogs for Singles
There are many people who love the single life because you can do what you want when you want, but it can sometimes get lonely.
A companion dog makes a great partner for unattached people, and there is nothing better than coming home and your beloved pooch greeting you at the door.
However, you need to consider your accommodations and lifestyle, especially if you work long hours or are out much of the time.
The miniature schnauzer was originally bred as ratters and general farm dogs. Affectionate and fun-loving, the mini schnauzer is very much a one-person dog, making them ideal small companion dogs for singles.
Minis are incredibly intelligent, easy to train and will tolerate being home alone as long as you leave toys to keep them occupied. Otherwise they may annoy the neighbors with their barking.
They make excellent watchdogs and, as low shedders, their coat requires little maintenance but should be clipped every couple of months.
Minis require at least one walk a day for approximately 30 minutes and the chance of a good run sometimes.
This small breed can live up to 15 years old but is prone to certain health issues, including eye diseases, skin problems, epilepsy and urinary stones.
Originally bred for hunting, the greyhound is more commonly known as a racing dog. Loving, gentle and affectionate, these fast dogs are renowned as couch potatoes.
The greyhound has a quiet disposition and is non-aggressive, choosing to walk away from a situation rather than bite or growl. They prefer a calm household, gentle handling and are fine in an apartment if they have enough exercise.
Greyhounds are one of the top companion dogs for busy singles. Their short coat is low maintenance, and they can be left home alone for extended periods as long as you build it up gradually. Surprisingly, two 20-minute walks a day is enough exercise for this pup, along with the occasional run in a safe area.
This kind-natured breed lives between 10 and 13 years and is generally healthy but prone to gastric torsion, otherwise known as bloat. They do feel the cold due to their thin skin and low body fat, so you should provide a coat to ensure he stays warm when going outside during winter.
The adorable Maltese toy has a long history as a companion dog, often for royal ladies. This breed loves company, greeting everyone they meet, be it human or animal, as a long-lost friend.
The Maltese is a playful dog with a fun and happy-go-lucky personality who adores being with her owners. They’re also true lap dogs.
Their long, white silky coat needs daily brushing, but regular clipping makes it easier to maintain. As they do not have an undercoat, this cute breed rarely sheds hair.
The Maltese is ideal for apartment living and requires no more than 30 minutes exercise a day. They can be left home alone because they spend most of their day sleeping, although a pet cat is ideal for keeping them company if you work long hours.
This toy breed lives between 12 to 15 years. They are generally healthy but are prone more than any other breed to white shaker dog syndrome, as well as deafness and hypoglycaemia.
Best Companion Dogs for Seniors
Studies have repeatedly found that companion dogs for seniors have significant benefits to their physical, mental and emotional health. Companion dogs can lower the risk of depression that loneliness can bring along. Other perks include reducing the chances of heart disease or a stroke.
By owning a companion dog, seniors are provided with a good form of exercise when walking their pup, allowing for possible socialization opportunities as well as daily companionship.
Small companion dogs are ideal for those in their golden years because they are easier to handle compared to large dogs. Most only require moderate exercise and are low maintenance.
The little Yorkshire terrier (also called a Yorkie) was developed to catch rats in the cotton mills during 19th century England before becoming a renowned lap dog. Despite their small size, they have an adventurous streak and love to check things out.
The Yorkie makes an excellent companion dog for the elderly because they are easy to carry and do not require much space. They are a breed that oozes personality, providing entertainment, love and companionship. They also always want to please their owners.
The Yorkshire terrier’s long coat is much like human hair and requires daily brushing. If trimmed, it’s easier to manage. They do not shed so there is no hair to clean up.
Care is needed if grandchildren come to visit, especially toddlers who could easily hurt the dainty Yorkie.
The Yorkie lives between 13 to 16 years, with many going on for much longer. They are a healthy breed. However, due to their fragile bones, they are prone to fractures as well as patellar luxation, portosystemic shunt and collapsed trachea.
The bichon frise was bred as a lap dog and is one of the best companion dogs for seniors due to their small size, cheerful personality and moderate exercise requirements.
This cute but intelligent dog is easy to train and can learn to do tricks. However, they are difficult to house train and suffer from separation anxiety if left alone for several hours.
The bichon’s white fluffy coat requires daily combing and brushing, but regular clipping makes it easier to maintain. They are a double-coated breed so they do not shed.
They get along well with children. Due to their robust size, they are not likely to get injured. However, care must be taken with toddlers because bichons can snap at them.
The bichon lives between 12 to 15 years but is prone to some severe health conditions such as hyperadrenocorticism, as well as orthopaedic issues and allergies.
The Best Companion Dogs
No one breed can be considered the perfect companion dog because everybody’s needs are different.
Many breeds of dogs make great companions, but you need to study each one’s characteristics to see if they are suitable for your lifestyle.
If you take your time and do your research carefully, you will a companion dog you won’t regret.
References and Further Reading:
Beck, A.M. and Meyers, N.M., 1996, “Health Enhancement and Companion Animal Ownership,” School of Veterinary Medicine, Purdue University, Annual Reviews, Vol. 17, pgs. 247-257
Motooka, M., et al., 2006, “Effect of Dog-Walking on Autonomic Nervous Activity in Senior Citizens,” The Medical Journal of Australia, Vol. 184, Issue 2, pgs. 60-63
O’Haire, M., 2010, “Companion Animals and Human Health: Benefits, Challenges, and the Road Ahead,” Journal of Veterinary Behavior: Clinical Applications and Research, Vol. 5, Issue 5, pgs. 226-234
The Labrador Site Founder
Pippa Mattinson is the best selling author of The Happy Puppy Handbook, the Labrador Handbook, Choosing The Perfect Puppy, and Total Recall.
She is also the founder of the Gundog Trust and the Dogsnet Online Training Program
Pippa's online training courses were launched in 2019 and you can find the latest course dates on the Dogsnet website