13 Breeds That Make Excellent Companion Dogs

These breeds have all the credentials to be man's best friend

Pug lying in meadow with dandelions, Sweden, Europe
Alf Jönsson / Getty Images

If dogs are man’s best friend, then companion dogs take the meaning of bestie to a whole new level. These dogs are generally easy-keepers that are happiest when they’re with their human pack. While some dog breeds are born to work or have an independent streak that makes them ideal guard dogs, companion dogs love to sit in your lap or be engaged in whatever activity you’re doing.

Many of the most popular companion dogs are part of the AKC toy group, but breeds from the sporting, hound, and terrier groups are represented as well. These breeds make some of the best companion dogs and will be a loyal four-legged friend for years to come.

  • 01 of 13

    Papillon

    Papillon looking at camera

    RichLegg / Getty Images 

    With a lively expression and alert ears, the Papillon is always on the look-out for fun. These small companion dogs were a favorite of European royalty but are also beloved by children for their playful nature. Considered a toy spaniel, the Papillon is petite in size but does require more daily exercise and mental stimulation when compared to some other companion dog breeds. 

    Breed Overview

    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

  • 02 of 13

    Chihuahua

    Tan chihuahua next to couch

     Tomoaki Takahashi / Moment / Getty Images

    Good things come in small packages, and few dogs are smaller than the tiny Chihuahua. But it’s not just inherently small size that makes this breed a great companion dog. Chihuahuas develop a strong bond with their owner and enjoy spending time with them. Whether it’s on a lap or in a purse, it doesn’t matter to this tiny dog as long as it can be with you.

    They have relatively low energy requirements and adapt to life in a house or apartment equally well. Ever alert, they’ll sound the alarm if they see unfamiliar people or animals on their turf. Just be sure to socialize this breed from an early age to help develop a friendly demeanor. 

    Breed Overview

    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

  • 03 of 13

    French Bulldog

    French bulldog laying on man's lap

    gollykim / Getty Images

     

    Easy-going and friendly, the French Bulldog makes an ideal companion dog. Popular with apartment dwellers, the Frenchie doesn’t require a big yard or room to roam. Of course, they’ll 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 well-rounded personality.

    Breed Overview

    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

  • 04 of 13

    Golden Retriever

    Golden Retreiver outside in sun

    martin-dm / iStock / Getty Images

     

    Sweet-tempered and affectionate, the Golden retriever has never known a stranger. This large breed companion dog is well-suited for individuals or families that want a friendly and easy-going dog. The Golden retriever’s pleasant disposition and attentiveness to human needs also makes it an ideal choice for a service dog or therapy work. 

    Breed Overview

    Height: 23 to 24 inches (males); 21.5 to 22.5 inches (females)

    Weight: 65 to 75 pounds (males); 55 to 65 pounds (females)

    Physical Characteristics: Large head with expressive eyes; coat is medium length and ranges in shades from light golden to red

    Continue to 5 of 13 below.
  • 05 of 13

    Shih Tzu

    Up close of white shih tzu

    chaoss / iStock / Getty Images 

    Believed to have originated in Tibet, these toy dogs became a favorite companion of Chinese emperors and were closely guarded against trade or export until the 19th century. Reportedly, the small dogs would sound the alert when humans or animals approached, alerting royals of a potential intruder. Other than that, the shih tzu’s chief occupation in life seems to have been a lap warmer.

    Today, the shih tzu thrives when it can spend time with its human companions. Shih tzus weigh anywhere between eight and 16 pounds and have a calm disposition, making them adaptable to life in an apartment or house. 

    Breed Overview

    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.

  • 06 of 13

    Irish Wolfhound

    Portrait of large breed companion dog Irish wolfhound

    SergeyTikhomirov/Getty Images

    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 and the breed is known for being an excellent family dog that is attentive and loyal to its family.

    Originally bred for large game hunting in Ireland, today’s Irish wolfhounds make great companion dogs. Just be sure to give them a good 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.

    Breed Overview

    Height: 30 to 32 inches

    Weight: 120+ pounds (males), 100+ pounds (females)

    Physical Characteristics: Tall and lanky; wiry double coat in black, gray, white, brindle, and more.

  • 07 of 13

    American Staffordshire Terrier

    American staffordshire pit bull smiling at camera outside

     sanjagrujic / iStock / Getty Images

    Part of the bully breed family, the American Staffordshire terrier has a loyal following. Despite the stigma surrounding pitbull breeds, these dogs are known to be sweet, affectionate companion dogs. Like any dog breed, they need proper training and socialization for their personality to blossom.

    These dogs look like they’re perpetually smiling, which matches their happy, goofy personality. Despite their medium size, they’ll often be found trying to sit in your lap. Cuddle up with an American Staffordshire terrier but also know that you’ll need to give the terrier inside of them plenty of exercise and mental stimulation. They’re an ideal companion dog for active individuals that want a jogging, hiking, or biking partner. 

    Breed Overview

    Height: 17 to 19 inches at the shoulder

    Weight: 40 to 70 pounds

    Physical Characteristics: Medium to large dog with a muscular build and square head; short, smooth coat in many different colors

  • 08 of 13

    Pug

    Up close of Pug with tongue hanging out

    GCShutter / Getty Images

     

    The unmistakable mug of a pug is sure to bring a smile to your face. These small companion dogs were bred to be people pleasers and they continue to be adaptable pets today. Originating in the Far East, pugs were bred as companions for Buddhist monks in Tibetan monasteries and as companions to royalty of the Chinese dynasties. Later, the Pug was highly prized in Holland, France, and other European countries.

    Part of the toy group, the pug tops out at about 18 pounds. Solid and well-built, take care not to overfeed these dogs or you’ll have a pudgy pug on your hands! With proper care, they have a life expectancy of up to 18 years. 

    Breed Overview

    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

    Continue to 9 of 13 below.
  • 09 of 13

    German Shorthaired Pointer

    German shorthaired pointer in hallway; GSP companion dog

    BranstonandTwiglet / iStock / Getty Images

     

    The do-it-all hunting dog also makes a great active canine companion. While these dogs are not your average lap-dog, the German shorthaired pointer is in the top 10 most popular AKC breeds and makes a great companion dog for people that want a hunting, running, or hiking 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 or more.

    The personality of the GSP also makes it a great medium-sized companion dog. This breed is known for being friendly and affectionate. They were bred for their hunting abilities, but also for a willing, companionable spirit. 

    Breed Overview

    Height: 23 to 25 inches (males); 21 to 23 inches (females)

    Weight: 55 to 70 pounds (males); 45 to 60 pounds (females)

    Physical Characteristics: Athletic build with long legs; tail may be docked or long; short coat in solid liver or liver and white

  • 10 of 13

    Maltese

    Up close portrait of maltese dog

    John Mazzei / EyeEm / Getty Images

     

    From the Mediterranean comes the dainty Maltese—a popular companion dog for centuries. These toy dogs have a long silky coat as white as snow and weigh a mere 7 pounds or less. The island of Malta, which is home to this pocket-sized pet, sat at the crossroads of ancient trade routes. As a result, the Maltese gained in popularity throughout the ancient world. It’s believed that ladies of Roman nobility would often tuck one of these dogs into their dresses.

    Today, the Maltese loves to be cuddled and carried. They’re alert and, despite their small size, will speak up to let intruding people or animals known that they’ve been spotted. They make good watchdogs in this regard, but they don’t offer much in the way of protection. However, as a companion dog, they are a popular choice. 

    Breed Overview

    Height: 8 to 10 inches

    Weight: 4 to 7 pounds

    Physical Characteristics: Petite body with solid white fur that is long and silky; dark alert eyes and black nose

  • 11 of 13

    Dachshund

    Black and tan dachshund sitting in lap

    Image by cuppyuppycake / Moment / Getty Images

     

    Sometimes called the ‘Velcro dog,’ the dachshund is a very attached companion dog. 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 people and animals on its turf—making them an excellent alert, albeit a poor enforcer. They’ll often follow their owner from room to room and can’t wait for you to sit down and snuggle. 

    Breed Overview

    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

  • 12 of 13

    Poodle

    Apricot poodle running across grass

     Anthony Murphy / Moment / Getty Images

    Intelligent and versatile, the poodle is one of the most recognizable dog breeds. While standard size poodles are distinguished hunters, toy poodles make fantastic companion dogs. They’re easy to train, won’t shed, and have a long lifespan. They love to sit in your lap or perform tricks and they are a good pet for the young and old alike.

    Breed Overview

    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, lively expression with fluffy ears

    Continue to 13 of 13 below.
  • 13 of 13

    Boston Terrier

    Red boston terrier on rug

     Genevieve Morrison / Getty Images

    The Boston terrier is a friendly, versatile companion dog. Not too tiny but not overly large, this dog is compact and sturdy—weighing in at 25 pounds or less. The breed has earned the nickname of “The American Gentleman” for his polite demeanor and distinguished appearance.

    Step foot onto any urban street, and you’re likely to see a Boston terrier strutting his stuff. These companion dogs are well adapted to city life and do well in an apartment or condo. However, families that want a well-rounded dog for suburban life will be happy with the Boston terrier as well. 

    Breed Overview

    Height: 15 to 17 inches

    Weight 12 to 25 pounds

    Physical Characteristics: Compact but sturdy build with round face and upright ears; smooth coat in solid colors or accented with white

Some dog breeds are independent by nature. While they still make great pets, they might not give you the cuddly companionship you’re looking for. Breeds like the Shiba Inu, Akita, and Chow Chow may be more aloof. Make sure to do your research on any breed you’re considering before picking your perfect pup.