Golden Retriever cuddling with owner

What dog breed is affectionate?

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Get ready for cuddle time: Here are 5 of the most affectionate dog breeds

By Nick Whittle Author

Updated on the

As well as providing emotional comfort and support, owning a dog is thought to be good for your health. Here we will look at five breeds of dog that are generally considered to be the most affectionate.

Which dogs are eager to please, why are dogs so affectionate? Which breeds are born lap dogs? And will you be surprised at the dogs included in our list of the most affectionate?

If you are looking for a great companion, learn first about the nature and temperament of all dogs. Only then will you be able to pick the perfect pet.

Do you own a Brussels Griffon? Or are you the proud parent of a Labrador Retriever? You may, of course, think your dog is the most affectionate in the world, but was it originally bred to be so? Let’s look at the facts.

What is dog affection?

To rank dogs in order of how affectionate they are we must first decide how dogs show their affection. Fortunately, some of the signs of canine affection are easy to spot: if a dog likes you he will want to be in the same room as you; if he doesn’t, he will run away! Likewise, if a dog curls up next to you he feels comfortable in your presence.

Here are five other signs of what behaviourists regard as evidence of a dog’s fondness for its owner:

  • Jumping (an instinctive behaviour of the bonded pack)
  • Licking (your dog may groom your “fur” if it sees you as an ally)
  • Play (a dog’s want to play with you is a sign of its feeling safe)
  • Shadowing (the wolf instinct plays out in the pack habit of following each other)
  • Tail wagging (a dog’s upright and wagging tail is a sign of its happiness)

Dog affection: False readings

Be aware of false readings. These are signs that may match those we have outlined above but do not necessarily mean that your dog has bonded with you. Such signs include face licking (very often your dog has found something tasty on your cheeks or lips) and jumping up (sometimes a dog will do this in order to assert its dominance).

Dog affection: Jealousy

Specific studies have been done throughout the years to determine the affectionate nature of dogs. Over time, various theories about a dog’s jealousy have been put forward. The great evolutionist Charles Darwin even noted how a dog may exhibit a form of jealousy when its owner paid more attention to another creature.

Since Darwin’s work, scientists have considered the feeling of “jealousy” to be peculiar to humans. However, recent work by Professor Christine Harris of the University of California reveals tantalising evidence of dog jealousy. And by this means, a dog’s affection can be measured.
“Many people have assumed that jealousy is a social construction of human beings,” Prof Harris told The Telegraph. “Or that it's an emotion specifically tied to sexual and romantic relationships.

“Our results challenge these ideas, showing that animals besides ourselves display strong distress whenever a rival usurps a loved one's affection.”

Harris goes on to explain that in her research she discovered dogs to be twice as likely to physically prod their owner when the owner was talking to a dog rather than a bucket!

What are the most affectionate dog breeds?

For hundreds of years dogs have been bred for various tasks. In Western Europe, dogs have been successfully bred to assist hunters, farmers and labourers in the course of their work. However, in ancient China, one particular type of dog was bred purely for companionship.

The pug was specifically bred to be companions of the ruling emperors of ancient China. In the decades that followed pugs also became the favourite companion of various sects of Tibetan monk.

These days, with some exceptions, all dogs are bred as companions. Even working dogs such as Collies and Labradors are found in our lounges and back gardens enjoying a far easier life than they used to.

Furthermore, dogs are said to enter into a “relationship of mutualism” with their owners (Bradshaw, 1995). That is to say, pet owners believe they not only give but receive love and affection from their animals.

With that in mind we have put together five breeds of dog that are thought to be the most affectionate. These dogs are the ones that love cuddling up to us the most.

1. Bichon Frise

The Bichon was bred throughout the Middle Ages to keep Spanish and Italian sailors company. By the 16th Century the dog was being bred by the French nobility as a companion dog, and it has been thus ever since.

The Bichon has a tender nature, is warm-hearted and eager to please. It is a dog that grows attached to its owner yet demands little more than company and cuddles.

2. Pug

Given the heritage of the pug it should not come as a surprise to find the pug among the top five most affectionate dogs. Despite the sinking popularity of the pug, it is a dog renowned for its companionship and loyalty. It enjoys long periods of inactivity (which may lead to its gaining weight), and it loves nothing more than taking pride of place on the lap of its owner.


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3. Chihuahua

The Chihuahua, researchers opine, may have already been a companion dog for 600 years prior to the pug’s domination of Chinese laps. Evidence of the descendant of the Chihuahua is found depicted in ancient Mexican art.

The breed has a reputation for snappiness and short temper, both of which come to the fore when the attachment to their owner is threatened.

4. Brussels Griffon

Another toy breed. The Brussels Griffon (Griffon Bruxellois) was bred originally as a rat catcher for Belgian stable hands. It has since been bred as a companion dog, but its resilience and chasing ability have not dwindled.

The Griffon grows extremely fond of its owner. So much so in fact that if left alone it tends to resort to destructive behaviour… as a protest!

5. Labrador Retriever

Originally discovered in Newfoundland, the Labrador was imported to Europe in the 1830s to be worked as a gun dog. The Lab’s excellent work ethic, fearlessness and loyalty made it an excellent retriever.

Nowadays, with hunting all but banned in the UK and Europe, the Labrador is a favourite companion pet, and retains its loyalty and intelligence to boot.

Affectionate dog breeds: The surprises

Some breeds we have deemed unaffectionate. That is due mainly in response to the media’s blacklisting of dogs that have by no fault of their own caused someone injury or become a nuisance. In truth, every dog breed can be made to be affectionate by gentle and responsible ownership.

Conversely, poor upbringing and deliberate “hardening” of a dog can make it thoroughly unaffectionate and a danger to people.

Here are just some of the breeds that you may be surprised to learn can be extremely affectionate with the right upbringing:

What does all this mean for you?

Some dogs have been bred for centuries to be companions and some have learned companionship in the last few decades. Generally speaking, the former breeds are those which are instinctively gentler, and which know nothing other than to please their owner.

That being said, dogs which in times gone by were workers or hunters can be moulded to companions. Upbringing and care of a dog is what will bring to the fore its finer qualities. Treat a dog well and the two-way bond between you will grow.

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