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What are the most sensitive dog breeds? 10 sensitive breeds and how to train them

Sensitive Border Collie

The Border Collie is a sensitive breed who needs an understanding owner.

© Anna Dudkova - Unsplash

Certain breeds are highly sensitive and emotional. Read on to find out who these dogs are, along with our top tips and techniques for training.

By Greta Inglis

Published on the

When we think of dogs, we often think of happy-go-lucky, bouncing balls of fun. While this may be the case for many pooches out there, there are a number of sensitive breeds who need more gentle treatment, and who will feel happiest in calmer, quieter environments.

Each dog is an individual -much like with people - and this means that what works for one dog, won’t necessarily be the right thing for another. You only need to meet one hyperactive Bulldog or a shy and reserved Beagle, to know there’s nothing fixed when it comes to temperament. Having said that, breed does seem to play a part when it comes to sensitivity in dogs.

When it comes to training, no-one can guide you better than Zigzag, the #1 puppy training app. Take part in all sorts lessons, from recall to playing without biting - and have fun along the way!

If you’re a dog owner, you may be asking where your own dog fits into this group. Let’s take a look at the ten most sensitive breeds out there…

Labrador Retriever

The Labrador©sanjagrujic - Shutterstock

The Labrador Retriever is most commonly known as an easy to train, outgoing goofball, always friendly and unfailingly happy.

When it comes to training your Labrador Retriever, there are certain considerations to bear in mind. These cheerful dogs are very sensitive and in-tune with their people. This makes them excellent emotional support dogs, but it also means harsh treatment and a lack of company can quickly have a negative impact.

Labrador Retrievers that are left for long periods may become destructive, and if they aren’t given the correct positive reinforcement training during their formative years, may be hard to handle when out and about.

Socialise your puppy from a young age and stick to regular, short training sessions for best results.

Wondering if the Labrador Retriever could make a good first dog? The short answer is yes! Social and intellingent, this breed is the most popular by ownership in the UK, USA, Canada and New Zealand!

Golden Retriever

The Golden Retriever©SasaStock - Shutterstock

The beautiful long-haired cousin of the Labrador, Golden Retrievers are endearingly kind, empathetic and very gentle. As one of the most emotional dogs, this breed is easily affected by changes in the environment and their person’s mood.

Balancing exercise and time in a calm, quiet environment, can really help your sensitive pup. It allows them to process the world around them and learn to settle in a comfortable environment.

Originally from Great Britain, recognition of this breed dates back only to 1931. The most famous theory states that in 1858, Lord Tweedmouth bought two Caucasian Shepherds he had seen in a circus. Subsequently, when they had puppies, he kept only the golden ones, marking the beginning of the creation of the Golden Retriever.

Border Collie

The Border Collie©Elayne Massaini - Shutterstock

This is perhaps one of the smartest breeds there is. Socialisation and adequate exercise are key to avoid a hypersensitive dog around movement and noises.

Intelligent and easy to train, Border Collies will find themselves a job if their life is too sedentary. It’s not uncommon to hear of children or other animals being herded at home. Avoid this with lots of stimulating games and regular training sessions.

Regularly thought of as the most intelligent of all breeds, the Border Collie excels in agility and obedience trials. Through training from a young age, these natural workers can become incredibly in tune with their owners.

Australian Shepherd

The Australian Shepherd©dodafoto - Shutterstock

As a dog that has been bred over generations to pay close attention to their owner’s cues, the Australian Shepherd can become noise sensitive if not exposed to different sounds from an early age.

Did you know the Australian Shepherd didn't make it onto UK soil until the 1980s? From then, the breed has steadily grown in popularity.

Expose your dog to new noises at a low level to start. Reward all calm, relaxed body language, and slowly build in intensity as their confidence grows.

Yorkshire Terrier

The Yorkshire Terrier©Shllabadibum Bubidibam - Shutterstock

Affectionate, active and friendly may be the first words the come to mind when we think of the Yorkshire Terrier, but this breed can be sensitive to new people approaching and handling them.

Build your dog’s confidence with short, positive interactions, always allowing them to move away when needed. Reward friendly behaviour regularly and consistently using positive reinforcement.

The Yorkshire Terrier is the smallest of the terriers, offering a huge personality in a tiny package. 

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

The Cavalier King Charles©Svetlanistaya - Shutterstock

Also in the sensitive small dog category is the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. Gentle and always eager to please, these adorable dogs can be very sensitive to harsh treatment.

The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel comes from crossing the King Charles, the Pekinese and the Pug. These adorable dogs were named after King Charles II, who reportedly preferred spending time with his dogs than managing State Affairs.

When training your Cavalier, training with toys and using a soft, encouraging tone is the way to go.

Pitbull Terrier

The pitbull©Natthapot Chantaraviboon - Shutterstock

With their impressive stature and appearance, the Pitbull Terrier may not be the first dog that comes to mind when we think of sensitive dog breeds.

A Pitbull that is well-trained and properly socialised will be the best friend a person can have. These dogs bond so closely with their family, they can struggle with separation anxiety when left alone. When it comes to training your Pitbull puppy, it’s always advisable to start their separation training early. Build up the time slowly and always leave your dog after they’ve been walked. With consistency and routine, they’ll soon learn you come back in no time.

Not sure how to go about separation training? Download Zigzag, the #1 puppy training app. Not only can you follow classes tailored to your pup, but you can also get in touch with professionals via Whatsapp 24/7!

Rottweiler

The Rottweiler ©Olexandr Andreiko - Shutterstock

Described by the Kennel Club as good-natured and courageous, the Rottweiler can become overly protective and sensitive to handling without the right socialisation. This can be as simple as taking your pup out regularly and rewarding fun interactions and affection from new people. Reward often and keep sessions short. Your four-legged friend will learn to look forward to time with new people.

The Rottweiler's name originally came from the town of Rottweil, where the breed was used as a 'butchers dog', accompanying and protecting the butcher and their animals. During the First World War, they was used by law enforcement and became popular internationally.

Afghan Hound

The Afghan Hound©David Raihelgauz - Shutterstock

As one of the oldest breeds, the Afghan Hound has a low tolerance for pain and can react badly to rough treatment. This can lead to a shy or even defensive dog.

A gentle hand and lots of motivation will go a long way, so take some time to work out what really makes your hound tick. Once you have it, train little and often with lots of praise.

Bred to hunt game in the mountains of Afghanistan without human leadership, the Afghan Hound can be independent and wary of strangers.

Greyhound

The Greyhound©Comra - Shutterstock

Of all sensitive dog breeds, Greyhounds definitely prefer quieter people and environments. These noble souls can become easily overwhelmed so gentle leadership is a must when training your Greyhound. Use reward-based methods at all times and read your dog’s body language for signs they need a break. Your bond will be stronger and your Greyhound happier.

Capable of a top speed of 40mph, the Greyhound is actually the couch potato of the dog world. Placid and gentle, Greyhounds like short bursts of exercise followed by long naps, and they actually spend most of their time relaxing.

Certain behaviours have been found to be influenced by genetic variance, and it’s clear that some breeds are more sensitive than others. This doesn’t mean your dog can’t be social, happy and fun-loving, quite the opposite.

With an understanding of their personality and by using the right training techniques, you can have the best of both worlds: A sweet, gentle friend, that’s happy in company and ready to join you for all kinds of adventures.

Whether you're adopting a sensitive or confident dog, training is a must! So head over to Zigzag, the #1 puppy training app. It'll give you the tools you need to raise a happy, well-behaved pup!

Frequently asked questions

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