Layne is an animal lover who grew up in a household full of rescued critters. She is a registered veterinary technician.
Top 15 Dog Breeds That Are Least Likely to Bite
Choosing a dog breed that will fit right in with your lifestyle or your home is a big decision, and it's no wonder people want to know which dog breeds are sweet, gentle, and make wonderful companions, especially for households with children, babies, or small animals.
If you are looking for a dog breed that is known for its sweet demeanor and caring nature, this list covers them all. While most of these purebreds have predictable temperaments, raising a good dog has everything to do with nurture, rather than nature. In addition, shelter dogs make wonderful companion animals and are often some of the most loyal, incredible companions in the world, so do not overlook your local shelter.
1. Bernese Mountain Dog
Number one on this list is the Bernese Mountain Dog. The Bernese Mountain Dog or Berner Sennenhund is a large German dog breed that originates from the Swiss Alps; the breed was established in 1912. They were originally a cross between a Mastiff and hound dog and worked on farms.
This tri-colored breed is not only strikingly beautiful, but their noble nature and majestic size (males weigh up to 120 pounds males) make them a standout. They are known for their quiet confidence, good nature, and pleasantness around strangers. They need quite a bit of outdoor time, so they are good for active families. They do especially well in situations that not all dogs would tolerate—children and pets climbing all over them. They also get along well with other animals and indoor family pets. They form strong bonds with their owners and perform all kinds of rescuing feats.
They are purebreds and future owners should be aware of their potential medical problems, including cancers, and hip, elbow, and joint issues. It's important that you keep them at a healthy weight and socialize them early.
2. Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is a smaller, affectionate breed of British origin. It is the 18th-most popular dog breed of 196, according to the AKC. The King Charles Spaniel is gentle in nature due to its kind, easy-going, yet playful temperament and is great around children, babies, and small pets. Thanks to its tiny stature (under 13 inches in height), it is classified as a toy breed. These spaniels can be both social and outgoing or enjoy simply cuddling with their companions on the couch. They also come in a variety of adorable colors and patterns (chestnut, tri-color, chestnut and white).
It should be noted that this breed commonly suffers from mitral valve disease and heart failure, as well as certain vision disorders. It's important that you either rescue or select your Cavalier King Charles from a responsible breeder who rules out these health issues as part of their breeding process.
3. Shih Tzu
The Shih Tzu means little lion, but don't let that fool you. These dogs are sweet, loving companions and make themselves at home quite easily. They can be both playful and sociable as well as cuddly and quiet in the house, reaching only nine to sixteen pounds in weight and nine to ten inches in height at the shoulder. Shih Tzus are known lap dogs and excellent companions.
Surprisingly, they also train well for obedience and agility competitions, if you're into that kind of thing. They get along well with children and animals and do well out in public. Because of their small size, they are content in the apartment and smaller dwellings so long as they have affection and companionship (they don't need a ton of outdoor space like more energetic breeds—retrievers and hounds). These dogs are also great for first-time pet owners.
Shih Tzus require regular grooming and maintenance and may have certain eye conditions leading to dry eye as well as dental issues due to their compact dentition. It's important that you supervise this breed with small children and teach kids how to interact with them in a gentle manner because they can be easily injured if handled inappropriately.
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The Pug, also known as the Pug Dog, is one of the most popular dog breeds, with a life expectancy of 13-15 years and weighing in at under 18 pounds. They are famous for their infant-like appearance (large eyes and baby-like face), which is why they are quite popular among pug-breed enthusiasts. They are spunky, little dogs with warm personalities and an easy-going nature.
They are trained easily and behave well, but are sensitive in nature and don't do well with scolding (they tend to be dramatic). The Pug is good around kids and other canines and does well around unfamiliar people.
They are prone to obesity and really need to be watched when it comes to snacking. They also can suffer from eye conditions (like cherry eye) and are considered brachycephalic breeds (prone to upper respiratory issues and don't do well under anesthesia. They shed a lot and require regular brushing.
The Newfoundland is an incredible large-breed dog that is known for weighing up to 150 pounds. This breed loves water and is known for jumping out of helicopters to rescue people in distress. They are a dignified breed, heavy-boned, and can reach up to 28 inches in height. They have an average life expectancy of nine to ten years.
Newfoundlands will tolerate small animals and children crawling all over them, and are warm towards strangers. Though they are loyal and protective of their family, their noble nature makes them adaptable to all kinds of scenarios in which they respond favorably and predictably. This is a favorite breed among many also due to the fact they are easy to train.
Newfoundlands have a tendency to be overweight, so their food intake needs to be monitored and watched. They are prone to bloat, an emergency condition in which the stomach distends and twists, cutting off vital blood supply, so it's important that they do not exercise immediately after water consumption or large meals.
6. Irish Setter
Irish Setters are high-energy, fun-loving dogs that are kind and sweet in nature. They are known for being athletic, graceful, at times goofy, and have beautiful red coats. They live up to 12-15 years of age and are of a medium to large build. They are great for active families with children and will readily play fetch and all kinds of games.
Easily one of the most beautiful dog breeds, they train well when working with positive leaders and are eager to please. They require daily exercise and will readily track and participate in obedience and agility training. Irish Setters have a ton of energy, so be ready to stay active. These dogs can be shy if not socialized properly.
They require regular grooming of their coat and cleaning of their long ears. They are prone to hip dysplasia and certain eye conditions. In addition, their deep chest makes them prone to bloat, which is an emergency condition characterized by the distention and twisting of the stomach, so owners must be properly educated about this risk.
7. Basset Hound
The Basset Hound is another popular dog breed known for its iconic appearance and "low-rider" conformity. Its relaxed, chill nature gives it its reputation as the basking porch dog, forever passing time napping in the sun without a care in the world.
Despite being hunting dogs, they generally do well with other pets, especially considering they are aloof and are very friendly towards people and strangers. They are smart but not necessarily easy to train. They also tend to have poor recall, being a hound, so they should be trained properly if let outside and off leash.
The Basset Hound has the notorious ear shape of a dog that is prone to ear infections, so it's especially important that their ears are kept dry and clean. They are also known for barking wildly at everything and nothing, so they would not do well in an environment in which there's a lot of ambient noise or houses/apartments that are close together.
8. Bichon Frise
The French Bichon Frise is another sweet, little dog that is a non-sporting breed of toy dog. They live 12-15 years and have a poodle-like appearance, with a white, fluffy coat and a teddy bear-like face. They are no taller than 12 inches at the shoulder in height and reach a maximum of 20 pounds at a healthy weight.
This pure-white breed is a curious and happy-go-lucky dog that is sensitive and playful, and well-behaved. They are smart and love to cuddle, therefore enjoying happy households and kind treatment (like all dogs). They get along well with other animals and small or young children. They can be trained rather well if taught from an early age. Kids should actually be watched around this breed because it is small and delicate and can be easily hurt.
This breed requires regular grooming and is prone to tear-staining below the eyes and food-staining around the jaw if neglected. They are also prone to skin allergies (hot spots) around all things from environmental allergies to food allergies. They have inheritable issues with liver shunts, seizures, and cataracts, so be sure to adopt or acquire your Bichon Frise from a responsible breeder.
9. Golden and Labrador Retrievers
Golden Retrievers and Labrador Retrievers rarely need an explanation when it comes to why they've made this list of least aggressive dog breeds. These are fun-loving, large dogs and tend to be some of the most popular breeds around the world. They are known for their goofy, friendly nature, easy-going personality, and gentle temperament—it's no wonder they make great service and search and rescue dogs.
Both Golden Retrievers and Labrador Retrievers share common characteristics—the Golden Retriever being a little bit more mellow than the Labrador Retriever and wonderful around small kids and small animals, but the Labrador Retriever takes the award for congeniality. These dogs are easy to get along with. Both dogs do wonderfully well with children and other pets.
Due to years of irresponsible breeding, it is not uncommon to come across an aggressive dog of either breed. It's also important that you spay or neuter your retriever early on to reduce behavior issues. In addition, Retrievers can be prone to cancers and knee issues; they should be kept at a healthy weight and exercised and socialized regularly. Golden Retrievers require regular grooming as well.
10. English Bulldog
The English Bulldog is an iconic breed with an appearance that does not match its personality. Known for being dignified, well-built, and muscular but docile and loyal, this breed is the 5th most popular type of dog in the world, according to the AKC. The English Bulldog is unlike any other breed in appearance—the short muzzle, muscles, and large jaw, and the puppies are oh so adorable!
Bulldogs have a friendly, protective demeanor. Their approach and playfulness are unlike most dog breeds and can sometimes be mistaken for aggression, but most times, it's just show and typical bulldog behavior—they like to rough and tumble. They are also notorious for skating on skateboards (this trait can be fun for families with small kids).
These dogs have short muzzles and are of the brachycephalic type, so they do not tolerate heat and extensive exercise well, however, they do like lounging in shallow bodies of water (never let them in water unsupervised as this can be dangerous since they aren't the strongest swimmers). Their skin requires regular grooming in the folds to keep them healthy, so you should follow a regular, diligent skincare routine.
Beagles are sweet companions and notorious in appearance for their adorable faces and cute tri-color patterning. Living up to 10-15 years and being under 30 pounds in weight, this breed is fun to be around, energetic, and athletic. They are one of the most popular dog breeds in the world, coming in sixth of 196, according to the AKC. It's no wonder, this breed has had a strong following since 1885.
This is a sociable breed when exposed to people, kids, and new places, and events early. They get along well with other dogs and are fairly low-maintenance. They do well with older children, but you should make sure that your younger kids are trained on how to interact with them and supervised at all times (this goes with any dog breed). Younger children can hurt Beagle puppies accidentally, and Beagles might not want to share their toys and belongings if snatched away. You have an obligation as a parent to watch your kids around dogs.
Beagles are known pack animals and are extremely loud, so you might want to reconsider this breed if you live in a neighborhood with lots of people and activity. They can be a bit stubborn and are prone to obesity if overfed, as well, so make sure to exercise them and keep them at a healthy weight. All in all, the Beagle is a family favorite.
The Havanese is a cute, little dog breed that is native to Cuba. They are quickly becoming one of the more popular dog breeds in the United States year after year. They have a long lifespan at 14-16 years of age, and stay just under 13 pounds in weight. This is a small breed with a curly tail and beautiful coat. They are both social in nature and great in public—full of fun behaviors and sociability.
Havanese make good watch dogs but that doesn't make them aggressive. They also train well and do not appreciate scolding, as they have an extremely outgoing personality.
Havanese have a tendency to be overweight, so they should be monitored for feeding. They also require heavy grooming due to their beautiful coats (to prevent mats from building up) and require regular ear cleaning prevent infections. Unfortunately, these cute, little dogs are prone to eye disorders, heart disorders, and hip and knee issues, so make sure that your breeder tests for several inherited conditions or else you might experience heartache.
13. Brittany Spaniel
Brittany Spaniels make excellent family dogs and are all-around enjoyable companions. They are dog-friendly and kid-friendly and generally do well around strangers. They tend to be extremely playful and require regular exercise and activity, but they also train well. Brittany Spaniels tend to be enthusiastic about life in general!
A known gun dog that was bred for hunting birds, they are an excellent working breed and fun to be active with. Brittanys make great family pets but can be overly active if not exercised and cared for. They also don't do well with harsh correction and require early socialization. They do have a tendency towards birds and may not do well in households with smaller pets like parakeets or hamsters.
Brittanys do well in their older age with few health problems compared to other purebreds, although they are prone to hip dysplasia and epilepsy. They are a medium breed and can weigh up to 45 pounds.
14. Portuguese Water Dog
Portuguese Water Dogs or Cao de Agua (dog of the water) are incredibly unique in appearance and are good for households that require low-shedding dog breeds. They are athletic, love water (hence the name), and are all about companionship and helping. This working group breed is medium-sized, smart, easily trained, alert, and energetic.
The Portuguese water dog is outgoing and social, loves greeting new people, and easy-going and enthusiastic in new situations. It's no wonder why President Barack Obama is known for having "Bo"—the first Portuguese water dog in the White House. Portuguese water dogs do well with regular expertise and activity, but may be too active for families with very small children.
This breed tends to live 10-14 years and can weight up to 60 pounds, though many may be slimmer. They do need regular trims of their coat and are susceptible to similar issues like poodles, including hip dysplasia and other congenital issues which breeders should screen for.
The Papillon makes this list as a sweet, little dog with a spunky appearance and long lifespan of 14-16 years of age. Weighing just under 10 pounds, this breed got it's name for it's wing-shaped ears and fluttery appearance (hence "papillon" meaning "butterfly" in French).
These dogs do especially well as agility dogs and are very ambitious when it comes to performing tricks. They are friendly, sweet, delicate, and gentle with small children and people and should be treated kindly and compassionately. Families with small children should supervise their kids and train their children how to interact with this wonderful breed, despite them being outgoing and eager to please, they require gentle care and attention.
This breed requires regular grooming due to its beautiful coat and is prone to cardiac, knee, and eye issues. It's important that their health is regularly checked out by a veterinarian.
Why You Should Consider Adopting
Certain dogs did not make this like, like Greyhounds, not because they aren't great dogs, but because they do not do well in households with children and activity in which they are prone to injury or being overwhelmed. As with all dogs, it's important to focus on nurture over nature. Oftentimes, it's the person and not the breed or breed temperament that makes the dog.
If you are really looking to save a life and want a dog that will be healthy and sweet, go to your local animal shelter and consider adopting a senior dog or a mixed breed dog that is gentle in nature and kind. Shelters temperament-test dogs and their staff can easily pair you with a suitable companion, especially if you are a first-time dog owner. Good luck!
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2020 Laynie H
Laynie H (author) from Bend, Oregon on December 01, 2020:
Glad you found it helpful, Chrish!
Laynie H (author) from Bend, Oregon on November 21, 2020:
Thank you for reading and for considering the many breeds on this list! They are certainly sweet. Chocolate labs are big goofballs!
Liz Westwood from UK on November 21, 2020:
This is an excellent article for any family looking for a dog. As a child, I was frightened of dogs, but I have been amazed at how tolerant a chocolate labrador has been with our young grandchildren.
Chrish Canosa from Manila Philippines on November 16, 2020:
A huge thanks for those very helpful informations! For I am an animal lover and should really know these. And now you gave me an idea for a perfect dog to be with my father while wandering in his farm ;-) thank you
I hope you have an awesome day!
Laynie H (author) from Bend, Oregon on November 16, 2020:
Hi Lora, interesting to hear about the Bichon Frise and being strange around children. A lot of these sweet older dogs definitely get that way especially if they are achey! They don't like being handled or played with because they are arthritic or set in their calm ways - it's always hard transitioning owners. So sweet to hear your rescued Papillon was a sweetheart. I have not interacted with many of them but they are simply adorable!
Laynie H (author) from Bend, Oregon on November 16, 2020:
Labrador retrievers are definitely some of the sweetest, goofiest!
Kalpana Iyer from India on November 15, 2020:
Very informative! Thank you for sharing. I am not sure about other breeds because I have never interacted with them, but I can totally vouch for labrador retrievers being absolute sweethearts!
Lora Hollings on November 15, 2020:
We had a Bichon Frise that we got from a couple who were going into a nursing home and the home wouldn’t take him so we stepped into help them. He was just a canine prodigy with a ball as he would not only catch it every single time on the fly but he would actually throw the ball to you with his mouth! I never saw a dog do that before but this dog did.Talk about awesome! We thought in a previous life he might have been Lou Gerick or Babe Routh. But, he didn’t like young children. They made him very nervous so that was another reason we ended up taking him instead of the older couple’s children taking him. But, we had an older daughter, so it was fine. Perhaps he had some negative experiences with them or he had never been exposed to them as we got him when he was older. My daughter has a rescued papillon, however, and she is just great with children even with a two year old, she is extremely patient and loving. She definitely belongs on this list! Thanks for sharing this valuable information. There are mixed breeds that can be excellent with children too. Shelters can do temperament testing to see if a certain dog may be a good match.