A Trusted Friend in a Complicated World

16 Most Affectionate Dog Breeds That Love to Cuddle

Updated: May 15, 2024

Whether big or small, the most affectionate dog breeds have giant hearts full of love for their humans

Girl lying on a bed kissing her golden retriever dog
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The most affectionate dog breeds will shower you with love

Loving and being loved by dogs is one of the great pleasures of life. When their tails wag with delight when you come home or they snuggle into you on the couch, it’s hard not to feel grateful to share your home with what seems like one of the most affectionate dog breeds.

My husband and I have lucked into adopting incredibly affectionate big and small dogs from animal shelters. For instance, our 88-pound Labrador retriever mix, Rio, was so loving not just with us but with everyone he met that he trained to become a therapy dog, and we visited hospital patients together. Our 8-pound miniature poodle, Peach, saved her affection for us and wanted to spend all her time in our arms or our laps. Our Yorkshire terrier mix, Tux, loves giving and receiving affection so much that he stops in front of strangers on the street to see if they will pet him—which they almost always do.

Unsurprisingly, dog breeds known for their loving natures are often the most popular. Ahead, you’ll learn more about some of the most affectionate dog breeds, but keep in mind that this is by no means an exhaustive list (and there are outliers in any breed). As David Frei, co-host of The National Dog Show, likes to say during dog shows and made a point of repeating during an interview for this article, “the real ‘Best in Show’ dog is the one that’s sitting next to you on the couch at home.”

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About the experts

  • David Frei is a world-renowned dog breed expert who has co-hosted NBC’s Thanksgiving Day broadcast of The National Dog Show since 2002. He is also co-founder and co-host of the National Dog Show Therapy Dog Symposium at Rowan University. A therapy dog handler and prominent advocate for the modern therapy dog movement, he co-hosted the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show on the USA Network from 1990 to 2016 and was inducted into the Hall of Fame of the Dog Writers Association of America in 2018.
  • Teoti Anderson, CPDT-KA, KPA-CTP, has more than 30 years of professional dog-training experience and serves as vice president of A Dog’s Best Friend, a positive-reinforcement dog-training company in Florida. A past president of the Association of Professional Dog Trainers, she serves as a consultant on canine training and behavior for local and national rescue groups. She is the author of numerous books, including The Dog Behavior Problem Solver and The Ultimate Guide to Dog Training.

Reviewed for accuracy by: Caroline Coile, PhD, an award-winning journalist specializing in canine breeds, health and science. She’s the author of 34 books, including Barron’s Encyclopedia of Dog Breeds.

Dog and woman relaxing
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1. Cavalier King Charles spaniel

With soulful brown eyes and a warmhearted nature, the Cavalier King Charles spaniel is one of the most affectionate dog breeds and one of the best dog breeds for kids. That’s why both of Frei’s Cavs—Angel and True Dat—have spread so much cheer as therapy dogs. “They live for a lap. We call them ‘love sponges,'” he says. “Their tails are always wagging. They just love people and want to follow you from room to room.”

Still, they shed profusely—”I think of dog hair as a condiment in my home,” Frei quips—and are prone to health issues like heart disease and syringomyelia, aka “neck scratcher’s disease,” which is caused by skull malformation.

Professional dog trainer Teoti Anderson, CPDT-KA, KPA-CTP, says normally affectionate Cavs might bite if they’re in pain. One of her clients found that her Cavalier King Charles spaniel would try to bite her whenever she rubbed the dog’s belly, which Anderson discovered hurt because of syringomyelia. “It can cause aggression because they’re in pain,” she says. If your affectionate dog changes its behavior, contact your veterinarian to rule out health issues.

Breed overview
Height: 12 to 13 inches
Weight: 13 to 18 pounds
Life expectancy: 9 to 14 years

Labrador retriever cuddling with owner on couch
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2. Labrador retriever

Labs are one of the most loved dog breeds, holding the No. 1 spot as the most registered American Kennel Club (AKC) breed for 31 years until the French bulldog broke the streak in 2022. “There’s a reason why the Labrador has been so highly ranked all these years,” says Anderson. They’re smart, easy to groom, affectionate and eager to please. Those qualities are why they’re also one of the most common types of service dogs, working as arson-detection dogs, search-and-rescue dogs, guide dogs for people who are blind, diabetes-alert dogs and mobility-assistance dogs.

Because Labs are usually food-motivated, they’re easy to train with positive methods, Anderson notes. These athletic dogs typically thrive with training and exercise, as she learned when her first dog, Cody, chewed up her remote control. So when her second Lab, Logan, picked up the new remote control, she essentially trained him to retrieve it and bring it to her by rewarding him each time. “Until the day he left this earth, he would bring me that remote control whether I was in the bathroom [or] in the kitchen … he’d follow me around and give me the remote control,” she says with a laugh.

Let’s just say these pups put the retriever in Labrador retriever. As Frei notes, “Someone once told me, ‘They steal your heart and also your shoes.'”

Breed overview
Height: 21.5  to 24.5 inches
Weight: 55 to 80 pounds
Life expectancy: 11 to 13 years

Playful happy activity at home with human woman people and funny pug dog kissing them on the sofa - cheerful young female play with domestic best friend at home
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3. Pug

It’s possible that pugs love their owners more than any other dog does. After all, they were bred to be companions as far back as 400 B.C. in China. One way or another, these distinctive short-haired dogs are beloved sidekicks who adore their families right back.

“The great expressive faces that they have make them, in my mind, the best candidate for costumes in the dog world,” Frei says. “They’re a cocky little dog that loves people. They’re wonderful family dogs.”

Anderson says that because the flat-faced dogs are food-motivated and comical, they’re a lot of fun to train. The key is to watch their weight. “They can turn into little pug coffee tables if you’re not careful: They can get very large,” she cautions. “They do have significant health issues with their eyes and their brachycephalic [snub-nosed] faces. You also have to make sure that you clean the wrinkle folds regularly or they can grow bacteria and have skin issues.”

Breed overview
Height: 10 to 13 inches
Weight: 14 to 18 pounds
Life expectancy: 13 to 15 years

Cute Shi Tsu Dog At Home
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4. Shih Tzu

“The Shih Tzu is descended from royalty, and they’ve not forgotten this,” Anderson quips. “They love to be the center of attention and follow you everywhere. The pug is going to solicit attention, and the Cavalier King Charles spaniel will solicit attention. The Shih Tzu will expect it.”

She feels it’s a myth that small dog breeds like the Shih Tzu don’t need training or can’t be trained. “Little dogs can absolutely learn just as easily as their larger counterparts,” she notes. “They need to be trained in family manners and appropriate behavior in public.”

The “little lions” have intimidating grooming needs, but Frei says it’s not just about the hair and the glitz with these little guys. “They’re athletic, fun dogs,” he says. “They’re really happy little people-pleasers.” They’re also one of the cutest dog breeds you’ll meet.

Breed overview
Height: 9 to 10.5 inches
Weight: 9 to 16 pounds
Life expectancy: 13 to 15 years

Girl (14-15) embracing English Cream Golden Retriever on sofa
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5. Golden retriever

Like Labs, golden retrievers are extremely popular because of their versatility and typically affectionate temperaments. “They’ve got this great devotion and charisma,” Frei says. “And the Golden Retriever Club of America is one of the best parent clubs. They have a foundation that does health studies research for the breed … and gets dogs prepared to be great family dogs.”

Anderson says goldens want to be part of everything, wag with their whole bodies and are very happy to see you—whether you’re a complete stranger or their lifetime person. So if you’re looking for one of the top guard dog breeds, look elsewhere. “The golden retriever is going to be the worst watchdog you ever had,” Anderson says of the famously affectionate dog breed.

Breed overview
Height: 21.5 to 24 inches
Weight: 55 to 75 pounds
Life expectancy: 10 to 12 years

Young woman caressing a Yorkshire Terrier she's holding in her arms. Positioned in a rural setting on top of a hill surrounded by windmills.
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6. Yorkshire terrier

The Yorkshire terrier may be a toy dog breed, but don’t let its size fool you. These pups have major big-dog energy. “The show Yorkies are often in that long, beautiful coat, so they look like little cover models, but they will go after a bird or a lizard or a squirrel with the conviction of a Rottweiler,” Anderson says. It’s something she’s learned firsthand from her own “scrappy” Yorkie, Rosie.

Yorkshire terriers love a good lap and “protecting” their people. Frei notes that Yorkies were bred to be working-class toy dogs. “They were supposed to be the color of coal, in fact, so that the coal miners could take them with them to work, and the blue color didn’t show the coal dust on them when they came home,” he says. “They would dig out rats, and they were the guardians of the lunch bags.”

Breed overview
Height: 7 to 8 inches
Weight: 7 pounds
Life expectancy: 11 to 15 years

small poodle cuddling owner
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7. Poodle

Despite the fancy haircuts they sport in dog shows, poodles weren’t bred to be posh lapdogs. Their hair protected their organs for their original job: retrieving waterfowl for hunters. “Here’s a little trivia for you: Poodle comes from the German word pudel, which means ‘to splash,'” Frei notes.

While these dogs may not be in the fowl-retrieval business anymore, they’re still active and engaged animals. All three sizes of poodle—toy, miniature and standard—are among the smartest and most affectionate dog breeds. “Living with an intelligent dog is a wonderful thing and a scary thing because you have to be smarter than the dog,” Anderson says. “The poodle is going to figure out how to get past the baby gate. The poodle is going to figure out how to get those muffins on top of the counter. They’re loads of fun to train because they’re engaged in the game of training.” Translation: You need to engage your poodle’s mind so it doesn’t get bored.

Breed overview
Height: Under 10 inches to over 15 inches
Weight: 4 to 70 pounds
Life expectancy: 12 to 15 years

Newfoundland dog on a summer day in the garden. Newfoundland dog breed in an outdoor. Big dog on a green field. Rescue dog.
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8. Newfoundland

“The Newf is not a dog for neat freaks,” says Frei. “They’re a lot of dog, and they’ll put that loving, drooling, water-covered face in your lap or on your shirt.”

Affectionate Newfs are so attuned to people that in Italy, they serve as water-rescue dogs trained to jump out of boats (and even helicopters) to save people from drowning. Because they grow to be big, strong dogs, Anderson says it’s critical to start training them with positive methods as early as possible. “Don’t let them get into bad habits as adults, because it’s harder to deal with, for example, if you allow a Newfoundland to pull you on a leash,” she says. “It’s a lot better to train a 10-week-old puppy than a 10-month-old dog that’s coming up on a hundred pounds.”

Breed overview
Height: 26 to 28 inches
Weight: 100 to 150 pounds
Life expectancy: 9 to 10 years

Young woman relaxing in bed with dog
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9. French bulldog

Possibly because it’s one of the most affectionate dog breeds, the French bulldog is one of the most loved breeds, even vaulting to the No. 1 spot as the most registered AKC breed in the United States in 2022. The comical face and cute bat ears don’t hurt either.

After a Frenchie named Winston won Best in Show at the National Dog Show in 2022, Frei spent a lot of time traveling with the winner for television appearances. Winston greets fans and seems to enjoy posing for selfies. “He loves everybody,” Frei says. “They’re little clowns, and they’re fun to be around.”

Anderson agrees. She’s currently training a cute Frenchie to become a therapy dog. “She’s just the sweetest little thing—she loves people,” she says. “And when people look at French bulldogs, it just makes them smile.”

Like all bulldog breeds, Frenchies are prone to breathing issues and other serious health concerns because they’re brachycephalic (aka flat-faced dogs). Buyer beware: They also often snore.

Breed overview
Height: 11 to 13 inches
Weight: Under 28 pounds
Life expectancy: 10 to 12 years

Man and his best friend
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10. Dachshund

The beloved dachshund comes in two sizes—miniature and standard—and three coats: smooth, wire-haired and long-haired. These dogs with big ears and hot dog–shaped bodies are irresistible to their fans, though they can have “strong personalities” because of what they were bred to do, according to Anderson.

“The reason why the dachshund is short and long is because the dog was bred to go into the badger hole, get the badger and bring it out,” she says. “Badgers are not friendly. So the dog had to be very tough and very motivated and very persistent.”

Today, this translates to the “wiener dogs” wanting to dig in the backyard or through the pillows to bury their bones. Since dachshunds often want to join their people on the couch, Anderson says it’s important to get them a ramp or doggy stairs so they don’t injure their long backs jumping on and off the furniture. “They are loving, wonderful family dogs,” Frei adds. “They love and respect their people. And all the people I talk to about their dachshunds say [their dogs] love their cats.”

Breed overview
Height: 5 to 9 inches
Weight: Under 11 pounds to 32 pounds
Life expectancy: 12 to 16 years

Bernese mountain dog
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11. Bernese mountain dog

As its name suggests, the Bernese mountain dog is massive, but it can be a wonderful family pet if you train your puppy properly. As with any large dog breed, early socialization and positive training are vitally important, according to Anderson. “Bernese mountain dogs are big mountains of dogs. They can get absolutely huge,” she says. “They are extremely affectionate with their people and incredibly loyal to their people, and they can be a little reserved with strangers.”

Frei notes that Berners are strong farm dogs that enjoy cuddling by the fire after a day’s work, and they’re known for giving a “Burner bump” to get your attention. “They come up and plow that head into you if you’re not giving them enough love,” he says. “They do need their people.” So only bring this mountain dog into your family if you can give it the attention it deserves.

Breed overview
Height: 23 to 27.5 inches
Weight: 70 to 115 pounds
Life expectancy: 7 to 9 years

Cardigan Welsh corgi
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12. Cardigan Welsh corgi

To the untrained eye, the Cardigan Welsh corgi is simply a corgi with a tail, but it’s a distinct breed from the Pembroke Welsh corgi, Frei notes. “Cardigans have longer bodies, a longer head and straighter legs,” he says. “They have a sense of humor and love to play—and can be mischievous.”

While the “Cardi” can be sweet and loving with its people, as a herding breed for livestock, it also likes to chase, according to Anderson. “If you don’t have sheep, the children are going to have to do,” she jokes. “So you need to teach them appropriate outlets for that chasing behavior that don’t involve chasing the children and nipping at their heels.”

Corgis often excel at agility sports, for instance. And that’s a far better activity than chasing the cat!

Breed overview
Height: 10.5 to 12.5 inches
Weight: 25 to 38 pounds
Life expectancy: 12 to 15 years

great dane with oner on the beach
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13. Great Dane

Great Danes are gentle giants; the tallest dog ever was a Great Dane from Michigan named Zeus, according to Guinness World Records. “They’re giant, but they’re really elegant,” says Frei. “They have moderate energy, and they’re very affectionate. The consideration with them is they take up a lot of space when they lay down on your floor or in your bed.”

These giant dogs also like to lean into people to show their affection, so Anderson suggests bracing yourself and bending your knees around them to avoid being accidentally knocked over. “Great Danes crack me up because they always like to sit on your lap, but all four feet are still on the ground,” she says. “They’re still on the ground like they’re sitting in a chair, but your lap is the chair.”

Breed overview
Height: 28 to 32 inches
Weight: 110 to 175 pounds
Life expectancy: 7 to 10 years

young girl sitting outside with her irish wolfhound
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14. Irish wolfhound

Though Irish wolfhounds were originally bred to hunt wolves, today they’re typically gentle, sociable dogs. In the novel Sight Hound by Pam Houston, a sage Irish wolfhound even quotes the Buddha.

Anderson says Irish wolfhounds can relax while you binge-watch your favorite TV show, but their hound instinct can quickly kick in. They might not be one of the fastest dog breeds in the world, but they’re still quite fleet. “They will spend all afternoon on your couch, but if they see something that interests them, they will give chase, and they are gone in a skinny minute,” she cautions. “So teaching them to come when called, no matter what is going on, is critical. Start early.”

Breed overview
Height: 30 to 32 inches
Weight: 105 to 120 pounds
Life expectancy: 6 to 8 years

old english sheepdog on couch with owner
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15. Old English sheepdog

This lovey-dovey furball is an easily recognizable breed, what with the shaggy fur covering its eyes and the fluffy body practically screaming, “Pet me!”

“The hair is a haystack,” says Frei about the Old English sheepdog. “It takes a lot of grooming because it’s tough. They’re a working dog, but they’re a loving, happy dog. They’re smart dogs and affectionate with their people.” To wit: the Beatles’ song “Martha My Dear” is named after Paul McCartney’s Old English sheepdog, Martha.

Breed overview
Height: 21 inches and up
Weight: 60 to 100 pounds
Life expectancy: 10 to 12 years

Pet Border Terrier dog
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16. Border terrier

With a distinctive “otter head,” this breed delights as cute and relatively calm dogs. “Border terriers are really loving, cuddly, friendly dogs,” Frei says.

Anderson considers border terriers “great all-around dogs” that perform well in agility and barn-hunt competitions. “They’re sturdy enough to work well with families with younger children, and work well in smaller homes,” she says. “But they do need the exercise of perhaps a larger dog. They’re active dogs, so if someone is wanting to take a hike with their dog or go camping with their dog, a border terrier is ready to take on those tasks.”

It’s worth noting that these dogs were bred for fox hunting and still have the characteristic prey drive—so, as Frei cautions, don’t leave the door open!

Breed overview
Height: 12 to 15 inches
Weight: 11.5 to 15.5 pounds
Life expectancy: 12 to 15 years

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At Reader’s Digest, we’re committed to producing high-quality content by writers with expertise and experience in their field in consultation with relevant, qualified experts. For this piece, Jen Reeder tapped her experience as a longtime pet journalist and former president of the Dog Writers Association of America, and then Caroline Coile, PhD, an award-winning journalist specializing in canine breeds, health and science, gave it a rigorous review to ensure that all information is accurate and offers the best possible advice to readers. We verify all facts and data, back them with credible sourcing and revisit them over time to ensure they remain accurate and up to date. Read more about our team, our contributors and our editorial policies.

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