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The study reveals the top 15 friendliest dog breeds

Dogs may be man's best friend, but some breeds are friendlier than others.

Researchers from the University of Helsinki studied over 11,000 dogs in a paper published in iScience in 2023. They explored the relationship between breed and personality, including human sociability. These are their top 15 dogs that are nicest to humans:

friendliest dogs
Irish setters, pugs, and golden retrievers are among the friendliest dog breeds. Wavetop/GlobalP/Sena Yiğiter/Getty Images

1. Bull Terriers

Bull terrier standing by trees
Bull terriers are powerful dogs, but they're very friendly with humans following training.

Weight: 50 to 70 lbs

Height: 21 to 22 inches

Life Expectancy: 12 to 13 years

Bull terriers are iconic for their egg-shaped heads and mostly white coats, although they can come in other colors. You might've seen this dog in Target ads, although a red circle around one eye is not a common breed feature.

These dogs are very physical, with powerful muscles under their short fur. That can make them seem hard to approach, but they can be very loyal and protective of their owners. Bull terriers are also known for their endearing personalities, which make them fun and loveable companions.

2. Teacup Dogs

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Yorkshire terrier sitting on planks
Teacup dogs, like this Yorkshire terrier, get along great with their human companions.

Weight: 6 to 15 lbs, depending on specific breed

Height: 5 to 17 inches, depending on specific breed

Life Expectancy: 9 to 15 years, depending on specific breed

Teacup dogs are a range of breeds who are all extremely small. So small they could fit in your pocket. This includes Maltese, Chihuahua, Pomeranian, Yorkshire terrier and Shuh Tzu breeds.

Teacup dogs can have big personalities to offset their small stature. These breeds are often extremely intelligent and have cheerful attitudes, helping them get along with their human family members.

Teacup dogs can also suffer health complications from poor breeding practices. If you want a small dog that's friendly, make sure to get one from a reputable breeder or look for smaller-than-average puppies from another friendly breed.

3. Golden Retrievers

Golden retriever leaf on head
Golden retrievers will put up with their owners' silly antics.

Weight: 55 to 75 lbs

Height: 20 to 24 inches

Life Expectancy: 10 to 12 years

Golden retrievers are synonymous with friendliness. Their soft coats practically glow with exuberance and they're among the most popular dog breeds in America.

Golden retrievers can be extremely patient with humans and other dogs. They're eager-to-please and put up with tons of antics from their owners without so much as a bark. They are also very loyal and willing to care for their human companions.

4. Jack Russell Terriers

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Jack Russell terrier running
Jack Russell terriers are playful dogs that get along great with children. iStock/Getty Images Plus

Weight: 13 to 18 lbs

Height: 10 to 12 inches

Life Expectancy: 13 to 16 years

The talking TV dog Wishbone was a Jack Russell terrier. Although most members of the breed aren't quite that well-spoken, they can be very vocal with their human companions.

Jack Russell terriers have goofy temperaments. They are also very active dogs, so they can easily get into all sorts of mischief to their family members' delight.

5. Dachshunds

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Dachshund standing on grass
Dachshunds are playful dogs with endearing personalities. iStock/Getty Images Plus

Weight: 16 to 32 lbs

Height: 8 to 9 inches

Life Expectancy: 12 to 16 years

Commonly known as wiener dogs for their long, sausage-like bodies and short legs, dachshunds were originally bred to drag prey out of burrows. That makes them independent and brave little dogs that will always return to their masters.

Dachshunds are playful, energetic dogs. They're also fiercely devoted to their human companions. Their stubbornness paired with their short stature gives them endearing personalities.

6. Brachycephalic Dogs

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pug sitting on gravel
Pugs and other brachycephalic dogs are great for families.

Weight: 14 to 66 lbs, depending on specific breed

Height: 12 to 19 inches, depending on specific breed

Life Expectancy: 9 to 15 years, depending on specific breed

Brachycephalic dogs include breeds like Boston terriers, bulldogs and pugs. These dogs are known for their distinct, scrunched faces.

Breeds like French bulldogs and pugs are especially clever, and their mischievous personalities can delight their human companions. They're also very affectionate and attentive to the needs of their owners.

Brachycephalic dogs are prone to health conditions (especially trouble breathing, infections and joint pain. If you want one of these friendly pups, seek out a responsible breeder who works carefully to produce healthy dogs.

7. Whippet Dogs

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Whippet dog standing in grass
Whippets are thin, energetic dogs that get along well with people.

Weight: 15 to 42 lbs

Height: 18 to 22 inches

Life Expectancy: 12 to 15 years

Don't confuse this breed with the inhalant drug by the same name. Whippets can make you laugh, but you don't need a doctor's supervision to enjoy these long-nosed and nimble dogs.

Whippets are very respectful of their humans, and they won't cause a ruckus with their barking. They're energetic, but gentle, so they make great companions for families with young children.

8. Chinese Crested Dogs

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Chinese Crested Dog white background
Chinese crested dogs are affectionate but can turn needy if not given enough attention. iStock/Getty Images Plus

Weight: 7 to 12 lbs

Height: 9 to 13 inches

Life Expectancy: 13 to 15 years

These small and often hairless dogs are very playful and alert. They're very affectionate with their human companions and pay close attention to their family's needs.

Their affection can sometimes turn into neediness and cause separation anxiety. They may channel their energy into aggressive behaviors, like barking and chewing on household items, if left alone for too long.

9. Northern Companion Spitzes

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Irish sheepdog outdoors
Irish sheepdogs and other Northern companion spitzes have warm coats for long winters.

Weight: 20 to 46 lbs, depending on specific breed

Height: 12 to 20 inches, depending on specific breed

Life Expectancy: 12 to 15 years, depending on specific breed

Spitzes includes a variety of dog breeds with thick fur and pointed ears. The University of Helsinki team looked at four breeds in this category: Icelandic sheepdogs, Norwegian buhunds, Swedish lapphunds and Swedish vallhunds.

These dogs were bred to keep people company through cold Scandinavian winters. They'll cuddle up with you by the fire, but their thick coats let them play outside all year long.

10. American Cocker Spaniels

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American cocker spaniel standing in lawn
American cocker spaniels are well-behaved, making them great for families and shows.

Weight: 15 to 31 lbs

Height: 14 to 16 inches

Life Expectancy: 10 to 14 years

These dogs will come bounding towards their human companions, their incredibly long coats flying in the wind. You may have seen these dogs in competitions, where they're prized for being well-groomed and well-behaved.

They make great family dogs because of their even tempers, gentle behavior and eagerness to please. They were originally bred as sporting dogs, so you'll have to work off their energy with walks and playtime.

11. Parson Type Terriers

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Brazilian terrier white background
Brazilian terriers are energetic and well-behaved dogs.

Weight: 13 to 22 lbs

Height: 13 to 16 inches

Life Expectancy: 13 to 15 years

The Helsinki researchers looked at Brazilian terriers and Parson Russell terriers in this category. Both breeds are related to the friendly Jack Russell terrier, which also earned high marks for human sociability.

These terriers are energetic and love running around with their human companions. They make great family dogs thanks to the affection they show toward family members and their eagerness to please.

12. Schapendoes

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Schapendoe dutch sheepdog closeup
Schapendoes, or Dutch sheepdogs, are very trainable and make great family watchdogs.

Weight: 26 to 55 lbs

Height: 16 to 20 inches

Life Expectancy: 12 to 15 years

Schapendoes, or Dutch Sheepdogs, are a long-haired breed from the Netherlands. Their herding origins give them plenty of energy and make them very responsive to training.

They're great with people and other dogs and they show lots of affection for humans in their orbits. They're also very attentive and brave, so they make great family watchdogs.

13. Australian Shepherds

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Australian shepherd sitting on grass
Australian shepherds have nothing to do with Australia, but they are very well-behaved.

Weight: 40 to 65 lbs

Height: 18 to 23 inches

Life Expectancy: 13 to 15 years

Despite their name, these dogs can trace their origins through Europe and California. Ranchers prized these Basque herding dogs for their loyalty and work ethic.

You can still find some working on ranches throughout the American West, but they're also great family dogs. They respond well to training and they're great with young children.

14. Irish Red Setter

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Irish red setter on grass
Irish red setters are known for their shiny red coats and affectionate personalities.

Weight: 60 to 70 lbs

Height: 25 to 27 inches

Life Expectancy: 12 to 15 years

You'll instantly recognize an Irish Red Setter bounding playfully towards you, thanks to their flashy red coats. They got their start retrieving prey for hunters, but today they're more likely to retrieve a tennis ball.

Irish setters make excellent family dogs. They're very affectionate and quick to show their love. They also respond well to training.

15. Poodles

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groomed poodle standing on grass
Poodles are great competitions dogs because of their coats. They're also get along great with humans. iStock/Getty Images Plus

Weight: 6 to 70 lbs, depending on classification

Height: 10 to 24 inches, depending on classification

Life Expectancy: 10 to 18 years

Poodles in all sizes ranked well for sociability in the Helsinki study. They're popular show dogs thanks to their iconic coats and responsiveness to training. They're also hypoallergenic, so they're great pets for families who are allergic.

These dogs are faithful to their human companions and extremely intelligent. However, their unique coats require regular grooming, so make sure you're ready to provide that.

What Are the Least Friendly Dog Breeds?

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Here are the five dogs with the lowest human sociability scores in the Helsinki team's study, from least to most friendly:

  1. Livestock guardian dogs like Catalan sheepdogs, Central Asian shepherd dogs and Tibetan mastiffs
  2. Asian primitive dogs like akitas, chow chows and Shiba Inus.
  3. Primitive sighthounds like Afghan hounds and Portuguese podengos.
  4. Northern hunting spitzes like the East Siberian Laika and Karelian bear dog. Not to be confused with Northern companion spitzes, which are very friendly.
  5. Sled dogs like huskies and malamutes.

Just because these dogs aren't friendly does not mean that they are aggressive. Since these breeds are mostly working dogs, they require plenty of mental and physical stimulation. Many owners don't realize this and may have trouble training these dogs to get along with humans and other pups.

Remember that breeding is not the only factor that affects sociability. You can train dogs to respect strangers and develop good recall skills to avoid potential unfriendly encounters. Likewise, breed alone is not enough to make a dog friendly—you should train any dog well, even if it comes from a friendly breed.

What Are the Friendliest Small Dog Breeds?

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If you're looking for a small dog that's very friendly, consider these breeds:

  • Chihuahuas
  • Yorkshire terriers
  • Jack Russell terriers
  • Pugs
  • Chinese crested dogs

What Are the Friendliest Large Dog Breeds?

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If you're interested in a gentle giant for your family, consider these breeds:

  • Bull terriers
  • Golden retrievers
  • Irish red setters
  • Standard poodles
  • Great danes

Some dog breeds are naturally more friendly than others, but almost any dog has the capacity to get along well with humans. Likewise, any dog can show aggressive behavior. No matter their breed, train and socialize your dog as a puppy to make sure they learn good habits and become as friendly as possible.

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