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There is something so special about coming home and opening the door to be greeted by your big smiling dog, and his wagging tail. Dogs truly are man’s best friend, and most dog owners are looking for just that: a friend!
A larger dog can be cuddly and caring and can keep up with you on long hikes or walks through town. Your ideal canine companion is affectionate, gentle, and enjoys being at your side. But what kind of dog is this ideal buddy?
Although the perfect dog differs for each person, we have put together a list of the 10 most affectionate large dog breeds to help you find a superb best friend!
When getting a dog, it is important to know what you are looking for in your new furry friend. The incredible number and variety of dog breeds mean that there is an equal variety in the type of companion you could bring into your home. Even for folks who want a large, affectionate dog, there is still a great number of options.
The type of affection that different breeds show can vary a lot. Some breeds, such as labs and retrievers, tend to be quite outgoing and love everyone. Other breeds, such as pit bulls or hounds, are very sweet and loyal with their family but may be protective, aggressive, or wary around strange people or dogs. Greyhounds are often reserved around strangers but love the company of their owners.
If you are looking for a super affectionate dog breed, there are a few breeds you will probably want to avoid. Although there is always individual temperament variance within dog breeds, breeds that are described as “aloof” or “independent” are not likely to be the outgoing, loving, cuddly friend that you are looking for.
“Primitive” breeds such as the Pharaoh Hound and the Basenji, and “northern/Asian” (Spitz) breeds such as the Chow Chow, Akita, or Alaskan Malamute, often fall into this category, and are usually more independent and less people-oriented than the exuberantly affectionate Labrador.
While most owners want their dog to show affection, affection alone is not the only thing to consider when bringing home a dog. In order for both you and your dog to enjoy life, your dog needs to fit into your lifestyle.
Because there are so many different breeds, you are likely to find one that works well in your house. Here are some things to carefully consider before bringing a dog home:
If you live in an active household, you probably want a dog that can keep up with you on runs or hikes, while a less active family will want to avoid bringing home a dog that could become destructive if not properly exercised.
Keep in mind that a dog who is not given the activity they need will likely become bored and restless, which could lead to destructive or inappropriate behavior. Exercise needs are important both for your dog’s physical and mental health.
While many dogs enjoy high energy play like fetch or tug, it is important to consider how well your dog will calm down when playtime is over. Most owners will get frustrated with a dog who continually brings you items to play fetch, or constantly tries to chase you around the house.
Some breeds are prone to barking a lot if they are excited (such as when someone knocks on the door) or bored (if they are left home alone for long periods of time). If you have neighbors close by, or a low tolerance for barking, a loud dog is probably something you want to avoid.
Some breeds are known for their gentleness, such as Newfoundlands, which have been popularized as nanny dogs. Some breeds tend to be more exuberant and can engage in rough play.
Make sure that your dog will be comfortable in your house. If you live in an apartment it is important that you take your large dog outside for plenty of activity. If you need to leave your dog home alone for long periods of time, it would be helpful to have a yard that she could enjoy while you’re away.
Remember, most dogs won’t just run around a yard to get all the exercise they need; you still need to walk, run, or play fetch with your dog every day.
Certain dog breeds are notorious for shedding either seasonally or year round, while others, like Poodles, are hypoallergenic and hardly shed at all. Keep this in mind if you don’t want dog hair covering your carpet!
Before bringing a dog home, consider the amount of time or money you are willing to put into caring for your dog’s coat. A Greyhound needs minimal grooming, perhaps just an occasional bath, but an Old English Sheepdog will need frequent brushing to keep his coat from getting matted, while the Poodle likely needs to be taken care of by a professional dog groomer.
When searching for the right breed of dog for you consider where you live! A short-haired Boxer will not do very well in a cold climate, and likewise, a thick-coated black Newfoundland would suffer living in Arizona.
A dog’s temperament is dependent on genetics, early life experiences, and training. Learning about and combining these aspects can help you choose an affectionate dog and teach it to let these qualities shine.
Genetics, in this case, doesn’t just refer to the breed of dog; all the breeds mentioned here are well known for being affectionate companions. There are genetic variations even within breeds. It is important to find a breeder who breeds for good temperament.
Many of the breeds listed here are working dogs, so look for a breeder who emphasizes gentleness and affection in their dogs, not working skills or instincts.
A puppy’s early life experiences play a large role in shaping its temperament later in life. Find out from breeders how they raise their pups and what kind of socialization they have been introduced to before you bring them home. A well-socialized puppy should be curious and social, not nervous or aggressive.
Socialization does not stop once you bring home your puppy. It is extremely important to introduce a puppy to new people, dogs, other animals, and a variety of situations during their first four months.
This training should also include introducing a puppy to new environments, sounds, surfaces to stand on, and handling your puppy in a variety of ways. Always remember to reward your puppy for friendly interactions!
While training puppies and adult dogs alike, it is important to remember to listen to your dog and respect his needs. Learn about dog body language and recognize when your dog is uncomfortable, and respect his space when he is.
For example, follow a pat-pet-pause routine to train a hand-shy dog to enjoy getting a belly rub or a scratch behind the ears.
This approach can also be used to teach your dog about other new and possibly uncomfortable experiences:
- Invite your dog over and introduce him to new stimuli, but don’t force unwanted experiences on him.
- Pause after a moment, and allow your dog to choose to remain in the situation, or to leave the situation if it makes him uncomfortable.
- Respecting your dog’s wishes in this way creates an important bond of trust between you and your dog.
Proper training and socialization are especially important for large dog breeds. Many of these dogs could outweigh their owners, so it is essential that they are well behaved and under control.
If a massive Mastiff becomes aggressive, it will be frightening at the least, and the situation could easily become dangerous. A well-trained dog that has been exposed to a variety of situations and environments will likely be confident and not exhibit fearful, stubborn, or aggressive behaviors.
Finally, remember that, like humans, dogs are all individuals. Training techniques or rewards that work for one dog may not work for another. How affectionate your dog is is not solely dependent on how you raise her.
Well-socialized dogs can still develop unwanted behaviors or become aggressive, and dogs who were raised in terrible and abusive situations can make incredible, affectionate companions. Proper socialization, using gentle and consistent training methods, and rewarding good behavior will all give your dog the best chance at being your ideal affectionate companion.
Most Affectionate Large Dog Breeds
Description: The classic family dog, lovable labs are friendly, active, and outgoing. They are eager to please and attentive to their humans, and as a retriever, they would probably love to play a game of fetch.
Height: 21.5-24.5 inches
Weight: 55-80 pounds
Coat Type and Grooming Needs: Short, water repellent double coat sheds and requires occasional brushing and bathing.
Trainability: Labs are eager to please, love food, and are outgoing so they are highly trainable.
Exercise Needs: Needs lots of activity. Labs love to swim and play fetch!
Social Behavior: With proper socialization, most Labs will do well with adults, children, other dogs, other animals, and even strangers. They make a great family pet, but probably not the best guard dog.
Common Health Concerns: Labs have a genetic propensity towards hip and elbow dysplasia, patellar luxation, and eye issues. They can also tend towards obesity, but this is easily prevented with proper diet and plenty of exercise. Recommended health testing: hip evaluation, elbow evaluation, ophthalmologist evaluation, and EIC DNA test.
Things to Keep In Mind: The Labrador is America’s most popular dog for good reason, but owners must keep in mind that Labs can shed quite a bit, and are an energetic breed that requires more exercise than some families are able to provide.
Description: A friendly, loving, dog with a sturdy build and a beautiful golden coat. Goldens are another popular American family pet and for good reason.
Height: 21.5-24 inches
Weight: 55-75 pounds
Coat Type and Grooming Needs: Long, water-repellent coat with a thick undercoat that sheds. Goldens require weekly brushing and occasional baths to keep their coat healthy and keep the shedding at bay.
Trainability: Golden Retrievers are friendly and eager to please, which makes them excellent learners.
Exercise Needs: Goldens need lots of exercise in order to remain happy and healthy.
Social Behavior: Goldens get on well with adults, children, and other animals alike when they have been properly socialized.
Common Health Concerns: Like Labs, Golden Retrievers are prone to hip and elbow dysplasia, and eye issues. They can also suffer from certain heart diseases and allergic skin conditions. Recommended health testing: hip evaluation, elbow evaluation, cardiac exam, ophthalmologist evaluation, and EIC DNA test. Cancer is also extremely common in this breed.
Things to Keep In Mind: Goldens shed quite a bit, and owners need to remember that this large breed needs plenty of daily exercise. There are some lines of golden retrievers that are prone to resource aggression or cancer, so be sure to carefully research your chosen breeder!
Description: Long-legged and tall, Irish Wolfhounds have a coarse, shaggy coat and a sweet, serene temperament. They are gentle, easygoing companions. Irish Wolfhounds are the tallest of all AKC breeds.
Height: 30-34 inches
Weight: 105-120 pounds
Coat Type and Grooming Needs: A rough, coarse outer coat covers a soft undercoat. Irish Wolfhounds shed moderately throughout the year, and weekly brushing should keep this at a minimum.
Trainability: Irish Wolfhounds are very intelligent and tuned into people, which makes them responsive learners.
Exercise Needs: Irish Wolfhounds need regular exercise to stretch their long legs.
Social Behavior: Despite their enormous size, Irish Wolfhounds are very gentle and get on well with people, children, and other dogs.
Common Health Concerns: Irish Wolfhounds can be prone to hip and elbow dysplasia, heart conditions, and eye issues. Recommended health testing: hip evaluation, elbow evaluation, cardiac exam, and ophthalmologist evaluation.
Things to Keep In Mind: Because this breed is so large, it needs ample space both inside and outside. Because Irish Wolfhounds are sighthounds and have a high prey drive, owners should keep their dogs leashed unless they are in a fenced-in area. Irish Wolfhounds tend to live only 6-8 years.
Description: Newfoundlands were bred for water rescue and pulling fishing nets, but despite their massive size, they are patient, gentle, and devoted companions that get along very well with children. According to the American Kennel Club, “Sweetness of temperament is the hallmark of the Newfoundland,” and this characteristic is “the most important single characteristic of the breed.”
Height: 26-28 inches
Weight: 100-150 pounds
Coat Type and Grooming Needs: The Newfie’s thick, heavy coat sheds year round and requires at least weakly brushing in order to keep the coat healthy and the shedding to a minimum.
Trainability: Newfoundlands are highly intelligent, eager to please, and friendly, which makes them eager to learn new tricks.
Exercise Needs: This breed needs regular exercise in order to remain healthy. Newfies love to swim!
Social Behavior: Newfoundlands are incredibly gentle pets and, when properly socialized, are an ideal companion for children. They also tend to get on well with adults and other dogs and animals.
Common Health Concerns: Newfoundlands are prone to hip and elbow dysplasia, cystinuria, cardiac issues, and eye issues. Recommended health testing: hip evaluation, elbow evaluation, cardiac exam, cystinuria DNA test, and ophthalmologist evaluation.
Things to Keep In Mind: Newfoundlands are huge dogs and need plenty of outdoor and indoor space. They do not do well in hot climates and tend to drool a lot, especially when panting.
Description: The Rough Collie has a charming energetic personality and a striking gorgeous coat. The classic Lassie dog makes a devoted companion and a great family pet. Other very similar affectionate dogs to consider are the Smooth Collie and the Bearded Collie.
Height: 22-26 inches
Weight: 50-75 pounds
Coat Type and Grooming Needs: The long, dense coat of the Collie requires brushing every few days to keep it from matting and to remove dead hair.
Trainability: Collies are very smart and people oriented, so they enjoy learning new tricks.
Exercise Needs: Collies need regular exercise to keep them physically and mentally healthy.
Social Behavior: With proper socialization, Rough Collies do well with people and other dogs. They are especially good with, and protective of, children.
Common Health Concerns: Collies have a propensity toward eye issues and sensitivities to certain drugs. Recommended health testing: PRA Optigen DNA test and MDR1 DNA test.
Things to Keep In Mind: Collies are incredibly smart, and a Collie who is bored or who isn’t getting enough exercise can become destructive or behave unacceptably. Collies also have a strong herding instinct which is more prevalent in some genetic lines than in others, so if you want a calm pet, it is important to find a breeder that breeds dogs who are good family pets, rather than competitive herders. Proper socialization is necessary to prevent shyness.
Description: Bloodhounds are still commonly used as working dogs, where they use their incredible noses to find anything from illegal substances to missing people. They are devoted and loyal, which makes them excellent companions and deserving of one of the most affectionate large dog breeds.
Height: 23-27 inches
Weight: 80-110 pounds
Coat Type and Grooming Needs: The Bloodhound’s short, dense coat benefits from regular brushing. Bloodhounds should also be bathed regularly to keep them from “smelling like a dog.”
Trainability: It is important to start training your Bloodhound early; habits he develops will likely stay for life, so it is important to teach proper behavior from the beginning. While these dogs are very smart, they can be stubborn, and training your Bloodhound can be challenging.
Exercise Needs: Bloodhounds are an active breed and need regular exercise.
Social Behavior: Bloodhounds do well with people, children, and other dogs, but can be shy around strangers.
Common Health Concerns: Bloodhounds can suffer from hip and elbow dysplasia, and heart issues. Because of their loose skin and droopy ears, owners should regularly check skin folds and ears for irritation or infection. Recommended health testing: hip evaluation, elbow evaluation, and cardiac exam.
Things to Keep In Mind: Bloodhounds are prone to drooling excessively, and can be quite stubborn. As with all scenthounds, they may not be able to control their urge to follow a scent and should be walked on a leash or kept in a fenced-in area.
Description: With their large form and masked faces, Bullmastiffs are a cross between Bulldogs and Mastiffs. They make excellent guard dogs, and gentle, affectionate companions. Similar breeds include English Mastiffs, Neapolitan Mastiffs, and Pyrenean Mastiffs.
Height: 24-27 inches
Weight: 100-130 pounds
Coat Type and Grooming Needs: Bullmastiffs shed seasonally, but their short coat needs only occasional bathing and brushing.
Trainability: Bullmastiffs have a tendency towards stubbornness, so starting training early in the dog’s life is recommended. They’re not exactly known for their smarts or trainability!
Exercise Needs: Bullmastiffs are energetic and enjoy daily exercise, but can be quite lazy in their older years.
Social Behavior: Bullmastiffs are gentle and loyal companions and also do well with children. They can be protective, and behave aggressively towards strange humans and dogs.
Common Health Concerns: This breed is prone to hip and elbow dysplasia, thyroid issues, cardiac issues, and eye problems. Recommended health testing: hip evaluation, elbow evaluation, cardiac exam, thyroid evaluation, and ophthalmologist evaluation.
Things to Keep In Mind: Bullmastiffs tend to drool quite a bit. It is also very important to establish good behavior early on in the dog’s life, as a large breed that is aggressive to strangers can be difficult to control when full grown.
Description: The powerful, yet elegant Great Dane is a very distinctive breed, and makes a gentle, patient family companion.
Height: 28-32 inches
Weight: 110-175 pounds
Coat Type and Grooming Needs: Great Danes shed seasonally, but their short coat needs only occasional bathing and brushing.
Trainability: Great Danes tend to be responsive and agreeable learners. With a dog this size, obedience training is a must!
Exercise Needs: This is an energetic breed, and requires daily exercise.
Social Behavior: Great Danes are gentle companions that get on well with adults, children, and other pets and dogs. Without proper socialization, however, they can become extremely shy outside of the home.
Common Health Concerns: Great Danes are especially prone to gastric dilatation-volvulus, or bloat, a potentially fatal enlarging and/or twisting of the stomach. Danes can also experience hip dysplasia, and issues with the eyes, heart, or thyroid. Recommended health testing: hip evaluation, cardiac exam, thyroid evaluation, and ophthalmologist evaluation.
Things to Keep In Mind: Prospective owners should keep in mind that proper training and socialization are a must in order to ensure that the dog is safe and manageable. Some lines of great danes are tragically short-lived and can be extremely shy, so finding a good breeder is a must!
Description: Bernese Mountain Dogs are strong, sturdy, working dogs that originate from the mountains of Switzerland. They make sweet, affectionate dogs that enjoy spending time with their humans.
Height: 23-27.5 inches
Weight: 70-115 pounds
Coat Type and Grooming Needs: Bernese Mountain Dogs have a long double coat that sheds quite a bit. Brushing a few times a week keeps shedding under control and keeps the coat from matting.
Trainability: Bernese Mountain Dogs are intelligent and eager to please, so they enjoy learning new tricks.
Exercise Needs: This breed is energetic and requires daily exercise.
Social Behavior: Bernese Mountain Dogs are friendly with adults, children, and other dogs. They enjoy activities with their family and do not do well when left alone for long periods of time.
Common Health Concerns: Bernese Mountain Dogs are prone to hip and elbow dysplasia, cardiac issues, blood issues, and eye problems. Recommended health testing: hip evaluation, elbow evaluation, cardiac exam, ophthalmologist evaluation, and Von Willebrand’s Disease DNA test.
Things to Keep In Mind: Bernese Mountain Dogs can be prone to separation anxiety if left alone for long periods of time, so proper training and socialization are very important from a young age.
Description: The Greyhound’s tall, slender frame allows them to be one of the fastest animals on land. They also make gentle, sweet, stoic pets.
Height: 27-30 inches
Weight: 60-70 pounds
Coat Type and Grooming Needs: The short, smooth coat of the Greyhound needs very little attention; the occasional bath and brushing are all that is needed to get rid of dead hair.
Trainability: Greyhounds are eager to please, but can be independent and get bored easily. A gentle approach to training, with short sessions, is ideal for this breed.
Exercise Needs: While they are calm indoors, Greyhounds are energetic and require daily exercise, and regular opportunities to run full-out. They will chase anything that moves, so a game of fetch in a fenced-in area is ideal.
Social Behavior: When properly socialized, Greyhounds are loving friends, and enjoy the company of adults, children, and other dogs. Greyhounds can be reserved and shy around strangers, and usually don’t display exuberant happiness to the degree that some other breeds do.
Common Health Concerns: The Greyhound can be susceptible to cardiac and eye issues, as well as Greyhound neuropathy. Recommended health testing: cardiac exam, ophthalmologist evaluation, and Greyhound Polyneuropathy NDRG1 DNA test.
Things to Keep In Mind: Because of their high prey drive, Greyhounds will likely chase cats or other small animals. They should be kept on a leash unless they are in an enclosed area.
Wrapping Up The Most Affectionate Large Dog Breeds
There is a lot to consider before bringing home a dog, and large breeds present unique challenges, but the rewards of living with your big furry friend are unparalleled.
This is by no means an exhaustive list of affectionate large dog breeds, and there are also many mixed-breed dogs that could be as sweet as a Newfoundland, but these breeds are a good place to start your search for the perfect big affectionate buddy.
Being able to romp and play and then cuddle up with a big furry companion is a joy that large dog owners know to be one of the best. What do you love most about living with your big dog? Let us know in the comments!