13 of the World's Most Gentle Dog Breeds

An illustration of the world's most gentle dog breeds

Treehugger / Hugo Lin

Some dog breeds are high energy, while others are incredibly calm. Some breeds have reputations for playfulness, while others are known for their smarts or athleticism. But there are also plenty of dog breeds that are simply gentle and loving. Kids can crawl all over them, take toys out of their mouths, or even mess with them at mealtime, and these sweet pups don't care. Thanks to their even temperaments, many of them also make great service or therapy dogs. 

Ready to adopt a sweet companion? Here are 13 of the most gentle dog breeds.

Millions of pets (including many purebreds) are available to be adopted from shelters. We always recommend adoption as a first choice. If you've decided to buy a pet from a breeder, be sure to choose a responsible breeder, and always avoid puppy mills.

of 13

Golden Retriever

Golden retriever walking in the grass
John McKeen / Getty Images

The "gentle dog" category is undoubtedly dominated by the ever-popular golden retriever. These well-rounded Scottish gun dogs are as fit for the home as they are for the show ring. They are described by the American Kennel Club (AKC) as intelligent, friendly, obedient, and devoted.

These qualities are also the reason they are so commonly used for search-and-rescue and guide services. U.S. Service Animals says golden retrievers are great leaders, and that they grab things with their teeth gently — a useful quality both for working dogs and those that share households with young children.

of 13

Labrador Retriever

Black Labrador retriever sitting in grass
Faba-Photograhpy / Getty Images

Their friendliness, intelligence, gentle temperaments, and energetic spirits have earned Labrador retrievers the coveted title of "most popular dog breed in the U.S.," according to the AKC. Members of the sporting dog group, they can play and fetch balls for long periods of time without getting cranky or tired. They're perfect for families with energetic kids and anyone else looking for active, patient companions.

Labradors are athletic and exuberant, yet patient and easygoing. Like goldens, these eager-to-please pets make ideal service animals. Labs are medium-to-large in size and may be black, yellow, or chocolate in color.

of 13


Beagle walking on a leash in the forest
RyanJLane / Getty Images

Beagles are said to make poor guard dogs because of their friendly dispositions. Because they were bred to hunt in packs, they enjoy the company of other dogs and people. They are happy-go-lucky, rarely aggressive, and make great companions for kids and adults of all ages, but their constant curiosity can sometimes also get them into trouble. Most of the time, their merry antics are more entertaining than destructive.

Beagles' slick coats make them relatively low maintenance; however, because they are strong-willed, training them can be a challenge. While their independent nature can occasionally make things difficult, their sweetness almost always makes up for the stubbornness.

of 13


English bulldog walking on leash on sidewalk
Maskot / Getty Images

Bulldogs may look cranky with those droopy eyes and permanently frowning jowls, but they're famously mellow, docile, and friendly dogs with tender dispositions. The good-natured breed is typically happy to please, although some may exhibit a stubborn streak. Bulldogs are very loyal to and protective of their families, especially kids.

It's important to note that this a brachycephalic dog breed, meaning it's short-nosed and can be prone to breathing issues. It can be particularly difficult for bulldogs to breathe in heat and humidity, so their exercise should be limited on hot days.

of 13


Young boy hugging a Newfoundland outside
Ariel Skelley / Getty Images

Don't let this breed's massive size fool you; the gentle giant has the most laidback disposition. Despite standing 26 to 28 inches tall and weighing an impressive 100 to 150 pounds, these canines — Newfies, as they are affectionately known — are sweet, patient, amiable, and quick to step in if someone threatens their families. Because of their protective nature, they've been dubbed "nanny dogs."

of 13

Irish Setter

Close-up of Irish setter against trees
Achim Schuelke / EyeEm / Getty Images

The playful and energetic Irish setter loves company. These dogs are affectionate with their families, gentle with kids, smart, obedient, and, like retrievers, they'll happily play fetch all day long and never get ill-tempered or tired while doing it. Irish setters are also immensely trainable and smart. They have boundless energy, but are sweet and eager to please.

In addition to their kind temperament, Irish setters are known for their graceful speed and flashy red coats. And though their boundless energy can make them rambunctious, these gun dogs respond well to gentle guidance and training. Because they are so well bonded with their families, they are prone to separation anxiety.

of 13


Pug running through a field of flowers
Alfredas Pliadis / EyeEm / Getty Images

One of the world's oldest dog breeds, pugs are also one of the silliest and sweetest. The AKC describes them as "charming, mischievous, and loving." They rarely ever nip or bite and have been known to endure the prodding of children with patience and passivity.

Pugs offer a lot of dog in a little (14- to 18-pound) package. They respond well to obedience training and don't require a lot of exercise, which is why they're also a top pick for apartment dwellers. The people-pleasing pups come in fawn or black.

of 13

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel puppy on a rug with ball
Westend61 / Getty Images

Once the lapdog of King Charles II, it's no wonder these small pups are so affectionate and love to be held. Their sweet temperament explains why the breed is such a popular therapy dog. Often referred to as comforters, Cavalier King Charles spaniels can sense feelings and often work with children, the elderly, and others with special needs.

The adorable toy breed is smart, playful, graceful, and fearless. It doesn't require a large amount of exercise, so it can adapt to both active owners and homebodies. Because Cavalier King Charles spaniels can be easily distracted, obedience training doesn't always sink in.

of 13

Bull Terrier

English Bull terrier biting on a stick
Vasco Duarte / EyeEm / Getty Images

Dubbing the breed "playful, charming and mischievous," the AKC says the bull terrier is one of the top breeds for families with kids because of its sweet and fun-loving disposition. Despite their historic role as gladiators in blood sports, these "eggheads" can be well-behaved and charming with the right obedience training (it's best to start when they're puppies) and plenty of exercise to alleviate their abundance of energy. Bull terriers behave a lot like toddlers and make great playmates for their human counterparts.

of 13


Collie standing outside in a field
关心 / Getty Images

Collies have exceedingly sweet and gentle personalities. They are sensitive, clever, and easy to train, but they can also be stubborn, so obedience training is often recommended. If you have small children, remember that collies were bred to herd, so they may constantly round up your children as they're playing in the house or yard.

There are several varieties of collie. Bearded collies are immensely shaggy and descend from Scottish herding sheepdogs. Border collies are black-and-white herders that hail from the Anglo-Scottish county of Northumberland. Then, there's the classic "Lassie" collie, a long-coated, brown-and-white iteration.

of 13


Woman training Vizla with lifted paw in a meadow
Mint Images / Getty Images

Also known as a Hungarian pointer, the vizsla has high energy levels, but that doesn't get in the way of its gentle and affectionate demeanor. Originally bred to be a hunting dog, the versatile vizsla also has a history of working in the field. Needless to say, it takes to training well and loves an active lifestyle.

The breed is sensitive yet confident, and forms strong bonds with family. These dogs have a distinctive golden rust color with a sleek, shiny, and low-maintenance coat.

of 13


Poodle sitting on steps outside
zhao hui / Getty Images

This smart, popular breed comes in a range of sizes, colors, and hairstyles, but all tend to be eager to please and highly trainable. Miniature poodles can be shy around strangers, whereas standard poodles tend to be more outgoing. Both are playful, loyal, and rarely annoyed or snippy. People with allergies tend to gravitate toward poodles because of their hypoallergenic coats. They do, however, require ample grooming.

of 13

Bernese Mountain Dog

Bernese mountain dog on a trail covered in autumn leaves
Paul Biris / Getty Images

Another gentle giant, the Bernese mountain dog is a calm, laidback breed with a sweet nature. Bred to do farm work in the mountains of Switzerland, these dogs are hardy and trainable. The AKC says that while they are sturdy animals, they can also be remarkably agile for their large size.

Bernese mountain dogs are self-confident, rarely shy, and kind. They are also beloved for their thick, shiny, tricolored coats.

Why Pets Matter to Treehugger

At Treehugger, we are advocates of animal welfare, including our pets and other domestic animals. The better we understand our dogs, the better we can support and protect their wellbeing

View Article Sources
  1. "Position Statement On Criteria For Responsible Breeding". ASPCA.

  2. "Golden Retriever Dog Breed Information". American Kennel Club.

  3. "Service Dog Breeds | The Best Breeds & Traits To Look For". US Service Animals Blog.

  4. "Labrador Retriever Dog Breed Information". American Kennel Club.

  5. Aromaa, M et al. "Assessment Of Welfare And Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome Signs In Young, Breeding Age French Bulldogs And Pugs, Using Owner Questionnaire, Physical Examination And Walk Tests". Animal Welfare, vol 28, no. 3, 2019, pp. 287-298. Universities Federation For Animal Welfare, doi:10.7120/09627286.28.3.287

  6. Hall, Emily J. et al. "Incidence And Risk Factors For Heat-Related Illness (Heatstroke) In UK Dogs Under Primary Veterinary Care In 2016". Scientific Reports, vol 10, no. 1, 2020. Springer Science And Business Media LLC, doi:10.1038/s41598-020-66015-8

  7. "Irish Setter Dog Breed Information". American Kennel Club.

  8. "Pug Dog Breed Information". American Kennel Club.

  9. "Bull Terrier Dog Breed Information". American Kennel Club.

  10. "Collie Dog Breed Information". American Kennel Club, 2021.

  11. "Poodle (Standard) Dog Breed Information". American Kennel Club.

  12. "Bernese Mountain Dog Breed Information". American Kennel Club.