GENERAL BREED INFO

Top 10 Least Aggressive Dog Breeds

Least Aggressive Dog Breeds
John Walton
Written by John Walton

It is a fact that every dog, regardless of breed, can be either aggressive or more laid-back. However, when choosing your new furry family member, it is important to know which breeds have more tendencies to be snappy and which ones are usually calm.  There are many factors that influence the behavior of a dog, and this article will provide you with a short guide on these factors and top 10 breeds that are considered to be the least aggressive.

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There are many important things to decide before choosing the dog, and some of them include whether you are living alone or with children, are there other pets or dogs, and whether you are able to provide the dog with regular walks, exercises and basic needs. All of these are important before researching characteristics of each dog breed and its level of aggression.

Some of the factors

The first thing that comes to people’s mind when thinking about aggressive dogs is their size. It is normal since huge dogs have potential to do more harm than tiny dog breeds, however, that does not mean that their character is snappy or that they are usually as nervous as smaller dogs.

Additionally, you should keep in mind that big dog breeds also require a lot of space and exercise and because of their size they can inadvertently step on the child or push him too hard. It is also interesting to note that are more cases of nervous and snappy little dogs than bigger dogs. For example, compare a friendly Golden Retriever and Pekingese.

Aggressive dog

The other factor is the dog’s breed characteristics because some dog breeds have inner instincts for guarding, herding, retrieving, hunting etc. Some of them had been developed specifically to do these tasks and they tend to find some other tasks if they are not provided with similar jobs and that can include nipping at the family members or other animals. This can be brought to minimum by proper training, which brings us to the third factor: training and owner’s care.

This means that if an owner provides his or her pet with love, proper care and training, the dog will be, regardless of his breed, happy, content and not aggressive. That also means that a puppy should be socialized from an early age so it can get friendly towards other dogs and people and not get shy or hostile towards them because of fear or jealousy. For quick tips and guidelines on how to socialize a puppy, click on the link to know more.

According to certain surveys on this topic, there are variations among dog breeds when it comes to the severity of aggression directed towards different targets. There are four different categories for aggression and they are the stranger-directed aggression, owner-directed aggression, dog-directed aggression and dog rivalry. That is because some breeds are very mild and docile towards strangers, but they are territorial and cannot stand other, especially unfamiliar, dogs.

It is not unusual for hunting breeds to be hostile towards smaller animals, or for the guard breeds to be aggressive towards unfamiliar people. You can find out how to stop your dog’s aggressive behavior by reading our must-read piece on this topic.

Aggressive breeds

When it comes to the first category or stranger-directed aggression, the dog breeds that scored lower and showed less hostility towards unfamiliar persons are: the Bernese Mountain Dog, Brittany Spaniel, Golden Retriever, Greyhound, Siberian Husky, Whippet and Portuguese Water Dog.

The dog breeds that scored lower than other breeds in terms of showing aggression towards their owners are: the Australian Shepherd, Bernese Mountain Dog, Boxer, Brittany Spaniel, Doberman Pinscher, Great Dane, Rhodesian Ridgeback and Pitt Bull.

The dog breeds that scored lower than other breeds in terms of showing aggression towards other dogs are: the Bernese Mountain Dog, Collie, Greyhound, Whippet and Brittany Spaniel.

The dog breeds that scored lower than other breeds in terms of dog rivalry are: the Labrador Retriever, Brittany Spaniel, Bernese Mountain Dog, Portuguese Water Dog and Rhodesian Ridgeback.

Animal behavior

According to these statistics, the Golden Retrievers, Labradors Retrievers, Bernese Mountain Dogs, Brittany Spaniels, Greyhounds and Whippets are the least aggressive breeds toward both humans and dogs.

Top 10 docile dog breeds

Check out these dog breeds which traits and personality deem them laid-back and calm. Some of them can make great choices as the new family members and friends.

Basset Hound

The Basset Hound is a short-legged dog that was originally bred in Great Britain and France. His original purpose was to hunt rabbits and hare, and the breed is famous for short legs and hanging skin structure. This can make them look sad, but their temperament is usually the opposite, they are known for being playful and outgoing. When it comes to their coat, it is short but it also sheds all the time which means that he also needs grooming and brushing on a weekly basis. They come in black, brown or white tricolors and some of them can also be gray or blue.

Basset Hound dog

What makes this dog breed a great family member is his temperament – he is very laid-back, easy-going but also playful and friendly. They are comfortable living in apartments and they are also known for their gentle disposition. They are very tolerant of small children and like to be near them. Even though they can be very vocal and stubborn sometimes, they do not show signs of aggression if socialized and loved properly. They are also great companions for frail seniors or persons with limited mobility.

For more information about the Basset Hound, see our profile on this cute and lovable pooch.

Bergamasco #2

The Bergamasco is a dog breed that originated in the Italian Alps and his original purpose was the one of a herding dog. This breed has a very unique appearance – he is of medium size with a powerfully built and square body. But what makes him interesting is his coat which is long, dense, rustic and harsh. The undercoat is very short and dense too.

Additionally, there is a third layer which consists of harsh hair similar to the one of a goat’s. As the dog grows older these layers weave together and form long mats and flocks. The coat does not require much grooming, despite its look.

Bergamasco dog

When it comes to their temperament, they are patient and have good self-control. They have a strong desire to please their master and they make good companions and family members. Aggressive behavior is not this breed’s trait.

Bulldog #3

The Bulldog is a dog breed of medium size that has a couple of varieties including the English, British, American and French bulldog. This dog is muscular, short and heavy. He also has a unique wrinkled face and a pushed up nose. These wrinkles can cause him to look grumpy, but on the contrary, this breed is known for being friendly and patient.

Bulldog puppie

They require minimal grooming and exercise which makes them great companions for apartments, older people and children. They get along well with children and like to play with them. The same goes for other dogs and pets.

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They are known for forming strong bonds with family members and they do not like to go anywhere without them. If you are looking for a pet that is courageous, patient, friendly and calm by nature, then the bulldog is a great choice.

Retriever #4

The retriever is a type of dog group that has been bred for the purpose of retrieving game birds for hunters and therefore they have developed a strong tendency to obey, learn and please their owners. The most popular varieties are certainly the Labrador Retriever and Golden Retriever. They are also used as assistance dogs.

Retriever playing

Their temperament makes them one of the least aggressive dog breeds. They are described as friendly, easy-going, outgoing, patient, calm and confident. They are also the most popular family dog breeds in the world since they go along with children. They are also described as never being nervous, snappy or hostile towards people, dogs or other animals. They are also not ‘one-man dogs’ since their personality is so easy-going; they easily form bonds with strangers or anyone who is friendly with them. That means that they are not suitable for being guard dogs.

However, they require regular grooming and brushing, especially the Golden retrievers since their coats are longed and curlier than the ones in Labrador retrievers. They are fun-loving dogs who love to be loved and to take care of their owners, and that makes them also one of the least aggressive dog breeds in the world.

Great Dane #5

Do not get intimidated by this giant, because his nickname ‘Gentle Giant’ has been given with good reason. The Great Dane is the largest dog breed in the world that can reach the height of over 100 cm from paw to shoulder. Their country of origin is Germany.

Great Dane

Their dispositions are gentle and loving and they often seek physical affection with their owners and family members. They can go along with other pets, animals and strangers and they do not show signs of aggression. They are friendly, kind and patient by nature and you should not be intimidated by their fearful size. They should be socialized from an early age in order to not become suspicious of strangers and they should be supervised around children because even though they are gentle towards them, they can accidentally step on them.

Beagle #6

The Beagle is a small to medium-sized dog breed originating in England. They were used for hunting foxes and small prey and today they make great companion dogs. They are usually tricolors and famous for their shorter legs, short coat and broad heads and ears. They can be easily distracted by various smells outdoors so they should be supervised carefully.

Beagle puppy

When it comes to their temperament, they are known for being gentle, merry and friendly. They enjoy people’s company and what makes them great family pets is the fact that they are excellent with small children. They also get along with other dogs and strangers which makes them poor guard dogs. They can get easily bored and even develop the separation anxiety. All in all, they are very playful dogs and aggressiveness is not part of their temperament.

Learn more about this amazing breed by clicking on the link to our article on the Beagle.

Irish Setter #7

The Irish Setter is a medium-sized dog breed known for its deep chestnut coat color, broad chest and small waist. They were used as gun dogs in Ireland but nowadays they are popular therapy and family pets. They get along with children, other animals, or dogs. However, they should be supervised in the company of smaller pets because they have the instinct of going after small prey since they are a hunting breed.

Irish Setter dog

They are not suitable as guard dogs as they can get friendly with strangers. They love human companionship and they should never be left alone for a long period of time. They are known for being calm, friendly, patient and easy-going but also cheerful and full of energy. Because of this, they are often used as assistance and therapy dogs in hospitals and schools.

Newfoundland #8

The Newfoundland is another large dog breed that is called the ‘Gentle Giant’. His country of origin is Canada and he is known for his water-resistant coat, webbed feet and robust body. They come in black, brown, grey and black and white colors. Just like the Great Dane, the size and overall appearance can be intimidating but they are calm, docile, loyal and ideal working dogs. They have also shown courage in lifesaving exploits and they are amazingly good with children, so much that they are also called the ‘nanny dogs’.

His great size and strength make him a great guard dog; however his gentle disposition makes him a good companion dog for children families. This giant has a golden heart and if you are looking for a dog breed that goes along with children and you can provide him with a lot of exercise and love, then here it is. Our extensive article on this magnificent breed is a good-read, so see our profile on the Newfoundland.

Newfoundland dog

According to the American Kennel Club, there are more docile large dog breeds that are misunderstood as aggressive and imposing, but they are rather calm and gentle. They are the Irish Wolfhound, Leonberger, Mastiff and Saint Bernard.  Some of these breeds have become very popular because of their huge size but mellow temperaments.

Rough Collie #9

The Rough Collie is a long coated dog from Scotland. You have probably heard about the famous Lassie franchise and the dog who has stolen hearts around the world. In that case, this is it. This Collie is a beautiful medium to large sized dog breed that has a silky and smooth long coat that required a lot of grooming and brushing. They have a distinctive small and long head with protruded hears and narrow muzzle. They come in various colors.

Rough Collie

When it comes to Collie’s temperament, they should never be nervous snappy or aggressive, on the contrary — they are good with children and other animals. They should be socialized and trained from an early age in order to not become shy or suspicious of others. They are very loyal and one-family dogs, which means that even though they would get friendly with others, they will stay loyal to their true family. They are eager to learn, playful, cheerful and protective.

Pug #10

The Pug is a popular and small dog with a short muzzle and curled tail. He was brought from China in the 16th century and since then he has been one of the most popular toy breeds. Even though they are very small they are described as ‘much in little’, which means that they possess rather remarkable personality despite their tiny size. They are loyal and protective of their owners, but they should never be aggressive. They are also strong willed and get along with children.

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That makes them great and suitable candidates for family dogs and since they do not require much exercise and that makes them even more popular with owners that live in apartments. They always crave attention and affection of their owners, so they should never be left alone.

Pug dog

To sum up, when it comes to aggression in dogs, it is at least partially rooted in genetics while the other factors such as developmental and environmental ones play a bigger part in determining whether a dog will express aggressive behavior or not. According to the studies, the attempts of bites towards strangers and other dogs have been raised 20% in the recent years in certain breeds.

However, the attempts of bites are bigger in smaller breeds, probably because they are more tolerated. There are also variations in aggression towards strangers, owners and other dogs. Some dog breeds have been noted to show signs of all three, and some only one.

This article provided you with a guide of top 10 docile breeds that make great family dogs (Basset Hound, Bergamasco, Bulldog, Retriever, Great Dane, Beagle, Irish Setter, Newfoundland, Rough Collie and Pug) and some factors that may contribute to dogs’ aggressive behavior.

The most important thing to remember is that even though some dog breeds may have genetic dispositions for aggressive behavior, if they are cared for properly, they can be the warmest and gentlest dogs in the world.

About the author
John Walton
John Walton

John Walton lives in Somerville, MA, with his two dogs, two sons, and very understanding mate. He is a Certified Pet Dog Trainer, a member of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants, a mentor trainer for the Animal Behavior College, an AKC Certified CGC Evaluator, and the Training Director for the New England Dog Training Club.

  • Jemma Mayer

    I agree wholeheartedly with the core message of this article. What ultimately determines a dog’s temperament is how he is nurtured and not his nature. A genetically aggressive dog can be accustomed to love and care, just as well as genetically gentle dogs can grow to be aggressive if they are maltreated. I’m glad I learned about the genetic temperaments of a lot of breeds as well.

    • John Walton

      We appreciate your comment, Jemma. Socialization is an extremely important factor in molding a dog and how this affects it as it grows up.

  • Patricia Parket

    Golden Retrievers are definitely gentle and mild mannered in every way. They’re not exactly the kind of dogs who can protect you, because sometimes, they’re more scared than you are. In my early years of marriage, my husband and I had a Golden Retriever. One night, the bookshelf in an adjoining room suddenly crashed down when we were all asleep. We got up, surveyed the damage and tidied up a bit. When we returned to our bedroom,our dog was nowhere to be found. It turned out she ran to the bathroom to hide!
    I agree with the article, Golden Retrievers are the least aggressive of the bunch. :)

    • John Walton

      Golden Retrievers are very gentle and has mild temperament making them great family dogs. I’m glad to hear you sharing your story, Patricia.

  • Sally

    I read a previous article on here talking about the pit bull on the list of dangerous dogs and I mentioned that people mention the pit bull and bull dog interchangeably when they talk about really aggressive dogs. But now the bull dog is on this list. Does any one know why some people think the bull dog is very aggressive?

    • John Walton

      It is one of those stigmas that really need to go. I strongly believe that any dog is not aggressive in the beginning, it is the socialization and environment that molds it.

  • Iris Cohen

    I love golden retrievers so much, I’d say they are the sweetest and kindest breed of dogs out there! Really nice read you have here John! The pug is definitely another favorite, however the newfoundland is a breed that I am not familiar with, are they really that good?

    • John Walton

      Glad you liked the article! Newfoundland is actually one of my favorite dog breed. They may be huge but don’t be fooled. They are gentle as they are very smart as well. Historically, this type of breed were always with fishermen or sailors for they are known to save people who go overboard ships or boats. So yes, they are a great breed!

  • Carrie Phelps

    Is it a good idea to get an Irish setter? I love animals so much and I have so many cats in my home already and after reading what you said about them having an instinct for chasing after the smaller animals, I am a bit worried! is there a way to go around this or should I just reconsider my decision?

    • John Walton

      There is definitely a way around this. It is an instinct for this type of breed but it doesn’t mean you can curb such behavior. Ensure that your future Irish Setter and cats are well socialized to avoid any chasing accidents in your house. Good luck!

  • Kelly Yates

    John, when you talk about least aggressive dogs, do you mean dogs are less prone to biting? Because today I just experienced one of the gentlest dogs in our neighborhood lose his senses and go full teeth on his owner? He is a beagle, is this normal or something triggered him?

    • John Walton

      Yes, less prone to biting and are docile. These dogs may be identified as least aggressive but it doesn’t mean it will not fight back when they are very scared or threatened. It is quite possible that there was a trigger for your friend’s dog to bite his owner.

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