A companion dog is a pooch that lives in your home and is there to make you happy and keep you company. They are called companion dogs to differentiate them from working dogs who have a specific task to carry out. In theory, any dog could be a companion dog if they are your closest pal but some breeds are more suited for this role than others.
Some breeds can be both working dogs or companion dogs depending on the home that they are living in. Other breeds, such as the toy dogs, are purely bred to be your constant friend and don’t do any work at all!
Finding the right companion dog for you can take a bit of time. You are unique and you have your own requirements. An owner who likes long country walks will need a different breed to one that lives in a city apartment and prefers to stay indoors.
To get you started, here is a top ten list of dogs that have been bred to stay at your side through thick and thin and who would all love to be your loyal companion.
1. The Basset Hound
Favoured by cartoonists for decades, the Basset Hound has a unique appearance and a lovely character. A Basset Hound will be a loving, affectionate family pet that is gentle enough to be around children of all ages but also makes a loyal companion for older people. They are naturally sociable and get on with other dogs and require little in the way of grooming.
However, they may not be the ideal choice if you have never owned a dog before. They can have a stubborn streak which makes them difficult to train and have a distinctive doggy smell. Someone who works from home or a family with young children at home all the time would be perfect owners for a Basset Hound because they can get lonely and upset when left alone for long periods.
Bullmastiffs are a good option for owners who have older children and who want totally loyalty and devotion from their dog. They require hardly any grooming and do not bark excessively, however, they will be extremely protective of you and make fabulous watchdogs.
If you take on a Bullmastiff, be prepared to have to socialise them with other dogs from a very young age because their possessiveness can turn into aggression. They also shed and drool quite a lot! Finance is also a concern because they cost a lot of money to feed.
The Pekingese (sometimes called Pekes) is a Chinese breed of toy dogs that have bred specifically to provide company for their owners. They are small in stature and don’t need a lot of physical exercises so they are well-suited to people who live in apartments and who do not have very active lifestyles.
They are both affectionate and loyal and will happily interact with other humans and other dogs. However, they are not the best option for families with very young children because they are fragile and could get injured. You will need to be firm and consistent with their training as they can be strong-willed and stubborn.
4. Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
There’s very little bad to say about the lovely Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and they are an ideal choice for first-time dog owners. They are totally trustworthy and safe around very young children and have a truly affectionate nature.
Their natural intelligence makes them easy to train and they will get on well with any other people or dogs that they meet. They will settle happily in any house or apartment but do need regular exercise and stimulation. Because they are one of the least demanding breeds around, they also make lovely companions for older people. Their only fault is that they can develop separation anxiety because they miss you so much when you are not with them so this is something to bear in mind if you are away from home for long periods.
5. Yorkshire Terrier
Yorkshire terriers started off as working dogs. They were bred to be small enough to fit inside the pockets of miners and factory workers and then let loose to catch rats. These days, they are well known as loyal and affectionate companion dogs. They have big ideas for their small stature and think that they are a lot larger and tougher than they actually are!
It is perfectly possible for Yorkies to make a great family pet (provided the children are older) and to cope well with meeting other dogs but you must work hard on socialisation when they are pups to achieve this. They are very alert, lively and intelligent and life with a Yorkie is never dull. They love being at home with their owners and don’t need a great deal of exercise.
6. Italian Greyhound
A Greyhound may seem to be an unusual choice as a companion dog but the smallest of the Greyhound breeds, the Italian Greyhound, actually makes a lovely lap dog. They are a very flexible breed so they will fit into an energetic lifestyle but will happily chill at home as well. Their laid-back approach to life makes them a ‘low maintenance’ pet who requires only the occasional grooming and shed very little.
They are a sweet, delicate little dog who may get injured during rough play with very young children. Their instinct is to chase prey so you would be best to keep them on a lead when you are out and about to prevent them from darting off. As they are totally devoted to you, they can also suffer from separation anxiety.
7. Lhasa Apso
Originating from Tibet, the Lhasa Apso has a magnificent coat and are a popular lap dog partly because they are so lazy and will be happiest curled up at the foot of your bed. The breed has its uses too, they make excellent watchdogs and will let you know if you have a stranger in the house.
Whilst they are not a large dog, they are quite robust and will stand up to a bit of rough play. Their exercise requirement is quite low but they can be hard to train because they have a tendency to be willful and independent. Because of this, they are probably not the best choice for first-time dog owners who may struggle to control them. Their coat will need some professional grooming and the costs of this can add up.
8. Irish Setter
For those would-be dog owners who like an energetic lifestyle, the Irish Setter is a brilliant choice of the companion dog. The breed was originally a gun dog but now enjoys life as a human companion as well. They are full of boundless energy and enthusiasm for any outing you plan and are naturally friendly and sociable. They would fit in well with an energetic family and with children of any age but may suit older children better because they can get a bit boisterous!
They are intelligent and can take some perseverance to train but are fiercely loyal to their owners. Their long coat will need daily grooming to keep it looking at its best but they don’t shed excessively.
9. English Bulldog
The English Bulldog’s ancestry is associated with blood sports. They were bred for bull-baiting which was the medieval past-time of setting a dog against a bull and watching it attempt to pull the bull to the ground. When the brutal sport was outlawed several centuries ago, they became companion dogs. One reason for their huge popularity is that they are very loyal little friends and are exceptionally good around children of all ages.
In terms of exercise, they are not that demanding. In fact, they have been described as lazy! They are, however, full of personality and are considered the clown of the dog world. One of the biggest considerations about becoming an English Bulldog owner is that purebred pups cost a fortune so this is a big investment.
10. Shih Tzu
The Shih Tzu’s world revolves around his or her ‘people’. They are a true companion dog and the perfect choice for novice dog owners. They get on well with children of all ages and are totally sociable little friends to everyone.
As a result, separation anxiety can be an issue because they truly hate to be alone and this can manifest as excessive barking which could annoy the neighbours! They can be a bit stubborn so you must show them who is boss right from the start. Apart from that, they are a perfect companion dog.