What exactly are the least aggressive dog breeds out there? Do you agree with our list below? Some of these canine companions might surprise you!
Why Are Dogs Aggressive?
For the most part, no single dog breed is going to be inherently aggressive ‘just because’. Aggression is more a learned behavioral response to the dog’s environment and isn’t a genetic guarantee.
Sure, some breeds are specifically bred for aggressive tendencies, like the dogs used in now widely illegal sports of dogfighting or bullbaiting. This just means they are genetically predisposed to that tendency for aggression and isn’t a guarantee at all.
Breeding Least Aggressive Dog Breeds Over Time
The English Bulldog is a perfect example of a breed that once tended to be much more aggressive, but that aggression was almost entirely bred out over these many years. Great Danes were once prized guardians and hunters, but again much of their aggression was bred out over the years.
Today’s Rottweiler has origins that lie with the Roman Empire of around 2,000 years ago! Though you might not think of today’s Rotts among the least aggressive dog breeds out there, they would resemble little of those dogs of 2 millennia ago.
- Rottweilers scored 84.7% with the ATTS, out of over 6,000 dogs tested. The American Pitt Bull Terrier also scored 87.4%. When it comes to ‘aggressive’ dogs, popular opinions, especially where the media is concerned, are often incorrect.
History of the Pit Bull Terrier
We’ve all heard the stories of these supposed vicious beasts that would just as easily tear your face off as anything! Is this the reality though? Are Pitt Bulls really as fearful as our media has made them out to be, or is the truth something else?
Once the violent ‘sport’ of bullbaiting was outlawed in England, enthusiasts were at a loss. They soon turned to a different ‘pastime’, ratting and dogfighting.
While Bull Dogs of the time were bred perfectly to face off against their much larger opponents, they didn’t make very agile combatants and nearly went extinct because of it (but that is beside the point). The more agile Pit Bull Terrier soon came to be.
As the story goes, these dogs were prized for their bite inhibition with humans (ability to control bite pressure). Handlers wanted to be able to treat injured animals without fear of injury themselves.
Contrary to popular belief, Pitt Bulls were specifically bred for their affinity toward people. They actually adopted the title ‘Nanny Dogs’ along with immigration to America in the early 1900s.
- The American Staffordshire Terrier, the AKC’s line of Pitt Bull Terriers, scored a perfect 5/5 in the category ‘Affectionate with Family’.
Ethical breeders will try to limit aggressive tendencies in all breeds wherever they can. Many dog breeds that exist today tend to be far less aggressive than their ancestors centuries ago.
Socialization is the Key!
A dog that is socialized well has great social skills with other dogs, puppies, other animals, children, strangers, neighbors, family, etc. This dog has learned to tolerate large crowds, and has been taught that pretty much anything else he might encounter in his environment is a good thing.
The well-socialized dog has no reason to be aggressive because he knows everything and everyone means good things for him! All dog breeds can, and should, be socialized. On the flip side, it is the poorly socialized or poorly trained dogs that are most often aggressive.
In the end, your least aggressive dog breeds are more about training and socialization than any one breed. Now that you know that, let’s cover some of the absolute least aggressive dog breeds out there today!
Don’t let his name and muscular appearance fool you. Recognized by the United Kennel Club, American Bullies were bred to be the ‘Ideal Family Companion’. These are some of the friendliest dogs you’ll ever meet, and fantastic with children.
In fact, no American Bully is inherently aggressive, according to the breed standard. Breeders originally combined the best traits of the American Pitt Bull Terrier and American Staffordshire Terrier, among other lines, to produce the American Bully.
These European dogs aren’t recognized by the AKC or tested by the ATTS, being American organizations.
Beagles were once refined for small game hunting but are now a favorite among families with kids. As any Beagle parent would agree, these energetic little guys only want to play and please their owners.
If you’re looking for an energetic playtime companion that will always be happily prancing through the house, wagging his adorable little tail, look no further.
Beagles scored 80% with the American Temperament Test Society.
Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
You’ll have trouble finding a sweeter, gentler and more affectionate breed! The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel was awarded a 5/5 from the American Kennel Club for both families and young children. It’s rare that a breed would receive a perfect rank in both categories!
They also received a 5/5 ranking with other dogs. The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel scored 85.5% with the ATTS.
Does your Lab love to swim? Today’s Labrador is descended from hardy working dogs, bred centuries ago to assist fishermen along turbulent waters of Eastern Canada (see ‘Province of Labrador’), though they went by a different name then.
Also named after the geographical region, these St. John’s Water Dogs of old are sadly extinct today but have left behind a rich history. Without these dogs, and the Newfoundlands they worked alongside (see ‘The Isle of Newfoundland’- notice a trend?), America’s #1 most popular dog breed wouldn’t exist.
The Labrador Retriever scored 92.2% with the ATTS. Labs also scored a perfect 5/5 in all 3 categories with the American Kennel Club. Out of all of the least aggressive dog breeds here, these statistics would rank Labrador Retrievers as #1.
Once bred for water retrieval, Standard Poodles are arguably running for the most intelligent breed on Earth! Most would place them second, right behind Border Collies. Poodles are highly trainable, energetic, and playful dogs! These are sensitive, peaceful animals that thrive in a loving environment.
The Standard Poodle scored 87.2% with the ATTS. The small and toy versions scored slightly lower. The standard Poodle also scored a perfect 5/5 with small children and families, according to the American Kennel Club.
Once prized as royalty themselves among Chinese aristocrats and believed to be valued higher than the emperor’s own wives, Pugs were bred to be true companion animals. As long as they are socialized well, these will be some of the most loving dogs you’ll ever meet!
Pugs scored 91.7% with the ATTS.
These gentle giants once helped a thriving Eastern Canadian fishing community grow and prosper! They absolutely love to swim, are sweet-tempered, and are highly trainable. Newfies make perfect pets for the family man willing to raise a giant breed!
Newfoundlands scored 87.5% with the ATTS.
In summary – least aggressive dog breeds
If you’re looking for a gentle, playful, happy dog as a companion for you and your family – you can’t go past a labrador for a larger dog, or a pug for a smaller dog.
All the other dogs on our list are well known as some of the least aggressive dog breeds in general – but any dog has the capacity to be a gentle, wonderful furry friend if it’s socialized, raised, and trained properly.