10 Best Companion Dogs That Will Stick By Your Side

By Alicia Kort

Woman with her companion dog
Felix Chacon / Stocksy
Are you looking for a dog who can be considered your new best friend or your shadow? You’re looking for a companion dog or a dog who is friendly, affectionate, and so devoted that they might come off as clingy. Companion dogs are usually lap-dogs, but that doesn’t mean they’re small — big dogs can be lap-dogs (and companion dogs), too. These breeds are also usually medium- to low-energy and usually good with young children, seniors, or other pets.

We’ve rounded up a list of the best companion dog breeds out there. These dogs vary in size, fur maintenance, mental stimulation requirements, and exercise needs because a family with young children might be looking for a different companion than an elderly couple, and a person who lives in a studio apartment in the city will have different caring capabilities than a family in the suburbs.

These 10 breeds have something important in common, though: They all love unconditionally and are incredibly loyal companions to their pet parents.

Shih tzu dog on a beach

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Shih Tzu

The Shih Tzu, nicknamed the “Lion Dog,” makes the perfect small companion dog. Coming in at up to 16 pounds and 10.5 inches at shoulder height, the Shih Tzu has been a lap-dog for centuries and is happy to continue that tradition. Highly affectionate and great around other pets and young children, Shih Tzus aim to please; they enjoy charming their humans with tricks and snuggling.

Because they’re bred as lap-dogs, Shih Tzus only need short walks and a little indoor playtime to keep them happy. Their elaborate mane is a little more high-maintenance, though — they require daily brushing and monthly baths to keep their coats looking and feeling nice.

Weight: 10 to 16 pounds
Lifespan: 10 to 16 years

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companion Papillon dog on bed

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Papillon

The Papillon, which means “butterfly” in French, tops out at 10 pounds and only reaches 11 inches at shoulder height. This small breed is known for their unique wing-like ears and loving and devoted nature. Papillons make good companions — they are good with young children, but young children should be taught how to interact gently with this small pup, or the dog could get injured. This regal pup is surprisingly smart and active despite their small stature and will want to play fetch inside more than you might anticipate. The Papillon’s silky-soft fur only needs to be groomed every month or so, but occasionally running a brush through it will help it stay tangle-free.

Weight: 5 to 10 pounds
Lifespan: 12 to 15 years

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two golden retriever buddies

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Golden Retriever

It’s probably not surprising to see the Golden Retriever on this list as they are one of the most famous companion dogs. Golden Retrievers are highly intelligent, obedient, cheerful, and eager to please. They enjoy having some sort of job or task for mental stimulation — they often work as service dogs — and sometimes make it their life’s mission to support their pet parents in whatever way they need. They’re also good around young children and other pets.

This pup is a bit larger than the other companion dogs on this list so far — they can weigh as much as 75 pounds and reach 24 inches tall at shoulder height — and require a lot of exercise, including long walks or play, or they might grow destructive. Their beautiful golden double-coat of fur also sheds heavily twice a year and moderately the rest, so they should be brushed frequently.

Weight: 60 to 75 pounds
Lifespan: 10 to 12 years

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low shedding dog breed maltese on mat

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Maltese

The Maltese is one of the most famous lap-dogs in the canine world. This petite white pup only weighs up to seven pounds and reaches 9 inches of height, so they also make the perfect purse dog, but aren’t recommended for families with young children or other (larger) pets. This breed can be doting, but they can have a sassy streak, which is undoubtedly from years of sitting on the laps of rulers.

Like the other toy dogs on this list, the Maltese doesn’t need a ton of exercise, though they have a high enough energy level to play multiple times a day. That silky white coat won’t keep itself clean — the Maltese requires a light daily brushing to prevent tangles and frequent baths with shampoo and conditioner to keep their coat healthy.

Weight: 4 to 7 pounds
Lifespan: 12 to 15 years

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large beige american staffordshire terrier looking during walk

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American Staffordshire Terrier

The American Staffordshire Terrier, nicknamed “AmStaffs,” are big cuddle bugs — and their size will not stop them from trying to be lap-dogs. This breed can reach up to 70 pounds and 19 inches at shoulder height, but they’re still a bit clingy, which is ideal if a pet parent is looking for a companion dog (they even make great service dogs). This breed wants to be around their humans all the time and can grow destructive if they’re left alone for too long. AmStaffs are a little more high-energy than the other dogs on this list, so older people would be better matched with a senior. Their short, glossy coats are easy to care for; they only require a once-over with a brush weekly.

Weight: 40 to 80 pounds
Lifespan: 10 to 15 years

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cute fluffy Maltipoo dog

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Maltipoo

The Maltipoo is a mix of a Poodle and a Maltese and is generally as charming as their Maltese parent and as smart as their poodle parent. Good with kids and other pets, Maltipoos are friendly, affectionate, and usually pretty vocal. These pups can weigh up to 20 pounds and reach 14 inches in height and typically have curly white fur, which should be brushed daily and bathed monthly to keep it healthy. This breed is generally considered hypoallergenic because of their low-shedding coat. Maltipoos get the zoomies and require daily walks and playtime.

Weight: 4 to 12 pounds
Lifespan: 10 to 16 years

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king charles cavalier

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Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

The name of the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is a mouthful, but this breed, also known as a “Cavalier,” has a devoted following. If you look into a Cavalier’s big puppy dog eyes, you can see why kings and queens liked to keep this regal dog around. Highly affectionate to the point of clinginess, the Cavalier is highly loyal and would spend absolutely every minute with their humans if they could.

These small companion dogs are a very vocal breed, so pet parents should be prepared for arguments with these dogs over dinner and treat time. Cavaliers are happy to chill on couches and take long naps, though they enjoy indoor and outdoor playtime as well as long walks. Cavalier King Charles Spaniels have longer fur, but it only needs to be brushed weekly to avoid matting.

Weight: 12 to 18 pounds
Lifespan: 9 to 14 years

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Cute Chiweenie in the sun

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Chiweenie

The Chiweenie, also called the “Choxie,” is a mix between a Chihuahua and a Dachshund. This small cute pup, who weighs around 12 pounds and reaches 10 inches at shoulder height, is great for city dwellers who don’t have a lot of space. Due to their stature, they are ideal for families with older children, cats, or similar-sized dogs. Chiweenies are surprisingly energetic pups for their size; they require more than 30 minutes of exercise per day.

Chiweenies are loyal and typically develop a strong bond with one person, though they can still be affectionate with other family members. This breed can be considered “yappy” because they bark frequently, especially at unexpected noises, which makes them good guard dogs. Because Chiweenies don’t have breed standards, they can have either long or short hair depending on who the mom and dad are and vary in coat color.

Weight: 5 to 20 pounds
Lifespan: 12 to 15 years

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Boxer dog in car

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Boxer

The Boxer is a muscular, athletic pup with a heart of gold. This large breed might look like a bruiser at around 80 pounds and 25 inches at shoulder height, but they’re happy-go-lucky, goofy dogs who love spending time with their companions. Due to their patient nature, they make good pets for families with children. Because they are so devoted, though, they can grow overprotective if not socialized and trained from a young age.

Boxers are high-energy and thrive best in a fenced yard to play and run around in. Because of their required exercise level, they don’t make the best companions for seniors. They have a glossy, short coat that needs to be run over by a hound glove or gentle brush once a week.

Weight: 55 to 70 pounds
Lifespan: 10 to 12 years

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Schanuzer dog sitting on bed

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Miniature Schnauzer

The smallest member of the Schnauzer family also makes a great family companion. With their sweet old-man-like faces and beards, the Miniature Schnauzer is a friendly and devoted breed. They can reach up to 20 pounds and 14 inches at shoulder height, so young children should still be supervised with a dog this size, but Mini Schnauzers used to be farm dogs and are stronger than they look. This pup has a medium active level, so will need more than one walk a day to stay happy and healthy. Their curly fur coat is double-layered (the top is wiry and the undercoat is soft) and needs constant brushing, though they shed a little.

Weight: 13 to 20 pounds
Lifespan: 12 to 15 years

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Mixed breed dog sitting on grass looking at pet parent

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Mutts

You don’t need to go to a breeder to get a great companion. Mixed-breed pups also can be great lifelong friends. Some say that their shelter dogs saved them as much as they saved their dog. Just talk to rescue staff about the dog’s temperament, exercise levels, and whether they’re good for families with young children, the elderly, or other pets to see if that dog might be the right fit for you. Even if you are attached to the idea of a specific breed, many purebreds end up in shelters, and there are purebred rescues out there to help you find the dog you want.

Weight: 5 to 190 pounds
Lifespan: 8 to 15 years

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FAQs

Why are dogs such good companions?

Dogs make great companions because they can literally smell when you’re stressed or sad (we swear!) and provide emotional support and unconditional love. They can also make you more social because they may lead you to socialize with other pet parents at the local dog park and active because, depending on their breed, your pup can go on adventures with you, like hiking, long walks, and even runs. And, of course, dogs are great companions because you’re never alone with them by your side.

What are the best companion breeds for seniors?

The best breeds for senior citizens are dogs with lower exercise needs. Dogs with moderate energy levels are often small breeds, like the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Maltese, or Papillon. These breeds are devoted lap-dogs who just want to spend time with their humans.

What are the best companion breeds for anxiety?

Lower-energy, less reactive, and easily trainable breeds make the best pets for people with anxiety. Emotional support dogs can provide companionship and calm nerves, but they don’t have formal training like service dogs. Some common therapy dog breeds include Golden Retrievers, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, Great Danes, and Poodles.

How can you get a companion dog?

You can get a companion dog through pure breed rescues if you’re after a specific dog breed, shelters or other rescue organizations, or you can even find your new family member on adoptapet.com.


Alicia Kort is a writer and editor living in Brooklyn. She’s currently the senior commerce editor at Apartment Therapy. She’s been published in StyleCasterElectric LiteratureNewsweekInterviewBrooklyn magazine and more. In her free time, she runs, reads, and spends time with her dog-nieces, Maya and Lady, and her cat-niece, Pepper.

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