Technically, the term companion dogs refers to those bred purely for companionship, like pugs and Pekingese. However, any dog that loves people and is loyal and affectionate to a fault is a companion, even Great Danes and Golden retrievers.

Companion dogs - Shih tzuTraditionally, companion dogs are small breeds, but these days they come in all shapes and sizes. Conversely, not all small dogs are necessarily companion dogs. So, the moral of the story is size doesn’t matter.

There is one final thing to remember: Just because dogs were bred as companions doesn’t mean they aren’t bundles of energy in need of mental stimulation and physical exercise. So if you’re a couch potato, you might want to reconsider that Boston terrier. Most companion dogs adapt well to apartment living and are perfectly happy in a flat or townhouse. However, other dogs thrive better in houses with gardens and easy access to the outdoors.

Companion dogs definition extended

Over the past few years, researchers have focused on the benefits of animal companionship for people. As a result, the term companion dogs now extends to include dogs that offer emotional support and physical assistance to the elderly, disabled, traumatized and ill, and even those who are just plain lonely. These are considered “skilled” companion dogs as they require special training to cope with their unique placements; for example, tolerance and support for children with autism, and opening doors and switching on lights for the physically disabled.

In this sense, there is a cross-over between working dogs and companion dogs, but that serves to underline the versatility of our canine friends.

Companion breeds

Now let’s take a look at some companion dog breeds – those who were bred for companionship and those who have become companions over the years.

Toy companion dogs

  • Affenpinscher
  • Bichon Frise
  • Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
  • Chihuahua
  • English Toy Terrier
  • Havanese
  • King Charles spaniel
  • Maltese
  • Pekingese
  • Pomeranian
  • Pug
  • Yorkshire terrier

Small companion dogs


  • Boston terrier
  • Bulldog (English and French)
  • Coton de tulear
  • Italian Greyhound
  • Poodle

  • Shiba Inu
  • West Highland White Terrier

Medium to Large companion dogs

  • Tibetan terrier
  • Dalmatian
  • Basset
  • Beagle
  • Golden retriever

Whether you like your dogs itsy bitsy or larger than life, you can find a canine companion that will provide you with endless love and friendship. All they ask in return is love, kindness, tasty treats and the chance to flex their mental and physical muscles.