11 Dog Breeds That Are Less Likely to Bite
While any dog can bite, these breeds usually turn out to be particularly sweet-tempered as long as they're treated right.
Who’s a good dog?
Make no mistake about it: Every dog is capable of biting. “While certain breeds have predictable traits, a dog is still a dog and there are no guarantees,” says Gina DiNardo, executive secretary of the American Kennel Club (AKC). Plus, a lot depends on a dog’s personal history. Sometimes this unwanted behaviour results from abuse or other mistreatment, and a dog’s subsequent fear may increase the odds of biting. Plus, other things can factor into this equation, including boundaries you set (or don’t set) early on and individual circumstances in your home. Still, there are some breeds that deserve their reputation for being non-aggressive, upping the chances that your pooch will be too, as long as you put in some work. Find out which dogs rank high on the sweetness scale and how to ensure (as much as possible) that your pedigree pup stays that way.
Behind those fierce looks (and name!) is a big heart, especially when it comes to kids, says DiNardo. And that’s not all: These pups are smart, trainable, and loyal, she adds. They’re also playful, patient, and protective, making them awesome BFFs for the littlest two-legged members of your family. But if you’re thinking about getting a boxer, know that they grow up to be large dogs and need daily workouts.
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Here’s another ferocious-looking pooch that’s really a mellow mush-ball. “This gentle breed is known for its lovable disposition,” says DiNardo. Those easygoing ways are the result of more than 100 years of breeding that turned the English bulldog from a fighter to a super-sweet companion, according to the AKC. But don’t confuse that laid-back nature with laziness: Your pup will still need at least one brisk walk every day.
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There’s a reason why these friendly pups are one of the most popular breeds in North America. “They were bred to be cooperative when hunting and bringing ducks back to their owners,” says Katherine A. Houpt, VMD, PhD, professor emeritus of behaviour medicine at Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine. Their eagerness to please makes them oh-so-trainable, as do their smarts and even-tempered disposition. Just note that they require plenty of activity—like romps and games of fetch—to keep them fit and happy.
When studying canine aggression, researchers from the University of Pennsylvania polled owners to find the least (and most) aggressive breeds toward humans and dogs—and whippets led the list of the least bellicose. Maybe it’s because these sleek hounds are so calm, affectionate, and mild-mannered when they’re not racing after a lure (or a squirrel). After bursts of activity, whippets want nothing more than to chill in the company of their two-legged peeps, according to the AKC.
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Cavalier King Charles Spaniels
“Cavalier King Charles Spaniels thrive when they’re part of a family,” says DiNardo. These toy spaniels are also known for their cheerful nature and gentle disposition (those adorable, round eyes say it all), which makes them less likely to bite and also great with kids. Another bonus: They’re very flexible in terms of what they want to do and tend to match their owners’ activity levels. So, if you’re more energetic, your Cav will be happy to be out and about. Couch potato? After her daily walk, your pooch will be more than content to cuddle up beside you.
The Darlings (of Peter Pan fame) were onto something when they picked Nana as their children’s nanny. Newfies are famous for their devoted nature and their affinity for kids, says DiNardo. In fact, one of the breed’s most important characteristics is its gentle temperament. And be sure to give your lovable giant a chance to swim: These dogs were bred to save people from drowning.
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Bernese Mountain Dogs
Yes, they’re big, powerful dogs, but they also tend to be placid. This is another breed that ranked very low on the scale of aggressive behaviours toward people and other pups, according to the University of Pennsylvania study. Berners are affectionate, big-hearted, smart, and eager to please, so they’re easy to train, according to the AKC. And if you’re not sold yet, they’re also gentle with youngsters. Take them out on a long walk and they’ll be happy to cart the kids—literally!
Like Labs, Goldens were bred to be obedient and less reactive hunting companions, says Dr. Houpt. This tends to make them less likely to snap, particularly at kids. They’re also eager-to-please and people-oriented, making them natural family sidekicks, DiNardo notes. But don’t be afraid to give your Golden a job to do, as well as lots of exercise: These intelligent dogs are often used for search-and-rescue missions and as guide dogs for the blind.
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“Frenchies are affectionate, playful, smart, adaptable dogs,” says DiNardo. They get along well with just about everyone—two- and four-legged, young and old—so don’t be afraid to take your French bulldog out and about (except in hot weather, when it’s tough for these short-nosed dogs to breathe). These snuggle-bugs need a daily walk but then they’re done, making them perfect city (and apartment) dwellers.
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These hounds were bred to live in packs (they’re hunting dogs, after all), so they do well with other pups and children, says DiNardo. What else makes them excellent playmates and furry family members, besides having such expressive faces framed by cute floppy ears? They’re happy-go-lucky and loving. They’re also curious and clever, so having a fenced-in yard is a must, as are on-leash walks. Beagles tend to be escape artists who take off after interesting scents, no matter where they lead.
“Pugs are totally devoted to their families,” says DiNardo, who adds that these cuties are also easygoing and even-tempered. So whether you’re a family of two or 10, have no other pets or a pack of dogs, live in the sticks or in a big city, your pug will probably adjust with no problem. Pugs love to curl up next to you, but they’re also playful—so give your pup a chance to burn off some calories with games or brisk walks.
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Bite-proofing: Give your pup a good start
Dogs need to be well socialized to ensure they’re happy, confident, and well-adjusted for life, says DiNardo. “That means your dog should become acclimated to all types of sights, sounds, and smells in a positive manner,” she explains. To increase these odds and to decrease the odds of biting, it’s helpful to get your puppy before he’s 14 weeks old from a reputable breeder (not a puppy mill), says Dr. Houpt. Next, take your dog to a puppy kindergarten class, and follow that up with an obedience class that stresses positive reinforcement.
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Prevent dog-on-kid bites at home
“Interactions between your dog and kids should always be supervised, no matter what breed you own,” DiNardo says. Otherwise, things can head south if your pooch gets startled or scared when, say, your kids decide to hug her or play with her while she’s sleeping or eating. The bottom line: Your dog is not the only one who needs to learn a few new tricks. It’s essential to teach children a few important rules, including how to be gentle and not to pull on tails or ears. Also, in the beginning, if you can’t supervise your human and furry children properly, make sure to put your pup in another room so she doesn’t get overexcited and nip as children run around and play, suggests Dr. Houpt.
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