Calm dog breeds
Is a calm dog right for your family?
Some families are always on the go. Whether they’re hiking, mountain biking, or shuttling kids to and from soccer practice, swim team, school, and karate, you’ll rarely find them at home. Families with active lifestyles may prefer active pets who don’t mind constant car rides. Plenty of dog breeds fit that bill.
However, many families start their dog journey in search of a different kind of dog. They want a calm dog. A lazy dog. A couch potato. A best friend who won’t cause a ruckus. And of course they want to be responsible, loving pet owners. Fortunately, there are plenty of dog breeds for these families, too.
It’s important to attach a couple of caveats to any discussion about calm dogs:
- Any dog can be trained to “settle” or be calm.
- A tired dog is a good dog. Ensure any dog you have gets plenty of exercise. Two 30-minute walks per day is a good start.
- No matter the breed, the dog will not start out calm. You’d never expect a toddler to be calm, and you shouldn’t expect a puppy to be calm. Calm can be learned, and calm comes with age.
Think a calm dog would be perfect for your family? Here’s information about some of the dog breeds often perceived as calm:
Cavalier King Charles spaniel
The Cavalier King Charles spaniel (CKCS) could be considered the ideal breed—not too big, not too small, and 100% adorable. The CKCS has been a lap dog since its creation. In the 1700s, King Charles II adored the breed combination of spaniel + toy breed (the specific cross was likely a Tibetan spaniel with a Japanese chin), so much that the breed was named after him. Thus, we have today’s Cavalier King Charles spaniels, whose first job, lap and foot warmer, they still enjoy today.
The CKCS breed embodies many people’s ideal dog because they rarely bark, or dig, and are typically friendly to everyone they meet, whether two- or four-legged. Also, most spaniels are compact enough to fit into any living arrangement, and are as happy going on twice-daily walks as they are cuddling with you on the couch.
Like any breed, the CKCS is prone to specific medical conditions, including:
- Mitral valve disease
- Patellar luxation
The golden retriever is one of America’s most popular dog breeds. From their humble origins as hunting dogs, golden retrievers quickly worked their way into the hearts (and beds) of Americans, thanks in part to a calm, focused manner and obedient loyalty. Golden retrievers are still used for hunting, but they also excel in their role as assistance dogs, running agility courses, and participating in obedience trials. Golden retrievers are quick to learn and eager to please—a winning combination.
Golden retrievers are athletic and need a fair bit of exercise. However, if you don’t need a four-legged running partner, the golden retriever is happy to chase balls all evening long. When well-trained and exercised, golden retrievers can be calm at home, and make the perfect nursemaid for families with children.
Common health concerns with this breed include:
- Hip dysplasia
- Allergic skin disease, such as ear infections and hot spots
Great Pyrenees are working dogs, but when they’re not working, they’re usually resting. This enormous, ancient breed was originally a livestock guardian, and they are often still used in that role. The Great Pyrenees loves being outdoors, watching over a flock of sheep or keeping the family goats safe from predators.
Although they thrive outdoors, Great Pyrenees dogs also love coming inside to nap with their owners. Because they are bred to be guard dogs, they bark to alert the household to danger, and they can be somewhat aloof with strangers. They are, however, loyal and devoted to their families, and gentle companions to children.
The Great Pyrenees breed enjoys a relatively long lifespan for its size. While tipping the scales at up to 115 pounds and beyond suggests a short lifespan, Great Pyrenees live an average of 10 to 12 years. Hip dysplasia tops the list of the breed’s medical complaints, and eye problems and bone cancer are also common concerns.
Greyhounds likely conjure a picture of a racetrack full of high-energy dogs chasing an imaginary rabbit. While it’s true that most greyhounds originate from the track and find forever homes as retired racers, once at home, they transform into four-legged couch potatoes.
Greyhounds weigh approximately 70lbs on average, but you may not notice their size because they are lazy dogs who spend most of their time curled up on the couch or bed. They do enjoy daily walks and, because they are sighthounds, naturally want to chase prey, so you must always walk greyhounds on a leash to prevent them from chasing squirrels and neighborhood cats. You’ll also want to ensure your greyhound is cat-compatible if you have a cat. Their instinct is to chase and kill small prey, and your cat may qualify.
Greyhounds are sensitive and sweet, with low-maintenance short coats. If you’re looking for a calm dog breed who is also easy to keep, the greyhound is perfect. Greyhounds enjoy long lifespans of 10 or more years when they are healthy, but the breed has an increased incidence of bone cancer and bloat/twisted stomachs which often cuts their lives short.
The English bulldog’s compact body makes him ideal for apartment living, but his laziness earns him a spot on the list of the calmest dog breeds. Often it appears that the only thing bulldogs seem to aspire to is finding their home’s most comfortable napping spot.
When they are not napping, English bulldogs are clown-like and eager to please, though they can be quite stubborn. As a whole, the English bulldog is a great addition to families with children, and is generally good with strangers, both the two- and four-legged varieties.
English bulldogs are a brachycephalic breed, meaning that their skulls are shorter than others. Their brachycephalic face makes them instantly recognizable, along with their severe underbite that shows both lower canines, smushed in nose, and more wrinkles than you can count. Brachycephalic breeds are prone to a constellation of conditions known collectively as “brachycephalic syndrome,” which includes:
- An elongated soft palate, which reduces the ability to move air into and out of the lungs
- Stenotic nares, or nostrils—their small nostrils collapse easily, making nasal breathing difficult
- Everted laryngeal saccules, which contribute to a narrow airway
- A narrow trachea, or windpipe, that allows less air flow, in the same way a cocktail straw allows less liquid through it than a giant Big Gulp straw
Brachycephalic syndrome makes it difficult for English bulldogs to breathe as freely as dogs with longer muzzles. Exercise caution when you are out with your bulldog on hot or humid days, as they are particularly prone to heatstroke.
Bulldogs are hands down one of the most medically expensive dogs to own. In addition to brachycephalic syndrome, English bulldogs are predisposed to facial fold infections and ocular conditions, such as entropion and keratoconjunctivitis sicca, as well as orthopedic conditions, such as hip dysplasia and patellar luxation.
These low-riding scent hound are as easygoing as their ears are long. Like many hounds, they enjoy the simple life, and do quite well with a daily walk and a comfy place to sleep. Because basset hounds have been bred for tracking animals for hunters since the sixteenth century, they will follow any interesting scent, even if it takes them into unfamiliar territory.
Although basset hounds are one of the calmest dog breeds, they are also curious, jovial and often vocal. They can form strong bonds with their owners, do well in families with children, get along with other pets, and they’ve never met a stranger. Basset hounds truly are everybody’s best friend.
Their unique anatomy does set basset hounds up for the following medical conditions:
- Hip and elbow dysplasia
- Intervertebral disc disease
- Gastric dilation volvulus
- Ear infections
- Entropion and ectropion
This Mexican breed’s name is a mouthful, but his nicknames are more manageable. Also known as the Xolo or Mexican hairless, this rare breed not only ticks off the “calm” box, but also, because two thirds of Xolos are hairless, you won’t have to worry about sweeping up any hair.
The Xolo has a rich history, with statues resembling the breed in ancient Aztec burial sites that date back 3,000 years. Xolos served the important role of guiding their masters’ souls through the underworld.
These dogs often get along with everyone, and after a daily walk, are completely content to spend the rest of the day calmly recharging on the sofa. Keep in mind that if your Xolo is indeed hairless, his skin will need protection from the sun, and he’ll need sweaters to keep him warm.
Xolos are a hearty breed but share the typical health concerns of all dogs in general such as cancer and dental disease. Specific concerns for the hairless variety includes occasional acne, which can be prevented with frequent wipe-downs or baths.
Not a specific breed, senior dogs are those in their golden years, generally age 7 or older, whose puppy energy is long gone. While senior pets may come with some medical baggage, they will also fill your house with love and gratitude beyond measure.
If a particular breed of dog speaks to you, check out breed rescues and look for dogs whose muzzles have some grey. Senior pet rescues abound, so if breed is not important, you will easily find the perfect fit for your house. Too often, senior dogs and cats are abandoned by owners who move, get a new dog, or can’t be bothered with their old pet anymore. These senior citizens have much love to give, and nothing would make them happier than scoring a comfy bed in your house.
Senior dogs are thoughtful and loving. They typically come to you already housetrained, and they are as calm, cool, and collected as dogs come. If you’re looking for a calm dog, consider welcoming a senior into your home.
Is a calm dog the right fit?
A calm dog breed is a perfect fit if you want a dog who doesn’t disrupt the household. Calm dogs would rather be snoozing on the sofa than chewing on your favorite furniture or ambushing visitors. This may sound perfect, but you should also consider the rest of your family. If your kids want a dog to play with, or if your spouse is a marathon runner looking for a running companion, your family might be better off with a busier breed.