Cat Friendly Dog Breeds

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  • Cat-friendly breeds of dog at a glance

    • Labrador (and Golden retriever)
    • Spaniels (King Charles, Cocker, Sussex, Welsh, English Springer)
    • Beagle
    • Bloodhound
    • Papillon
    • Poodle
    • Keeshond
    • Irish Setter
    • Italian Greyhound
    • Bullmastiff

    Many people who share their homes with cats also have dogs or are thinking about getting one, and while dogs and cats can and do get along with cats, but some breeds are more suitable than others.

    There are several hundred breeds of dog, to cover them all is beyond the scope of this article, so instead, I will focus on popular breeds which are hopefully easy to find.

    Unlike cats, who formed a symbiotic relationship with people as a means of keeping rodent populations down, dogs have been selectively chosen to perform several roles such as protection, hunting, retrieval, founding up herds and more. Generally, dogs with a strong prey drive are best avoided around cats, although we can’t say all dogs are unsuitable in all situations. Cats should never be left alone with a dog who has a strong prey drive.

    Labrador and golden retriever

    Golden retriever

    I can’t write about cat-friendly dogs without starting with the Labrador. One of, if not the most popular breed of dog out there, the Labrador is a gun dog, and as the name suggests, the job of this water-loving breed was to find and retrieve game.

    Personality: This love-bug breed gets along with everybody, cats and children included. They are loyal, easygoing, calm and get along with everyone.

    Energy: This really can vary from dog to dog. They certainly aren’t a hyperactive breed, but some require more exercise than others.

    Shedding: The Labrador can shed quite a lot, a daily groom can help to keep this to a minimum.

    Health: Hip and elbow dysplasia, progressive retinal atrophy, obesity, ear infections.

    Lifespan: 10-12 years.

    Noisy? No, the Labrador is generally a quiet breed of dog.

    Note: Can be greedy and will steal food if given the opportunity. Cats will need a safe place to eat which a Labrador can’t get to.


    Instead of restricting this article to one type of spaniel, I will lump them all in one group. Popular breeds include King Charles Spaniel, Cocker Spaniel, Springer Spaniel, English Spaniel, and American Spaniel. Like the Labrador, Spaniels are gun dogs and were used for flushing and retrieving birds.

    Cocker spaniel

    Personality: Spaniels are cheerful, playful inquisitive, devoted and playful. They get along well with children and cats.

    Energy: Moderate. Spaniels need daily exercise, either a long walk or a short run will keep them happy.

    Shedding: Spaniels can shed a lot of hair, brush two to three times a week to keep this to a minimum. In warmer climates, it may be necessary to clip the coat during the warmer months.

    Health: Ear infections, progressive retinal atrophy, patellar luxation, elbow dysplasia.

    Lifespan: 10-14 years.

    Noisy: Can be.


    The beagle is a small breed of scent hound whose job was trailing rabbits. The beagle has an exceptional sense of smell. Standing 13 inches tall, the beagle is a nice sized dog who will not overshadow cats.


    Personality: Friendly, outgoing and sometimes stubborn are all words to describe this breed. They are a great choice for homes with cats and/or children. Beagles can be quite stubborn, but due to their high food drive, that can be controlled.

    Energy: This is a breed that is energetic, inquisitive and playful; they need daily exercise and play.

    Shedding: The beagle has a short coat that doesn’t shed much.

    Health: Hip dysplasia and intervertebral disk disease.

    Lifespan: 10-15 years.

    Noisy: While not overly talkative, the beagle will bark and howl given the right situation.


    An ancient, large scent hound who was originally bred to hunt deer. The bloodhound has an exceptional sense of smell and is often used to track missing people or criminals.


    Personality: Quiet and easygoing, the bloodhound is a gentle and affectionate breed of dog. They can be stubborn and independent, especially out on the trail.

    Energy: The bloodhound is a quiet breed of dog in the home, but out on the trails, and it is a different story. This is a breed that needs long daily walks.

    Shedding: Low, a weekly brush is all the bloodhound needs.

    Health: The long, hanging ears can be prone to ear infections. Other problems include skin-fold dermatitis, hip and elbow dysplasia, and eyelid problems.

    Lifespan: 10-12 years.

    Noisy? Tends to yowl.

    Irish Setter

    The Irish Setter is a large breed of gun dog with a keen nose. It is thought the breed is a cross of spaniels, pointers and other setters.

    Irish setter

    Personality: Friendly, mischievous, enthusiastic and great with children. The Irish Setter makes a perfect family companion for homes with children or cats.

    Energy: The Irish setter is a high energy breed that needs a lot of exercise. They love to run, and it is essential to exercise this breed daily.

    Shedding: Sheds a lot, brush the coat two to three times a week. May be necessary to clip the coat in warmer weather.

    Health: Hip dysplasia, progressive retinal atrophy, gastric torsion.

    Lifespan: 12-14 years.

    Noisy? Can bark a lot.


    Originally used as a companion and watchdog on the small vessels which navigated the Rhine River. The Keeshond is a medium-sized dog with a plush coat.


    Personality: Playful, loving, and easygoing, the Keeshond is a friendly breed who gets along well with everybody.

    Energy: Keeshounds are an energetic breed of dog who needs a daily walk.

    Shedding: The double coat needs to be brushed two to three times a week; this will increase when the dog is shedding in spring.

    Health: Hip dysplasia, patellar luxation, epilepsy, and diabetes.

    Lifespan: 12 – 14 years.

    Noisy? Not overly.


    Originally a water retriever in Germany, the Poodle comes in three sizes, toy, miniature and standard.


    Personality: Poodles are intelligent, amiable, playful and responsive. Many will form a bond with one member of the family.

    Energy: The poodle is an energetic breed of dog that needs mental and physical exercise every day. Toy and miniature poodles don’t need as much exercise but still require a daily walk. Poodles love to swim and play fetch.

    Shedding: The poodle sheds, but only in small amounts. It may be necessary to clip the coat in warmer months.

    Health: Patellar luxation, epilepsy, eyelid problems, progressive retinal atrophy.

    Lifespan: 10-12 years.

    Noisy? The standard poodle is a quiet dog, the smaller poodles can be somewhat vocal.


    One of the oldest breeds of dog, with a recorded history of over 700 years, the Papillon is descended from toy spaniels.


    Personality: Papillons are an obedient and responsive dog and one of the most trainable of the toy breeds. Gentle, friendly, loving, and playful, they get along with everyone. This is a breed that loves to please their family.

    Energy: A short walk once a day as well as plenty of play in the home.

    Shedding: The coat doesn’t shed excessively but will require brushing 2-3 times a week to remove loose hair.

    Health: Patellar luxation, dental problems, seizures.

    Lifespan: 10-12 years.

    Noisy? Can be.

    Italian Greyhound

    The canine version of a cat, these dogs love nothing more than sitting on you or next to you. Despite their similar appearance to the greyhound and whippet, the Italian greyhound is tiny, standing at 13  to  15 inches tall and weighing the same as an average cat.

    Italian greyhound

    Personality: Gentle and loving, the Italian greyhound forms close bonds with its human family but can be shy with strangers.

    Energy: An energetic breed who needs the opportunity to run and chase. Italian greyhounds should be given the opportunity to burn off energy once a day, preferably more if time permits.

    Shedding: The short coat doesn’t shed excessively, a brush once a week removes loose hair.

    Health: Patellar luxation, gum disease, epilepsy, leg fractures.

    Lifespan: 12 – 15 years.

    Noisy? No.


    This breed came about by crossing a mastiff with a bulldog to create a dog that was large enough and fast enough to protect large estates from poachers at the end of the 19th century. The bullmastiff is a large dog, weighing between 50 – 60 kg (110 – 130 lbs).


    Personality: Gentle, quiet, reliable and alert, but placid around its family, the Bullmastiff is a good-natured breed of dog who gets on with almost everyone. They a courageous breed who are extremely loyal to their family. The bullmastiff gets along exceptionally well with children and other pets.

    Energy: Medium, a daily walk, will keep your bullmastiff happy.

    Shedding: The short coat doesn’t shed excessively, a brush once a week removes loose hair.

    Health: Hip and elbow dysplasia and gastric torsion.

    Lifespan: 8 – 10 years.


    • Julia Wilson, 'Cat World' Founder

      Julia Wilson is the founder of Cat-World, and has researched and written over 1,000 articles about cats. She is a cat expert with over 20 years of experience writing about a wide range of cat topics, with a special interest in cat health, welfare and preventative care. Julia lives in Sydney with her family, four cats and two dogs. Full author bio