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5 Dogs Who Were Bred for Delightful Companionship

Many dogs were initially bred to work, hunt, or protect -- these were born to delight their humans on a daily basis.

Lynn M. Hayner  |  Mar 30th 2016


Humans excel at training other species, including dogs, for work. In fact, we developed dog breeds with certain characteristics for varied tasks. Terriers keep rodent populations at bay. Sporting dogs and hounds assist hunters. More recently, they detect explosives and illegal drugs. Working breeds protect families, perform water rescue, and haul loads. And, of course, herding breeds move and supervise livestock. Clearly, many breeds were also developed as companions. Herr Dobermann, for example, specifically developed his Doberman Pinscher for camaraderie in addition to protection.

But some breeds were developed almost entirely to delight, no work task required. Let’s ask a few companion breeds about their joyful history of unemployment:

1. Pekingese

Pekingese courtesy Dian Thomas

(Pekingese courtesy Dian Thomas)

I was a favorite companion of Chinese Imperials, often riding in their long-sleeved robes. I was an accessory as well as a friend. We were even developed in different colors to match royal wardrobes. Viewed with great esteem, we were also given to traveling dignitaries. Now, if you think our purely companion role is trivial, consider this: For centuries, you humans probably intuitively knew dogs provided valuable comfort. But in modern times, scientific research indicates that we provide emotional and physiological benefits. Petting us, for example, can lower your blood pressure. We applaud yet another reason to give us attention!

2. Löwchen

Lowchen 2 courtesy Tiger Sanders

Löwchen courtesy Tiger Sanders.

We’re charmed to be grouped with such worthy companion breeds. And before I share our own history, let me add to the Peke’s comments about human health. Scientists today have data that aging adults with dogs are healthier and specifically require fewer doctor visits. And both dogs and humans release happy hormones when we’re together. Anyway, centuries ago Löwchen kept European princesses’ feet warm in bed. Some of them designed our coiffure to look like lions. Our name, by the way, means Little Lion. Today we’re found cozying up with commoners (yep, you!). Either way, we’ve been offering cheerful companionship — thereby improving humans’ mood and health — for centuries.

3. Coton de Tulear

Coton de Tulear Courtesy Terry Coy

Coton de Tulear courtesy Terry Coy.

Stories abound that our ancestors came to shore on the island of Madagascar with traveling ladies, seamen, or pirates. Or perhaps we survived shipwrecks and swam to land. At first, we may have relied on survival hunting skills, but soon we were developed exclusively by you folks for company. Have you started to notice that we companion breeds are generally a diminutive size? Rather makes sense, wouldn’t you say? Most large breeds were bred for work, not to fit on laps and snuggle. But while we’re small, many of us still bark warnings when something’s amiss. That’s frosting on the cake, though; in general, our job is keeping you all company.

4. Maltese

Maltese 6 courtesy Jill Harrison

Maltese 6 courtesy Jill Harrison.

We’re one of the oldest companion breeds. We dozed with royalty, sauntered on estates, and were carried by noblewomen. Today we’re considered easy-keepers, and you don’t have to be royalty to snuggle with us. We’re a gentle, consistently sweet lapdog. But that doesn’t mean we only want lap-time. We love walks, romps, and fun family togetherness.

5. Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel courtesy Kim Weidmann

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel courtesy Kim Weidmann.

Although larger than many of the other companion breeds, we too were developed to sit on the laps of royalty and aristocracy. Charles II of England adored us and asked artists to paint us in his portraits. And while our predecessors were spaniels (gun dogs), we weren’t bred for more sport than romps around royal grounds. Our companion status took on an important role when we accompanied more than one royal owner to the execution block. (Thankfully, near as I know, our predecessors kept their own heads!) Today, we’re often companions to not only families but to seniors, providing great comfort and health benefits. Did you know that companion breeds like us are now frequently group pets for residents in adult living communities? Ah yes, more bragging rights! Don’t underestimate the value of dogs bred purely for companionship!