Are you on the hunt for the best family dog? There’s no quick answer, but this quick guide can help you learn some of the top suggested breeds for families, what makes them great, and also how to pick the best breed for your family. After all, there are many great dog breeds for families, but just because a dog is characteristically good with families doesn’t mean it’s a great fit for yours.
What Makes a Great Family Dog
It’s true: A dog that’s good with kids is good for the family. But what does “good with kids” actually mean? A few common characteristics we find among the best family dogs are:
If you have little ones around, you’ll want to make sure your furry family member is sturdy enough to withstand the often-rough hands of little ones. Gentleness and tolerance go hand-in-hand here, as it is certain that your kiddos will be putting theirs all over Fido. Strength and gentleness is a great combo when choosing an addition to your family.
Consistent Energy Level
While you don’t want a dog with too much energy — you’ll have enough on your plate trying to keep up with kids, — you’ll want to make sure that your dog can keep up (or slow down) with your family and your lifestyle. If you’re a more active household, you’ll want a dog that is active as well, and if you’re not, then you’ll want a dog that’s able to fall in line with your couch-potato ways. There’s no general right or wrong here, just what’s right or wrong for you.
Loving and Loyal
By far, a sweet demeanor and a loving temperament carry the most weight — no matter the breed — when you’re trying to decide on a dog to bring into your home. Affectionate dogs are often loyal and can develop a protectiveness over their families, which is a great trait to have. You can never have too many people — or animals — watching over your flock.
What to Consider Before Picking a Dog
As we mentioned earlier, just because a dog is good for a family doesn’t mean it’s good for your family. Once you’ve narrowed down your search, the only thing left to do is take a good look at not only what your family wants, but what it needs.
How active is your family? Do you take walks every evening or just every so often? Do you run and want a canine companion to join you or do you prefer adult-only exercises like yoga and weightlifting? Taking an honest look at how active you are is important to the type of dog you will choose. For example, you wouldn’t want a Labrador Retriever if you don’t enjoy the outdoors, and you wouldn’t want a Bulldog if you wanted a dog to run with every day.
While we recommend pet insurance for every animal — read our Pet Insurance guide to see why — it’s a fact that some breeds are more prone to health issues than others. Before choosing a dog, you might want to look at your finances. If you don’t have a lot of money to put towards potential medical bills, then you may not want to consider breeds like Bulldogs that, though great for families, are well-known around the vets’ office for their health concerns.
Consider your living situation before bringing a dog into your life, as well. You may love Golden Retrievers, but if you live in a 1,200 square foot home with two kids and no backyard, then maybe it’s not the kindest thing to bring a big dog into your already tight quarters. Or if you live in a fifth-floor walk-up in New York City, a short-legged Bulldog may not be the best option for you as climbing those stairs several times every day could quickly become an issue. Taking a look at your home environment, both immediate and long-term, is something every owner should consider before picking a pup.
Best Dog Breeds for Families
Finally, here are some of the best overall dog breeds for families. Within this selection, you’ll want to consider all of the above, making sure that the individual dog you choose possesses those important qualities as they relate to your family’s lifestyle and needs. Remember also to look at yourself and your situation, both physically and financially. By taking all of this into account, you’re certain to find the best fit for you and yours.
Golden and Labrador Retrievers
Labs love to please, are loving, protective, and reliable. They’re also highly energetic and intelligent. Golden Retrievers are similar to Labrador Retrievers in all these attributes but are extremely patient and helpful with children (learn more about Goldens in the video below). Both Labs and Golden Retrievers make an excellent choice for families with children.
Standard poodles are great family dogs. They’re smart, gentle, and make good playmates for children. Poodles are also hypoallergenic which makes them great for families with allergies. Toy and miniature poodles are not usually a great fit as they can be high-strung and nervous.
These tough guys can take a lot. A bulldog is sturdy enough to handle whatever your kids may throw their way, but they’re also low on the energy scale and perfect for lightly active households. Tolerant and sweet, Bulldogs live well in both small and large homes making them very versatile mates.
They’ve been called “Nature’s nannies” for their innate love of children. The sweet, gentle-giant Newfoundland, or Newfie as it’s commonly called, is the perfect accompaniment to families with room to romp as they tend to drool and shed — a lot — though they’re such great companions you’ll hardly even notice.
You should also consider adopting a dog instead of purchasing one of the pure breeds above — we love to use Petfinder to find adoptable dogs. Look for all the qualities we listed, as well as mixes containing some of the best family dog breeds. The best part of adopting a mutt is that you’re saving a life, and teaching your children the value of it. Mutts are also famously thankful, loyal animals that make for a great addition to any family. One last stellar quality of many mutts is that their mix of breeds often makes them less extreme in any one characteristic or breeding line as some purebred dogs which can often make for a more balanced temperament.
Other Breeds to Consider
- Irish Setters
- Bull Terriers
The decision to adopt a dog into your family is a big one, but the benefits and the love that follows far outweighs any inconvenience that comes with it.