The Best Breed Of Dog For Families

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If you have made the decision to bring a dog into your family, careful consideration should be given to the breed of dog that will best fit your family’s lifestyle. Once you have determined the type of dog you want, don’t overlook the local animal shelter, humane society or breed-specific rescue group when searching for your pet. A surprisingly high percentage of dogs in the animal shelter are purebreds, and just about every breed has a rescue group specializing in placing abandoned dogs into new, loving homes. Also, consider mixed-breed dogs that have the breed you want in their makeup. Rescue dogs and mixed-breed pooches make wonderful, loving pets, and come with the additional bonus of saving them from life in a cage or worse.

The Age Of Your Dog Matters

Are you set on adopting a puppy, or would an older dog suit you better? While a puppy is undeniably irresistible, and a young dog will bond quickly to your family, a puppy is also a lot of work, similar to having a toddler in the house. A puppy needs near-constant attention, crate-training, housebreaking, socializing and obedience school. Puppies can be quite destructive, and have sharp teeth that love to play-bite furniture, shoes, books and their owner’s arms. A very young child might become frightened of a puppy that over-enthusiastically nips or scratches.

An adult dog is past the craziness of puppyhood, and may well already be housebroken and have some training. An older dog that grew up around children may be better prepared to tolerate roughhousing than a delicate puppy. A more settled, adult dog is also a safer choice for a household that includes an elderly parent or grandparent, who could be knocked down or injured by a rambunctious puppy.

Picking The Right Size Dog

With breeds ranging from tiny Chihuahuas to giant Great Danes, there is a dog that is just the right size for every family. Don’t assume that larger dogs need more exercise, which is not always the case. But larger dogs do need enough room to comfortably move around, run and stretch their legs. If you are in an apartment, condominium or small house, it’s best to avoid large or giant breeds such as Newfoundlands, mastiffs or St. Bernard’s.

Some excellent breeds for the apartment owner include:

  • Dachshund
  • Pembroke Welsh Corgi
  • Boston terrier
  • Miniature poodle
  • Chihuahua
  • Miniature schnauzer

If you have a backyard and a medium to large home, you are not limited by size. Some very popular large dogs for those with more room include:

  • Labrador retriever
  • German shepherd
  • Collie
  • Standard poodle
  • Airedale

If you have young children, avoid toy or miniature breeds. These dogs can be delicate, and easily injured by a toddler or child playing roughly, tripping over the dog, or hugging too tightly. A medium to large, even-tempered dog is a good choice for a household with toddlers or young kids.

best breed of dog for families best breed of dog for families

Dog Breed Activity Levels

Some dogs are content to venture out for a once-a-day walk, and spend the rest of the day curled up by your feet. Some dogs are constantly on the go, and if not worn out each day, will vent energy with destruction, barking or aggression. Make sure to choose a breed that suits the activity level of your family, or your dog may develop behavioral problems.

If you have an active family, want a dog that can accompany you on hikes and outings, and are prepared to spend time each day exercising your dog, the following are good choices:

  • English springer spaniel
  • Australian shepherd
  • Jack Russell terrier
  • Weimaraner
  • Boxer

If you prefer a more mellow, low-energy dog that will be content to remain indoors much of the day, consider a:

  • Bulldog
  • Pug
  • Pekingese
  • Basset hound
  • Clumber spaniel

Remember that all dogs require at least some daily exercise to avoid obesity and boredom, and you should never leave a dog chained up in a yard or locked inside all day long with no opportunity for action.

Dog Breeds That Are Good With Kids

Dogs and children are natural playmates. Many adults still remember their childhood pet as one of their best friends and companions, willing to listen to secrets, lick away tears and patiently tolerate being dressed in clothes or wheeled around in a doll carriage. Some breeds are much more tolerant of children, so in a bustling family household, it is important to pick a dog that likes kids. If you have very young children, you may find medium to large dogs are the most equipped to tolerate occasional rough treatment or play.

Some family-friendly dogs that are great with kids include:

  • Golden retriever
  • Labrador retriever
  • Irish setter
  • Beagle
  • Cavalier King Charles spaniel

Shedding/Grooming Needs

Every dog needs periodic brushing and bathing, but there are breeds that require much more grooming than others do. Some breeds need frequent visits to the doggie beauty parlor for a trim. You might be shocked to discover a grooming session for a dog can cost more than your own haircut. Another concern is shedding. Though all dogs shed at least a little, some breeds do shed much more than others do. Be prepared to spend time each week brushing your dog, maintaining his teeth and keeping his nails trimmed.

If you prefer a dog that requires little beyond these basics, the following are low-maintenance dogs:

  • Greyhound
  • Miniature Pinscher
  • Whippet
  • Bull terrier
  • German shorthair pointer

Dogs that are beautiful, but require periodic visits to the groomer, or more extensive home grooming include:

  • Poodle
  • Old English sheepdog
  • Pomeranian
  • Bearded collie
  • Schnauzer
  • Yorkshire terrier
  • Shih Tzu
  • Maltese
  • Kerry blue terrier

Bringing a dog into your family is a major decision. The average lifespan of a dog is 10-15 years depending on breed, and your canine companion will be an important member of the family. Don’t choose a dog based on the current craze, a movie portrayal, or a child falling in love with a puppy in the pet store. Take your time to do some research, and bring home the dog that will fit in with your family’s needs.

Last Updated: May 3, 2012
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About Michelle Ullman Michelle Ullman has lived and gardened in Southern California since childhood. A freelance writer, she covers topics ranging from gardening to home improvement to health issues. She also has experience as a catalog copywriter and poet. Michelle has trained and worked as a respiratory therapist and surgical technologist, but prefers to spend her time gardening, and walking with her dog. Michelle holds a Bachelor's Degree from Redlands University in Business Management. 

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