Working on sister site Kids’ Pet Club, I often get asked by parents “What are the Best Family Dogs?”
We decided to put together a list and other information to help if you are considering getting a puppy or dog for your family based on our personal experience, plus the recommendations of community members, friends, trainers and other experts.
Reasons A Dog May be Good for your Family
1) Pets Can Teach Responsibility and Commitment
Dogs are not only a source of unconditional love and non-judgemental support, but they can help teach responsibility, empathy and cooperation to children.
2) Pets Can Be Good For Health
The right pet pet can add to the overall health of your family. The Human Animal Bond Research Initiative (HABRI) Foundation, recently released the results of a first-of-its-kind survey detailing the views of family physicians on the benefits of pets to human health. Throughout the study, most doctors saw their patients’ health improve as a result of pet ownership. 75% of physicians said they saw one or more of their patients overall health improve, and 87% said their patients’ mood or outlook improved. 74% of doctors said they would prescribe a pet to improve overall health if the medical evidence supported it.
“Doctors and their patients really understand the human health benefits of pets, and they are putting that understanding into practice” said HABRI Executive Director Steven Feldman. “The science shows that pets can help with a wide range of health conditions – from heart health to depression to PTSD.” Having a pet may do more for your family than you thought!
Things to Consider When Looking for A Dog for your Family
For a family with kids, it’s best to find a dog that is outgoing, friendly, loving and affectionate with the whole family.
It is important to consider the ages of your kids. Some dog breeds have lots of patience, are robust and love to play, while others are naturally better suited for older children or adults. Supervision is a must for small children around dogs and you should take the time to explain to them how to play nicely.
When choosing a dog breed you should consider your family’s budget, lifestyle, how much time you will have for exercise and training, and how much living space you and the dog will have. There are breeds that are happy in urban environments and apartments and others that thrive with more room to roam and lots of daily exercise and challenges.
Every family and every dog are different.
There is not just one breed or one dog that will suit all children. Our list of dogs that are best suited does not imply that all other dog breeds are unsuitable for children. Just because your favourite breed is not on the list, does not mean it is not ideal for your family. Please do your own due diligence when searching for a dog. You should consider first the breed’s and then the dog’s disposition, temperament, size and energy level. The personality and behaviour of a dog are often influenced by multiple factors including early socialization, puppy training, breeder/parents, not just the breed. Individual dogs may not show all or any of the traits associated with a breed.
Check with a vet, trainer and friends living with that particular breed to get helpful insight! If you are buying a puppy from a breeder, get references, make sure you can visit the breeder and if possible see the parents of the puppy. Consider adoption and speak to breed specific rescues about their dogs.
Breeds That Make The Best Family Dogs
These dogs get their name from their ability to learn to fetch or retrieve an object, which can be a fun activity for young family members. They also tend to have a good mix of a calm indoor demeanour and high energy when they’re outside playing or running. The Golden Retriever is a smart, affectionate, loyal, compliant breed, often seen in Obedience and Agility Trials. They aim to please and are highly trainable, which is a trait that makes them one of the most popular dogs for families. They also make great service and therapy dogs.
“Gentle and sweet.” – Nancy
“They are put on this earth to love you and only want some attention in return. They are soft, loyal and adorable”- Tracy
“They are such cute looking dogs and are gentle, loyal and a good family dog.”-Anne
“Very loyal, retrieves everything. Very trainable so can be guide dog. Love kids & very kind & gentle. Literally always have a smile on the face.”-E
Smiley the Blind Therapy Dog was one amazing example of a Golden who loved and was loved by kids and made a big difference in their lives.
We had a wonderful golden lab named Cookie and a Lab Mix named Isabelle for 13 and 17 years from when my younger daughter was born. They were best friends and playmates to my girls. While Marley, from the popular movie Marley and Me, may have seemed naughty, Labrador Retrievers are usually warm, loving, intelligent, eager to please and relatively easy to train. Coming in a variety of colours including black, yellow and chocolate, these dogs are known for being ideal family pets and service dogs (for example for children with autism). Make sure you have time, energy and running room for this smart, athletic breed.
“I love that they are very loyal and family dogs. I also find their faces always look puppyish.” -Wanda
“Loving, smart, loyal, great with kids, great with family.”- Barb
“Awesome pets, friendly, active, great with kids.” -Gus
Intelligent and good natured, they can be ideal in a family and can make great playmates. Having 3 sizes to choose from is a bonus. Make sure consistent exercise and training are part of the plan. Their coat needs grooming but may be better for allergy sufferers.
I always think of Lassie when I look at these beautiful dogs. Tired of always herding your small children? These dogs are natural herders who “love children and may lovingly try to herd them as they play.” They are active dogs and require mental and physical exercise as well as regular grooming. They have a relatively long life expectancy of 14-16 years.
According to Dog Breed Info, this intelligent dog is very patient with children. A trait that was evident in the famous nurse Nana from Peter Pan! According to DogTime “fans of this breed say the Newfoundland really is a natural-born babysitter” too.
Beagles are seen as ideal by many families. Medium size, short coat, friendly and even temperament. These dogs are sturdy and have a lot of energy that will help them keep up with small children. And of course, everyone loves Snoopy the Beagle from the Peanuts cartoon gang! However, they do shed their fur and require regular bathing and grooming. Therefore, this breed may not be good for parents worried about allergies. They are also considered a dog that loves company, and don’t do well left home alone.
A bulldog can be a friendly, easygoing, clownish dog that may be the perfect playmate for a child. Keep in mind that due to their squishy faces, they often have difficulty in the heat and may not be ideal pets for overly active families. Their strong and sturdy build can make them a great roughhousing partner. They can be a little stubborn but are very loyal and can learn tricks and sports with the right training. Our friend Bridgette is a St John Ambulance Therapy Dog and does very well with children.
French Bulldogs like adorable Beau (RIP) can be great family pets with a lot of socialization and training early on. They are often a little more active than certain other squishy face breeds.
Pugs are true companion dogs. Although pint-sized, Pugs come packed with a lot of cheeky charm and love company and attention. The cute, sturdy little dogs usually like children, and if properly socialized and trained, can make really great family pets. They may have bursts of energy and be quite nimble, but do not generally have a lot of stamina and will happily snooze on the couch a lot (snoring in my pug’s case). Pugs and pug mixes are usually affectionate and eager to please, but can be a little stubborn to train. They love to play and take walks (but usually not long hikes and are not great in extreme heat or cold). They are often very food motivated and seem to respond best to positive reinforcement and patience. If they do not get enough exercise and an appropriate diet, they can be prone to obesity and may also have other breathing and health issues. Children can learn responsibility by caring for their pug buddy. Pugs tend to shed a lot of hair, so frequent brushing is required. They can be sweet therapy dogs with kids, like Scarlett and Sailor The Therapy Pugs (pic below).
“Humorous, loving, playful” JoAnn
The Schnauzer was originally from Germany, and its name is believed to be derived from the word snout. This versatile breed comes in 3 sizes, Mini, Standard ( pictured below) and Giant, with the mini becoming increasingly popular in cities. This breed is great for the family that wants to keep active and are quite trainable. They are seen in all areas of the dog world, including Agility and Obedience. The Schnauzer was originally bred as a working dog and can be quite vocal. Consistent training should be given top priority to help keep the barking to a minimum. Schnauzers are typified by their prominent eyebrows, moustaches and long beards. They usually have solid black, black and silver, or salt and pepper coats.
Labradoodles were originally a cross between the Labrador Retriever and the Standard Poodle, now they are a breed of their own. They are usually very friendly, playful and loving dogs that can be great for families and kids. The Labradoodle can be a high-energy dog that requires lots of mental and physical exercise. They are known for their low to non-shedding low allergy coat, and lack of doggie odour. They are usually highly trainable, non-aggressive, and intuitive. They generally now come in 3 sizes- Standards, Mediums and Minis. Our wonderful friend celebrity therapy dog Bocker Labradoodle reads with kids, and visits schools, hospitals and other places to bring comfort to them.
Similar to Labradoodles, the crosses between Golden Retrievers and Poodles can make ideal loving family pets.
Cockapoo and Maltipoo:
Cockapoos are a cross between Poodles and Cocker Spaniels. Similar to doodles, they are smart and athletic but they can also have the gentle lap dog side and are usually smaller. Maltipoos are corsses between Maltese and Poodles and are small, athletic, loving, cute and good for allergies, but can be a little yappy in my experience.
The Hungarian Vizsla:
The American Kennel Club claims that this breed is highly trainable, busy and always on the go. If you are an active family then there is no need to worry about this pup keeping up. DogTime refers to this breed as the ‘Velcro Vizsla’ because they are such a dedicated companion, a trait that may make them a great therapy dog or running partner. Train them well, and the Vizsla can become a wonderful member of the family
Again, all dogs have their own unique personalities and traits. It is important to get your information from a variety of sources such as breeders, veterinarians, groomers and trainers, to find the perfect addition to a family. When given the right amount of attention, supervision and training, they can be a loving companion and the perfect playmate. Once you choose the right dog breed for your family, let Talent Hounds help guide you through training, including Socializing your puppy, Getting A Puppy Checklist featuring Dr Stanley Coren, Potty Training and more!
“Such short little lives our pets have to spend with us, and they spend most of it waiting for us to come home each day. It is amazing how much love and laughter they bring into our lives and even how much closer we become with each other because of them.” –John Grogan, Marley and Me.