Best Breeds For Family
When you’re thinking about the best dog breeds for families, it’s a good idea to remember that families come in all shapes and sizes…… and so do the best family dogs!
When we think about the best dog breeds for families, many of us tend to conjure up an image of the trusty Labrador Retriever, or something very similar.
But while the Labrador usually does make an excellent family pet, there are lots of other breeds that make good family dogs.
If you’re ready to add a new puppy or dog to your family, this is where you’ll find tips and advice on finding the best ‘fit’ for you, your children and your lifestyle….
First Things First!
Getting a new puppy is one of those situations that easily lends itself to ‘impulse buying’. ALL puppies are adorable, and pretty much irresistable, so it’s definitely a good idea to do some research and have a good idea of the type of dog that you want BEFORE you start actually looking at puppies. If you don’t have some sort of guidelines to follow, the first pair of puppy-dog eyes you see could be your downfall!
So, what do you think about when you’re considering the best dog breedsfor families? Easy – YOUR FAMILY! This may sound just too obvious, but it’s amazing how easy it is to overlook some very important points. These are the things that you need to think about -
- The members of your family
Do you have children? If so, how old are they?
Are there elderly/frail relatives living with you?
Are you (and your spouse if appropriate) strong/healthy enough to exercise a dog?
Is everyone ‘on board’ with adding a dog to the mix?
Does anyone have allergies?
- Where you live
Do you live in a house with a fenced yard?
An apartment (pets allowed)? How much space do you have?
In the city? Countryside?
What are the local regulations regarding dog ownership (ie BSBL)?
- Your lifestyle
Is there anyone home during the day to care for a puppy?
Do you travel/vacation or spend time away from home often?
Are you an active family, or do you prefer ‘at home’ activities?
What do you want from the dog who will be coming into your life?
What dog breed/s do you feel drawn to?
- Your finances
Someone once told me, that there’s no such thing as a ‘free cat’ – it will end up costing you money one way or another, and it’s so true! The same applies to dogs. Make sure you can afford to take care of a dog.
Annual veterinary exams and vaccinations and de-worming
Emergency/accident/unexpected vet expenses
Damage to your property/belongings
Kennel/boarding/petsitter expenses for when you’re away
This might seem like a long list, and perhaps you’re thinking that many of them really don’t matter……. that any puppy can ‘fit in’ with your family, and grow up to be the sort of dog you’re imagining. Think again!
You definitely want to take your time when considering the best dog breeds for families, because many dog breeds are the result of breeding programs with a very specific ‘job’ or ‘role’ in mind. The original purpose of many ‘pet’ dogs today can make them a great ‘fit’ for one particular family, but a disaster for another. Imagine this scenario …..
Say you’re a fairly home-loving family, with two small children, and you live in a modest-sized home with a small yard, in a city environment. You decide to add a puppy to the family, and someone you know tells you about the Border Collie puppies he knows are available. You visit them, fall in love with a black and white furball and take him home…. and everyone lives happily ever after…..
…. well, maybe you will, but the chances of the happy ending are slimmer than they should be. Why? Because Border Collies are high energy, active dogs who need a job to do and plenty of vigorous exercise to keep them happy and healthy. Being ‘herders’ they have a strong desire to round up any small (or not so small) moving creatures, often nipping at their heels to get the job done. So as soon as your little Collie pup begins to feel at home, he starts to ‘herd’ the kids, making them scream and cry, and that only makes him ‘herd’ them more vigorously.
You don’t have acres for him to run and play in, enough time to take him for long walks or vigorous games, or the money (or time) for training classes. He gets stressed and takes out his anxiety and pent up energy on your shoes, table legs, rugs and anything else he can get his teeth into. In an attempt to ‘let off steam’ he devises his own exercise routine – running around the house like a crazy thing, jumping on furniture and knocking the kids over, even snapping at them as he races past them. When this game is stopped, maybe he starts to act out in other ways, his anxiety leading to OCD behaviors like tail-chasing or ‘spinning’. No one’s happy, not you, not the kids and certainly not the dog…. can you see where this is going?
The scenario I just described isn’t a ‘one-off’ either, it’s happened time and time again in homes all across the country, and that adorable little black and white puppy may end up as a statistic – one of the millions of dogs sitting in shelters or pounds, waiting for a second chance at the right home.
Does this mean that Border Collies aren’t one of the best dog breeds forfamilies? NOT NECESSARILY! They often make the ‘good family dogs’ lists, and can make wonderful family pets, bringing love, joy and companionship into a home – but it has to be the right home, the right environment, the RIGHT FAMILY.
Our little puppy above could have had a whole different life if he had gone to live with an active family, with school-age or older children, who enjoyed walking/hiking, had plenty of space for him to run and who enjoyed teaching him to play frisbee.
What breeds would have been considered the best family dogs for the family above? There are several to choose from, but a Cocker Spaniel, Bichon Frise, Pug or Miniature Schnauzer would have been a much better choice.
Finding the best family dogs – for YOUR family
Now that you know what to consider when you’re looking at the best dog breeds for families, and you’ve seen what can go wrong, you’re ready to pick the best dog for your family.
Then you need to actually go and visit some breeders. See their adult dogs, see the puppies, make sure all the dogs look clean, healthy and are sound temperamentally.
If anyone in your family has allergies to pet hair, dander etc., it’s doubly important to spend time around the dog breed that you’re considering. Not everyone reacts the same way to a certain breed, the allergy response is a very individual one.
Don’t forget some of the newer ‘hybrid’ or designer dog breeds either, some of them are low-allergy and definitely contenders in the ‘best dog breeds for families’ category.
There are so many breeds that can fit the classification of ‘best dogs for families’, that I can’t list them all. And it’s interesting to see that some of the breeds on the list aren’t necessarily the first ones that you might think of.A common mistake you might make is to think that a tiny dog would fit the ‘good family dogs’ criteria. But, that’s often not true, especially if you have children that are younger than middle-school age.
Very tiny, toy and teacup varieties generally aren’t considered to be among the best dog breeds for families. This is because many of the tiny/toy breeds are very delicate and easily injured. Your toddler or young child could hurt a tiny breed pup (or even an adult dog) quite unintentionally.
Dropping, stepping on, or even just handling the pup roughly, could cause big problems. Also, some tiny breeds are sometimes ‘nervy’ anxious or ‘bossy’, and this can lead to excessive barking, nipping and even biting or growling when they don’t get their own way. Some terrier breeds (such as Jack Russell Terriers) can also be a bit ‘sharp’ in this way.
Extra large breeds may not sound to you as though they could be considered among the best dog breeds for families, but again, not true.
There are many BIG dogs that fit in well with family life and make wonderful companions. Often they’re fairly laid-back and low-energy as adults. Great Danes, Newfoundlands, even St. Bernards are huge, but are usually wonderful with children. I have 6 children and have always owned Rottweilers, this is a great combination for us, but still a lot depends on your family lifestyle and environment.
Obviously you have to use your common sense and judgment, if you have a toddler, adding a pup who weighs more than he does (and may end up weighing more than YOU do), could well lead to accidents. It’s the accidental injury (such as a child or elderly person being knocked over by an over-enthusiastic greeting for example) that cause the most obvious problem.
However, some large, guardian breeds may pose other difficulties, such as being possessive with their food/toys, ‘herding’ or exhibiting a strong ‘prey-drive’ and so on. All of these are potential dangers to young children.
When you’re considering the best dog breeds for families, don’t forget the humble ‘mixed-breed’ dog. In some cases, these dogs of mixed heritage can be healthier (both physically and mentally) than some of the purebred dogs around. Just because they don’t come with ‘papers’ doesn’t mean that they’re inferior in any way. Lots of us have fond memories of a family pet who was of ‘doubtful parentage’ but has a special place in our hearts and was one of the best family dogs ever.
The main variable when choosing a mix breed, is that you can’t be sure what size or breed-specific traits the pup may grow up to have. If you know what both parent dogs are, you can estimate that their puppies will grow up to fall somewhere in between their height/weight range, and knowing whether mom/dad are part Retriever or part German Shepherdmay give you a few clues as to their temperament and personality, but it’s generally just a ‘wait and see’ type deal.
Whether you choose a purebred or mixed breed, don’t forget that there are thousands of dogs in shelters and pounds, just waiting for a family to love them. These dogs are usually not there through any fault of their own (remember my hypothetical story above) and your perfect family pooch could be waiting for you right now.
There are several breeds that have proven, over time, that they’re some of the best dog breeds for families. See the table below for a list of the best family dogs…
|Small Breeds (under 40lbs)||Medium/Large Breeds (over 40lbs)|
|Bichon Frise||American Mastiff|
|Boston Terrier||Bassett Hound|
|Cairn Terrier||Bearded Collie|
|Cavalier King Charles Spaniel||Bernese Mountain Dog|
|Miniature Poodle||German Shepherd|
|Miniature Schnauzer||Golden Retriever|
|Pembroke Welsh Corgi||Irish Setter|
|Staffordshire Bull Terrier||Old English Sheepdog|
|Wheaten Terrier||Standard Poodle|