8 Best Dog Breeds for Families

September 07, 2022 8 min read

portrait of newfoundland pup in leaves

8 Best Dog Breeds for Families

For many people, their family simply isn’t complete without a furry loved one (or two, or three, or more). But not all dog breeds do well with children or other dogs, which means that you can’t just bring home the first pup you see and start spoiling it with treats for dogs. You need to carefully select the breed if you’re looking to expand your family pack. Read on to discover tips for choosing a dog breed for families, plus eight of the top dog breeds for families that you should definitely consider.

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How to Choose a Dog Breed for Families

Multiple factors go into choosing the perfect family dog for your unique situation. Here are six important criteria to consider as you try to select a family dog breed:

dog breed six important criteria to consider

Age

Choosing whether to adopt a puppy or an adult dog will have a big impact on how you integrate the dog into your family. Puppies are adorable and small (for a time, anyway), but they require a lot of training to socialize properly and they will pee inside and chew on things until they are mature. Training a puppy while also trying to raise children can prove too much for some families, so if you’re set on adopting a puppy, make a plan for who will train it and when so that you know you’re ready to take on the challenge.

Adult dogs are more of a known quantity since they have already matured into their personalities and (presumably) been trained. Adopting an older dog who has already been trained in basic commands and has been well socialized with dogs and children can take a lot of the work out of it for your family. However, an adult dog that has not been trained or that was mistreated by a former owner means that your work will be cut out for you. In those scenarios, adopting a puppy without such a prior history might be a better fit for your family.

Size

If you live in a smaller apartment, then you’ll probably want a small dog that will fit into the space instead of a huge dog that’s bigger than your children. When thinking about what size of dog you want, keep in mind that female dogs tend to be smaller on average than male dogs from the same breed. Also, know that a larger dog does not necessarily equal a more active dog. There are plenty of huge dog breeds that are couch potatoes, and plenty of tiny dog breeds that will absolutely bounce off the walls with energy. Be sure that you are considering activity level in addition to breed size when narrowing down your options.

Activity Level

A bored dog is a destructive dog, so don’t get a very active breed if you are only prepared to take them on one walk a day. Active dog breeds need exercise every day, not just on weekends, and they tend to do better in larger homes with yards where they can run around if possible. Don’t get an active breed if your lifestyle isn’t already very active. Incorporating a new dog into your family will already be enough of a change in your routine. There are plenty of dog breeds of all sizes who will be happy to lie around watching TV with your family all weekend if that’s more your speed.

kid running with dog on leash

Temperament

Each dog breed has an average temperament, and a dog’s individual personality will also affect their overall character. Dog breeds can tend to be laid-back or high-strung, easy-going or stubborn, quiet or loud, anxious or calm — practically every trait that a human can have. When researching breeds, consider your family’s overall dynamic and what type of dog breed might fit well into that. For instance, if your kids tend to be really rambunctious and will try to annoy the dog, then you’ll be well served to choose an easy-going, patient breed who won’t snap if your toddler pulls on their tail.

Budget

All dogs cost money, but some breeds cost more over the course of their lifetime. While size certainly plays a role — larger dogs tend to cost more to feed and house over the long run — other factors come into play as well. For example, some breeds are more prone to medical problems that could require expensive treatment, and difficult-to-train breeds might require an investment in obedience classes. When thinking about what breed of dog to adopt, create a budget of estimated costs and make sure that you have the money to cover them.

Adoption vs. Breeder

Adopting your dog from a shelter vs. purchasing one from a breeder can affect what breeds are available to you. The more common a dog breed is, the more likely a shelter is to have it, but availability varies a lot over time and also by region. If you have your heart set on one particular breed, you might need to look into getting it from a reputable breeder, especially if you live in an area that doesn’t have a lot of animal shelters. However, breeders typically charge far more than an adoption agency does, since they’re a for-profit business and not a charity, so you’ll need to factor that into your budget.

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Best Family Dog Breeds

Not sure where to start your search? We’ve rounded up a list of eight of the most popular family dog breeds across a wide range of sizes, activity levels, and more to help you find the perfect family dog to add to your pack.

Labrador Retriever

Labs are the most popular breed of dog in the U.S. for a reason! These large, high-energy dogs are very friendly and social, making them a great fit for active families who like to get out and want to take their dog on adventures with them. Labs are good with children and are also good with other dogs if socialized correctly. They can weigh anywhere from 50 to 80 pounds. They do shed, but they have a shorter coat than some other dogs, so regularly brushing them will help to keep it manageable. Given their popularity, labs are also a very easy breed to find at both reputable breeders and adoption agencies, making them a great choice for the newest addition to your family.

the golden retriever breed is pretty active

Golden Retriever

After the labrador retriever, the golden retriever is another one of the most popular family dog breeds. Similar to the lab, the golden is pretty active and will require a good deal of physical and mental stimulation to keep them from becoming bored, making them a better fit for more active families. They are very eager to please, which makes them quite trainable, and they do well with both children and other dogs. Their beautiful long coat does shed seasonally — which means that you’ll need to be prepared to do the grooming and cleanup that necessitates — but for many families, the tradeoff is worth it to add such a loving dog to their pack.

Bulldogs

If your family isn’t super active and you’re looking for a dog that you can spend days on the couch with instead of taking them on adventures, a bulldog might be a great fit for your family instead of a lab or golden. Bulldogs are not very active, needing only regular walks and the occasional trip to the dog park. Nor do they usually bark much, which makes them a great choice for families living in close quarters. They also get along well with children and other dogs and are also easy to train, all great reasons for them to make your shortlist for your next family dog.

French Bulldog

If you like the idea of a bulldog but their 50-pound average weight is too much for you, then consider its smaller sibling: the French Bulldog. French Bulldogs are significantly smaller, around half the size of a regular bulldog, which is why many apartment and city dwellers love them. Similar to the bulldog, French bulldogs are not very athletic and just need regular walks instead of very strenuous exercise in order to stay fit. If you want a smaller, less athletic dog for your family, definitely do some research into the French bulldog and be sure to spoil them with natural dog bones.

Pug

If even a French bulldog is too large for you, then look into getting a pug, which weighs around 14-18 pounds. Their compact size makes them a good fit for small quarters, but pugs are also easily adaptable and do well in a variety of environments. They generally do pretty well with children and dogs, but they may require some training and supervision to get them fully acclimated. Pugs do require regular walks, but their brachycephalic nasal passages and short legs mean that they don’t do well with very strenuous exercise. If you want a very adventurous dog, check out some of the other options on this list instead. Pugs have short coats that shed regularly and require weekly brushing, but since they’re so small, it doesn’t take long to brush them.

beagles are good family dogs

Beagle

If you want a smaller yet very active dog, a beagle might be the perfect fit for you. These friendly curious dogs love to explore the world around them and get restless easily, so they require lots of exercise and training to tire them out and keep them occupied. They weigh between 20 and 30 pounds — depending on how long they are — making them a good fit for smaller spaces. Beagles do well with children and other dogs and respond well to training, which is why they make such good family dogs. Their shorter coats shed seasonally and do best with weekly brushing.

Newfoundland

If you’ve always dreamed of having a huge family dog the size of a small horse, Newfoundlands might just be for you. These massive dogs weigh around 100-150 pounds and need regular exercise, but they aren’t as active as some other breeds on this list. They are also gentle giants and do quite well with children and other dogs, making them one of the most popular family dog breeds. They do have long coats that shed seasonally and require weekly brushing, so you need to be ready to do regular upkeep on them. If you’re willing to take care of them, you’ll be rewarded with a gentle, patient dog that your toddlers might just be able to ride.

Collie

If you loved watching Lassie as a kid, then you probably dreamed of owning your own collie one day. This super smart breed is highly trainable and very active, making this best for an energetic family who is willing to exercise the dog regularly. Collies are excellent with children and get along with other dogs too when supervised. They generally weigh between 50 and 75 pounds, making them a medium to large size dog that needs a bit more room than some of the other breeds on this list. They are very vocal and like to bark, which is something to be aware of, and their long coats require grooming as well.

family taking dogs on walk

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