Getting the right pet for your family takes a lot of preparation, research, and patience. After all, animals can be unpredictable, so you don’t want to get a pet that could hurt your children, cause damage to your house, or otherwise disrupt your domestic life. Thankfully, there is a reason they say that dogs are “man’s best friend.” Dogs make some of the best companions, and there are many breeds that can be very gentle and loving, even around young children and the elderly.
Having said that, there are some breeds that are better suited for quiet, domestic family life than others. Some breeds are more calm, relaxed, and happy to be around people all of the time. Alternatively, there are certain breeds that tend to be more aggressive and agitated than others. However, every dog is different, so it is important to know that, while generalizations about breed types and behaviors are helpful, they do not hold true for every dog. Sometimes you may find a dog that is extremely friendly and gentle, even though they’re breed is not known for it. Similarly, you may find a dog that is the opposite, even though they’re breed is considered a good pet for families.
In any case, to ensure the safety and tranquility of your family, it is best to know how certain breeds generally behave around strangers, children, and other animals. Additionally, it is good to know which breeds make the best guard dogs, as many families want to have a pet that can also protect their home. In order to best evaluate how well certain dog breeds fit into a domestic environment, there are a few important criteria that we must look at:
- Size – For some people, the size of a dog is not all that important. However, if you’re family lives in a smaller space, a larger dog may be inconvenient. Additionally, if you have small children, you may not want a larger dog, as it could inadvertently injure your child. In some cases, smaller dogs can also be undesirable for a family. If there are older people in the home who have trouble getting around, it may be hazardous to have a small dog underfoot.
- Energy Level – Sometimes, though certainly not in every case, the energy level is linked to breed and size, with larger dogs being more docile, and smaller dogs being more energetic. Generally, families will want a calmer animal around the house, as a dog that is more excitable may disturb neighbors or make it difficult to sleep due to barking. However, families with children may want a dog who is high energy and loves to play, so the interests of each family are very important when choosing the right breed.
- Temperament – This refers to a dog’s overall personality. Dogs that form stronger bonds with people are preferable for families. It is also important that family dogs are not too aggressive. Additionally, certain breeds have inherent traits that may be desirable or undesirable for certain families.
- Trainability – While trainability is harder to gauge, it is very important, especially when it comes to house training. Breeds that are difficult to train can end up causing excessive damage to the home or engaging in unwanted behavior.
So, now that we have an idea of the qualities that make a good family dog, let’s take a look at the top dog breeds for families:
There’s a reason why you see so many movies in which a family owns a golden retriever. This breed tends to be extremely loyal, happy, and docile. Golden retrievers love to play, are patient around children, and are also relatively easy to train.
- Size – Golden retrievers are a large breed, with average heights between 50-60 centimeters. Needless to say, this breed is a bit heavier, with adult golden retrievers weighing 25-35 kilograms. On average, male golden retrievers tend to be larger than the females, and this holds true for most breeds.
- Energy – Like most larger dogs, golden retrievers are usually calm and not easily startled. However, they still require a normal amount of exercise and do enjoy running and playing on a regular basis.
- Temperament – Perhaps the golden retriever’s greatest quality is its fun, easy-going temperament. This breed is extremely patient, which is a huge plus for families with small children.
- Trainability – Generally, golden retrievers are extremely obedient and respond very well to training. While they may shed and require regular grooming, most owners of golden retrievers do not need to worry about their pets having accidents in the house or causing damage to furniture.
Much like the golden retriever, the Labrador retriever is an exceptional breed for families. They have many of the same characteristics as the golden retriever, but are usually easier to groom, as they are short-haired dogs. Labrador retrievers, or “labs” for short, need a lot of exercise and love to play, so they are a perfect fit for active families.
- Size – Labs are larger dogs, comparable in size to golden retrievers, though they often appear smaller due to their short hair. The average weight for a lab is between 25-35 kilograms, and they are generally 55-62 centimeters tall when standing.
- Energy – Unlike golden retrievers, Labradors are relatively high energy and require a lot of exercises. They enjoy swimming and running in wide-open spaces. So, while labs are great pets for families, they do need owners who can keep up with their energy level.
- Temperament – Labs are extremely intelligent and perky, providing the perfect companion for children and adults alike. This breed likes to be sociable and usually gets along with other animals and even strangers. However, they are also very loyal, so they can be good guard dogs if necessary.
- Trainability – Labrador retrievers are very obedient and loyal, making them a great breed for training. Whether you are looking for a guard dog, or simply want to avoid causing any damage to your property, labs are an excellent choice.
While some people are wary of larger dogs, the Newfoundland is one of the gentlest breeds around. Very docile and slow to agitate, Newfoundlands really like to be lazy and enjoy the company of a loving family.
- Size – The Newfoundland is a very large dog with a thick coat of fur. Most of their features are quite big, including their head, paws, and tail. On average, this breed weighs between 55-70 kilograms and stands between 65-75 centimeters tall.
- Energy – While Newfoundlands like to play and run in open spaces like any dog, they are generally low-energy. They prefer to spend time inside with their families, making them a perfect addition to most homes.
- Temperament – In addition to being very intelligent, Newfoundlands are extremely loving toward children and very protective of their family.
- Trainability – Since Newfoundlands have traditionally functioned as work dogs, they are very receptive to training, and can even help with simple tasks around the house. While they do tend to shed and drool, they are generally very well-behaved in closed environments.
The Collie is often associated with the classic “Lassie” television series, and real-life collies are equally reliable and fun. Collies are great for families because they are very gentle with people and other animals and rarely behave erratically or aggressively.
- Size – Collies are usually medium-sized, though some can grow to be quite large. They are tall, but usually do not weigh much, despite having thick fur. Collies typically weigh between 20-30 kilograms and stand 50-60 centimeters tall.
- Energy – Though collies have plenty of energy carried over from their days as herding dogs, they also enjoy relaxing indoors with their family. Nonetheless, collies need room to run and burn off some of this energy from time to time.
- Temperament – Collies are very amicable and well-behaved. They can be protective of their owners, but rarely become aggressive with other animals or people unless provoked.
- Trainability – Collies are very easy to train and are known for following instructions well. They often instinctively try to “herd” other animals or people, though this behavior can be easily discouraged with the proper training.
Some people might be reticent to adopt a bulldog, as they can look quite intimidating, despite their small stature. However, the bulldog is actually a very sweet and timid breed. It is one of the best dogs for families that prefer a more laid-back animal. However, bulldogs generally have shorter lifespans and frequent health issues.
- Size – Bulldogs pack a surprising amount of weight in their small bodies, which is part of the reason people assume that they are a threat. In general, bulldogs weigh 18-25 kilos. While this does not sound like much, they only stand 30-40 centimeters tall. Their small size is great for families in apartments, though they may be difficult for some to pick up or carry.
- Energy – Bulldogs tend to have energy in short bursts. Due to inherited respiratory issues, bulldogs need lots of rest in-between playtimes. So, even though they do enjoy playing and need exercise like any dog, bulldogs appear quite lazy and enjoy relaxing with the family most of the time.
- Temperament – Bulldogs are very gentle and enjoy snuggling with their owners. This breed does most things slowly, and only occasionally exhibits short bursts of energy.
- Trainability – Though not as easily trained as other dogs on this list, it is not as necessary with bulldogs, as they have fewer behavioral problems as a result of their low energy levels.
As their name implies, boxers love to roughhouse, but they are still a very sweet and loving breed. Their upbeat personalities make them a lot of fun for children. Additionally, the boxer’s protective disposition and intimidating bark make it a great guard dog.
- Size – Like border collies, the boxer is a medium-to-large sized breed. Adult boxers weight 25-32 kilograms, and stand 53-63 centimeters tall.
- Energy – Boxers are high energy, but they also like to climb up in your lap to relax. While boxers can live in smaller spaces like apartments, they will need wide open spaces and exercise on a regular basis. It is also important to note that boxers like to jump a lot, especially as puppies, so they need to be watched closely around younger children.
- Temperament – Boxers are an extremely loving and courageous breed. They don’t back down from a fight, and love to burn off some of their fighting energy with roughhousing and play.
- Trainability – Boxers can be easily trained, but their high energy and love for play are difficult to temper. Nonetheless, they are generally quite well-behaved and open to training.
The Cocker Spaniel is a cheerful and all-around great dog to have around the house. They have balanced personalities, exhibiting high energy for playtime and docile behavior during times of rest. Additionally, they love to be around people of all ages.
- Size – The cocker spaniel is a smaller dog, weighing just 12-16 kilograms and standing 36-42 centimeters tall. Thanks to their lightweight bodies, cocker spaniels are easy to pick up and carry when necessary.
- Energy – Like many smaller dogs, cocker spaniels are relatively high energy and love to run around in the great outdoors. While cocker spaniels can easily live in a smaller environment, they need plenty of attention and exercise to burn off their energy.
- Temperament – Cocker spaniels are sweet and happy dogs by nature. They love to be around people and are generally very friendly with other dogs as well. They are perfect for families with children, as they can easily play together.
- Trainability – Cocker spaniels are pretty easy to train, and despite their energy, are not known to have behavioral problems.
While this list includes some of the top breeds for families, it is by no means comprehensive. There are many other dog breeds and individual dogs that are perfect for families. Additionally, it is very important to note that families do not need “pure breeds” in order to have a loving relationship with their pet. “Mutts” make some of the best companions in the world, so don’t be afraid to mix things up when you are looking to adopt!