The Best Family Dogs
You can find a lot of opinions on the internet about which dog breeds are best for families – especially families with small children. But experienced trainers and educated behaviorists will tell you the truth: There are no best breeds for families and kids. Pick any breed with a highly family-friendly reputation and we can recall an individual of that breed (or several) who was far from safe with kids. If you are looking for a dog who will make a fantastic addition to your family, what you should be looking for is an individual with specific canine personality traits that are conducive to family life.
Best Family Dog Personality Traits
Rather than focusing on a specific breed, look for a dog who is friendly and outgoing, good-natured and confident, resilient, and easy-going (can be energetic but should be able to settle and relax).
If you’re adopting an adolescent or adult dog, also look for the dog who adores children, not just tolerates them – the dog who lights up with happiness when she sees a child: “Yay! The kids are here!”
If you’re adopting a puppy, look for the Goldilocks pup: not the fearful one who avoids contact with you and the kids, nor the pushy, climb-all-over-you puppy-mouthy-bitey one. The happy, friendly pup with a little bit of self-control is a good choice for a family with kids. If you are buying a puppy from a breeder, ask about how the puppy’s parents are with kids. (For further puppy-buying advice, see “Adopt or Shop,” WDJ August 2020.)
Breeds With a Family-Friendly Reputation
Still, there are some breeds that tend to display those desirable family-dog traits. You still need to evaluate individuals, but these breeds can be a good place to start:
- Labrador Retriever: Generally known as friendly and outgoing, these mid-sized dogs can also be high-energy so be prepared!
- Golden Retriever: Also mid-sized and high energy, also known to be friendly, outgoing, and devoted to their family.
- Rough Collie: I grew up with these wonderful dogs so I can personally attest to their suitability as family companions! They are often described as friendly, devoted, loyal, and affectionate.
- Newfoundland: On the giant end of the size scale, Newfies are reported to be sweet, patient, and somewhat less active than Labradors and Goldens. But they do drool… (See “Biggest Dog Breeds.”)
- Bernard: Another giant breed, Saints have a reputation as laid-back, affectionate teddy bears.
- Beagle: If you’re looking for a smaller model, Beagles tend to be cheerful, friendly, and curious. They are hounds, though, so it’s best to expect them to be a bit vocal.
- Basset Hound: Even more hound-y than the Beagle, these short-legged bayers are generally laid-back, friendly, and tolerant.
- Bichon Frise: These fluffy little guys reportedly tend to do well with kids and are said to be curious and playful.
- Cocker Spaniel: Not only cute, but also described as happy, gentle, peaceful, and patient dogs who can be good with kids.
- Dachshund: These long, little doggies are described as curious, friendly, spunky, and generally good with kids. Their long backs are prone to injury, so do not let your children pick them up!
In addition to specific breeds there are oodles of mixed-breed dogs out there just waiting to find their perfect families, so keep your options open and always remember that personality traits are more important than breed when you’re looking for the perfect family dog.