Best Dogs for Families

Do your homework ahead of time to ensure you end up with the perfect new addition.

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Best Dogs for Families

Best Dogs for Families

With so many breeds to choose from, it can be hard to know which dog is a fit for your family. Family Circle can show you which breeds are the best with kids. 

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Best Breed for Suburban Families: Golden Retriever

Best Big Dogs for Kids

If your idea of the perfect Saturday is being outside tossing around a football, then consider the golden retriever. As the name "retriever" suggests, this dog is in its element chasing a Frisbee or playing fetch with the kids. Golden retrievers are easy to train, a bonus for busy moms and dads. Keep in mind, though, the grooming required: "Their coats are thin, fine, and mat easily, so you have to do a fair amount of brushing," Peterson says.

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Runner-Up for Suburban Families: Border Terrier

Best Dogs for Families 2

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Best Breed for Rural Families: Labrador Retriever

Best Big Dogs for Kids 3

This dog ranks number one in America for good reason—its versatility. The Labrador retriever is an excellent pick for a family of hikers or campers. Historically, Labrador retrievers were bred as strong hunting companions; for you, that means they're devoted, easy to train, and love the open air. Another plus: The Lab's shorter coat won't attract as many bushes, burrs, and brambles as a longer-haired breed's.

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Runner-Up for Rural Families: Cardigan Welsh Corgi

Best Small Dogs for Kids

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Best Breed for Families with Rambunctious Kids: Beagle

Best Small Dogs for Kids 2

The beagle has serious energy. It follows its nose anywhere and everywhere, which can get it into trouble occasionally. Almost sounds like your teens, right? Peterson recommends a beagle for parents looking to teach their kids responsibility. "This breed is compact enough so that a teenager or tween can walk, groom, and feed it, love it and play with it," she says. "It's not too much dog for your kids to handle."

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Runner-Up for Families with Rambunctious Kids: Dachshund

Best Small Dogs for Kids 3

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Best Breed for Multigenerational Families: Brussels Griffon


This breed is small and likes to cuddle, Peterson says. She suggests Brussels griffons for both senior citizens and children who are looking for an affectionate companion pup. They are spunky and inquisitive, and require daily (but not intense) exercise.

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Runner-Up for Multigenerational Families: Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

How To Train a Dog

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Best Breed for City Families: Pug

Dog Expressions and What They Mean

Urban living poses some challenges for a pet, and this breed is a great bet for a family with less room to maneuver. "Pugs are very much people dogs," Peterson says. "They are companion animals and like to stay with their owners at all times." In addition, pugs require a relatively small amount of grooming and exercise.

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Runner-Up for City Families: French Bulldog

How to Train a Dog with Kids

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Pick-a-Pup Checklist


Purebred or mixed breed—no matter. "Taking time to meet the animal and learn about its personality is really the key to finding the right pet for your family," says Sara Kent, director of shelter outreach for Consider these factors before you bring a dog home:

Size: "A fine-boned dog like a Chihuahua might not be the best choice for a rowdy household of kids," Kent says. This breed would be a better fit for, say, a low-key, less-active family.

Temperament: If your dog complements your family's "personality," everyone will be happier. Do you prefer a friendly dog who loves to kiss and snuggle, or a more subdued one?

Age: Puppies are lovable and sweet, but they also require a great deal of attention. Be sure you're prepared to contribute the time and funds necessary for raising a young dog—think puppy training classes, vet visits, and all of those replacements for chewed-up shoes.

Grooming: Frequent trips to the groomer can be costly and time-consuming. "Do you want to be going to the groomer monthly with your dog?" asks Kent. "Or would you rather have a pet who's maybe a little more wash-and-wear?"

Exercise: Active dogs who don't get to move their bodies become bored and might exercise their brains instead—in the form of destructive behavior. Assess the level of activity a dog will require, and whether your family can keep up, before you move forward.

Originally published in the April 1, 2011, issue of Family Circle magazine.