Must Love Dogs

We rounded up the most kid-friendly breeds and sorted them by size and temperament, with the help of dog-behavior specialist Stephanie Morn.

The Best Small Dogs

Small (under 20 lbs.) and Laid-Back/SocialPUG: Patient and forgiving, pugs make great family pets because of their playful and loving nature. They are easy to train and an ideal combination for families with young kids. They also get along well with their canine counterparts. Other choices: Lhasa apso, Cavalier King Charles spaniel.

Small and Energetic/IndependentBOSTON TERRIER: Compact and muscular, Boston terriers are suitable for active families and make surprisingly loyal watchdogs. They're also easy to clean and brush, a perk for busy people who prefer a low-maintenance grooming regimen. Other choices: Scottish terrier, Chihuahua, Jack Russell terrier.

The Best Medium Dogs

Medium (21-50 lbs.) and Laid-Back/SocialENGLISH BULLDOG: Known for being affectionate and lovable, this breed is also even-tempered and charming. English bulldogs make the perfect companions for children because of their gentle, nonaggressive demeanor. Other choices: beagle, basset hound.

Medium and Energetic/IndependentAMERICAN ESKIMO: Bred for companionship, these dogs thrive on human contact. Eskies are easily trained and intelligent, as well as strong willed. They're great for outdoorsy families who have the time to develop a strong dog-human relationship. Other choices: keeshond, miniature poodle.

The Best Large Dogs

Large (over 50 pounds) and Laid-Back/SocialSAINT BERNARD: One of the largest dog breeds, these gentle giants are receptive to children (and other animals) and will thrive in their family role. Startling in size, they are efficient watchdogs but still have a mild temperament. Other choices: Old English sheepdog, Great Dane, mastiff.

Large and Energetic/IndependentCOLLIE: Most of these sheepdogs are long-haired and suitable for attentive owners who are willing to devote extra care to grooming in exchange for this good-natured, intelligent dog's loyalty. Active and agile, they're ideal for families with older children. Other choices: golden retriever, Siberian husky.

Feline Friends

Gimme Shelter
When you're searching for a pet, don't overlook animals that have been abandoned and need loving homes. "If you find a shelter dog that seems right for your family, ask to take him out of his kennel to make sure he's comfortable with kids," says Morn. And here's a bonus: These pooches may have combined personality traits of different breeds, making them interesting — in addition to inexpensive — choices.

Purrfect Pick
Our family-friendly feline suggestions:Mellow:
Persian, Himalayan, Maine coon, Scottish foldActive:
Abyssinian, Burmese, Siamese, Tonkinese

Copyright © 2007. Used with permission from the November 1, 2007, issue of Family Circle magazine.