boy lying next to dog

Top 20 Best Family Dogs: Does Breed Really Matter? (+A Statistical Analysis)

Want a family dog? But don’t know what type will be a good fit for your family? Check out this list of the top 20 best family dogs.

You’ve made the tough decision to get a dog. Maybe you finally gave in after your kids have begged you for months.

happy man and woman hugging dog

Or maybe you need a canine companion to keep you from being lonely while the kids are at school. Perhaps you want a guard dog to make you feel safe at night. Either way, you’ve made a great choice.

But it gets harder. Choosing the right dog for your family will take a great deal of time and consideration.

Picking a Family Dog

Here are some things you’ll need to consider:

Temperament

This pretty much defines your dog’s personality. Will he be calm and laid back? What about friendly or really clingy? Or will he be fiesty, anxious, even hyperactive?

Maybe your future dog will be independent and prefers to be alone. If you have a family with kids who want to play and cuddle, you should go for a dog who’s more mild-mannered (not aggressive), playful, and loves to interact with people.

As you read on, you’ll see whether or not specific breeds determine these traits.

Ease of Care

This is important because some dogs require more care and attention than others. For example, long-haired breeds like Yorkshire Terriers or Shih Tzus require more grooming and maintenance than dogs with shorter hair. With a family, will you have the time (and proper tools) to groom him yourself or the funds to take him to a professional groomer?

Energy Level

If you have a family, especially one with kids, you might consider a dog with a high energy level. For example, a Pekingese loves to lounge around and is widely known as a lap dog. While it’s perfectly fine to own a Pekingese for a family with children—they make great companions—it’s more ideal to get a dog with higher energy levels like a Labrador Retriever, for example.

Loyalty/Companionship

Some dog breeds tend to be more loyal than others. Yes, most dogs are loyal to their owners, but some can be more independent and reserved.

Do you want a watchdog or a family companion? What about both? It’s wise to try to find a balance. You don’t want a dog that’s too clingy, but you don’t want one that’s too detached either.

Health Risks

While pretty much any dog breed can get health problems like heartworms or fleas, some breeds are more prone to certain illnesses than others. Labrador Retrievers are high-energy dogs like I mentioned above, but their extreme levels of activity can lead to exercise-induced collapse or EIC. Because their short legs sometimes have trouble supporting their long bodies, Dachshunds can get back problems such as a herniated disc.

With these things in mind, you want to choose a dog with overall great health, resiliency, patience, and high energy.

Age

This factor isn’t as involved as the others. But you do want to make sure you’re not adopting a dog at the end of his life. You don’t want to get used to him and then suddenly, something happens and he doesn’t make it. You can never go wrong with a puppy! A dog in the beggining stages of adulthood is ideal too.

young puppy looking at camera

Get a dog your kids can grow up with!

Size

In some cases, you might want to consider the size of a dog. Will you be doing a lot of traveling? Maybe a smaller dog like a Pomeranian is the right size for you. Lugging around a large dog can be hard on your back. Besides, some airlines have a weight limit for flying with dogs.

Or maybe you prefer a larger dog. You want a protector. Or perhaps you have small kids and you’re afraid they’ll crush a smaller dog.

Watch this short video of you want more tips on choosing a family dog:

Now, on to the list. I’ve compiled a list (in no particular order) of family-friendly dogs based on some of the factors listed above as well as ratings from Petfinder.com. Notice that I don’t add certain temperamental traits like aggression and ease of training to the equation. You’ll see why a bit later.

Top 20 Best Family Dogs

1. Golden Retriever

Everyone loves them a Golden Retriever. It’s a very popular dog breed. I remember Comet from the family sitcom, Full House. Ahh, those were the days.

golden retriever lying-down

Golden Retrievers are awesome family pets. They have long beautiful coats and are just great to look at in general. If you want a family-friendly dog, you can’t go wrong with a Golden Retriever.

Energy Level: 3 out of 5

Playfulness: 5 out of 5

Grooming Requirements: 3 out of 5

Affection Level: 5 out of 5

2. Labrador Retriever

labrador retriever facing-camera

Labradors are fun and eager to please. Their coats are smooth and shiny, perfect for rubbing and cuddling. Labradors have pretty strong jaws that are great for catching things like frisbees and fetch toys. Good times!

Energy Level: 4 out of 5

Playfulness: 5 out of 5

Grooming Requirements: 2 out of 5

Affection Level: 5 out of 5

3. Border Collie

border collie looking straight ahead

Smart, agile, and full of boundless energy, the Border Collie spells fun and adventure. Your kids will have a great time in the backyard with this breed. A great way to tire them out too!

Energy Level: 5 out of 5

Playfulness: 4 out of 5

Grooming Requirements: 3 out of 5

Affection Level: 3 out of 5

4. Chihuahua

chihuahua facing camera

What can I say? They’re cute and they’re tiny. You can pick them up and hold them with ease. Need to travel? No worries about lugging around a 100-pounder. Chihuahuas are so energetic and inquisitive, the perfect match for a kid.

Energy Level: 5 out of 5

Playfulness: 2 out of 5

Grooming Requirements: 2 out of 5

Affection Level: 2 out of 5

5. Basset Hound

three basset hounds huddled together

You might ask why this breed is on this list. The Basset Hound doesn’t have the highest energy nor is it the most playful, but an older family with the kids out of the house might enjoy a more laid back dog. Basset Hounds are so loveable and cuddly with their long ears and cute, sad faces.

Energy Level: 2 out of 5

Playfulness: 2 out of 5

Grooming Requirements: 2 out of 5

Affection Level: 4 out of 5

6. American Foxhound

american foxhound standing

The American Foxhound loves the outdoors. If your children love playing outside, this breed is always ready to explore. The Foxhound is great around kids due to its gentle nature.

Energy Level: 4 out of 5

Playfulness: 3 out of 5

Grooming Requirements: 1 out of 5

Affection Level: 3 out of 5

7. German Shepherd

german shepherd lying down

Despite its reputation, the German Shepherd can be a family-friendly dog. The GSD is loyal and protective of his family. This makes him a great watchdog and protector.

The GSD is intelligent and eager to learn. Watch your children play some fun games with him and see how fast he catches on!

Energy Level: 3 out of 5

Playfulness: 2 out of 5

Grooming Requirements: 2 out of 5

Affection Level: 3 out of 5

8. American Pit Bull Terrier

american pit bull terrier panting

Yes, you read it right. Like the German Shepherd, the Pit Bill is the perfect watchdog. They’re very good with children and they have a protective gene. If you build a great relationship with your Pit, he’ll give you the best loyalty you ever could ask for.

Energy Level: 3 out of 5

Playfulness: 3 out of 5

Grooming Requirements: 1 out of 5

Affection Level: 3 out of 5

9. Jack Russell Terrier

jack russell terrier in playful stance

Action and adventure. That’s the Jack Russell in two words. Keep flea and tick prevention handy because this dog loves the outdoors. Your kids certainly won’t complain!

Energy Level: 5 out of 5

Playfulness: 5 out of 5

Grooming Requirements: 3 out of 5

Affection Level: 3 out of 5

10. Boxer

boxer dog tilting head to one side

Another good watchdog. Boxers are really like professional boxers; they’re large and strong. Yet, this breed is gentle enough to be around children. Have an active family? The Boxer might be a good fit for you as they’re athletic, eager, and highly energetic.

Energy Level: 5 out of 5

Playfulness: 5 out of 5

Grooming Requirements: 1 out of 5

Affection Level: 5 out of 5

11. Dalmatian

dalmation running energetically

Did you know that the Dalmatian was bred specifically for running long distances? They’re so agile and fast. It’s not a matter of whether the Dalmatian can keep up with your kids. The question is, can your kids keep up with him?

Energy Level: 4 out of 5

Playfulness: 3 out of 5

Grooming Requirements: 3 out of 5

Affection Level: 2 out of 5

12. Beagle

beagle propped up on fence

The Beagle is hands-down one of the most friendliest dogs out there. They get along well with kids, other pets, and strangers. Is companionship important to you? Get a Beagle!

Energy Level: 4 out of 5

Playfulness: 3 out of 5

Grooming Requirements: 1 out of 5

Affection Level: 3 out of 5

13. Basenji

basenji panting

The Basenji is a very active dog that needs lots of mental and physical stimulation. In a house full of kids, this breed will do well because there’s never a dull moment. The Basenji is independent and doesn’t require tons of attention, which is a plus with a busy family.

Energy Level: 4 out of 5

Playfulness: 3 out of 5

Grooming Requirements: 1 out of 5

Affection Level: 3 out of 5

14. The Bolognese

bolognese dog staring at camera

With an irresistible, innocent face and beautiful fur, the Bolognese is a great companion dog. He’s tiny and fluffy, the perfect cuddle buddy. You and your kids will love the Bolognese, but be careful not to spoil him too much!

Energy Level: 3 out of 5

Playfulness: 3 out of 5

Grooming Requirements: 4 out of 5

Affection Level: 5 out of 5

Overall Health: 5 out of 5

15. St. Bernard

st. bernard sticking its tongue out

This breed isn’t the most playful. It also doesn’t have the best energy level. But this doesn’t change the fact that they are loveable dogs. St. Bernard’s are patient around children and they are extremely loyal.

Energy Level: 3 out of 5

Playfulness: 5 out of 5

Grooming Requirements: 3 out of 5

Affection Level: 5 out of 5

16. English Bulldog

english bulldog lying on wood floor

I know you’re giving me the facepalm. You’re probably thinking that the English Bulldog is the biggest canine couch potato ever. How can he entertain your kids when all he wants to do is lie around? This isn’t always the case with the Bulldog. When he does get sparks of energy, he’s a force to be reckoned with. Also, Bulldogs are great companions and are highly affectionate. While they don’t have the best energy, they can still be quite fun!

Energy Level: 1 out of 5

Playfulness: 4 out of 5

Grooming Requirements: 2 out of 5

Affection Level: 5 out of 5

17. Pug

pug lying in the grass

If a dog was a comedian, the Pug would be a perfect candidate. This breed is happy-go-lucky even though his wrinkled forehead and turned-up mouth don’t show it. Pugs love to cuddle and be around their loved ones. You can’t help but to love ’em!

Energy Level: 3 out of 5

Playfulness: 4 out of 5

Grooming Requirements: 2 out of 5

Affection Level: 4 out of 5

18. Doberman Pinscher

doberman pinscher panting

Alert, intelligent, and adventurous, the Doberman is the perfect match for an active family. If you leash train him just right, he’ll be great to have as a running partner. And did I mention that he adores his family and the kids?

Energy Level: 4 out of 5

Playfulness: 3 out of 5

Grooming Requirements: 1 out of 5

Affection Level: 3 out of 5

19. Border Terrier

border terrier lying on rug

The Border gets on well with people of all ages. This makes them great candidates for families with children. They’re happy roaming around and exploring. Got some adventurous little boys? What about inquisitive girls? They can explore right along with the Border Terrier.

Energy Level: 3 out of 5

Playfulness: 3 out of 5

Grooming Requirements: 3 out of 5

Affection Level: 3 out of 5

20. Greyhound

greyhound dof leaping in the air

The Greyhound is fast and agile, but his energy level isn’t the highest. What the Greyhound doesn’t have in energy, he makes up for in speed. This breed is family-oriented. If you already have a four-legged friend in the family, the Greyhound will get along well with him.

Energy Level: 2 out of 5

Playfulness: 3 out of 5

Grooming Requirements: 1 out of 5

Affection Level: 3 out of 5

Does Breed Determine Temperament?

Now for the million-dollar question.

I’ve covered the top 20 breeds to choose for your family. But why would I create that list if breed doesn’t matter, anyway?

Hear me out.

Anytime you read or hear something about temperament for a particular breed, you should take it with a grain of salt. Take the advice as a general guideline.

Why?

Because every dog is an individual.

The way you train a dog will determine his temperament. While it’s true that you can train some dogs to do certain things because they were specifically bred to do that certain thing, you can break that cycle.

For example, German Shepherds, Rottweilers, and Pit Bulls can easily be trained to fight or to bite because they’re large, muscular, and, strong. They look menacing to other dogs and humans. This contributes to their bad reputations. It’s why some apartment communities won’t allow these dogs to reside on their properties. This is because their owners made them this way. Not because of their breed.

There’s data to back this up.

bar graph infographic

The American Temperament Test Society performed a study on dog breed temperaments.

They define temperament as:

“[A]n individual’s exhibited, predictable, and measured behavioral patterns displayed in response to environmental stimuli.”

25,726 dogs were evaluated, of those were 206 different breeds, including 1,136 dogs from the pit bull family and 469 American Pit Bull Terriers. Each dog was tested on its response to certain stimuli: response to strangers (neutral, friendly, threatening/non-threatening, and aggressive stranger), strange sounds (gunshots), unfamiliar objects (umbrella) and surfaces (wire and plastic).

The results?

The different breeds passed the temperament test at similar rates. Most surprisingly, the pit bull group had the second-highest proportion of dogs passing the temperament test at 84.5%.

Assessment of Canine Temperament in Relation to Breed Groups

Data retrieved from Matrix Canine Research Institute

Even more shocking, the American Pit Bill Terrier scored closely with the sporting group, which includes dogs like the Labrador Retriever and the Golden Retriever, which are generally more accepted for their mild and amiable temperaments. Interestingly enough, you can raise mild-mannered Retrievers to be aggressive as well.

The study confirms that dog temperament can be determined by age, sex, early socialization, early nutrition, training, health and genetics. According to the study, breed has no bearing on a dog’s temperament.

Conclusion

You might be used to grouping dogs into categories according to temperament, but don’t let this closed-minded thinking influence your decision to pick the best pet for your family. I may have caused your brows to raise a little, but hopefully you can see the beauty and potential in every dog breed.

What breed is your family dog? How well does he interact with other animals and strangers?

Summary
Top 20 Best Family Dogs: Does Breed Really Matter? (+A Statistical Analysis)
Article Name
Top 20 Best Family Dogs: Does Breed Really Matter? (+A Statistical Analysis)
Author
Publisher Name
The Paw Institute

14 thoughts on “Top 20 Best Family Dogs: Does Breed Really Matter? (+A Statistical Analysis)

  1. Reply
    Jon - January 26, 2019

    Wow, what a rundown! Well done.

    Our family is partial to Labrador Retrievers. We’ve had two yellows, one chocolate, and currently have a black lab, who is probably the chillest dog we have ever had. He’s superb with children, and good with almost all dogs, although he will retaliate if another dog makes an aggressive move towards him (just barking). He’s a rescue, like all our dogs, and did spend some time as a stray, but I’ve never seen him initiate a problem.

    I’ll need to bookmark this site, thanks!

    1. Reply
      Britney - January 26, 2019

      Hi Jon!

      I’ve personally never owned a Lab, but I would love to. They seem to be one of the most down to earth dogs ever. And like you said, they’re great with kids. I have two boys and my dogs, a Chihuahua puppy and a Pitbull, Chihuahua mix love my children to pieces, but they don’t have the best patience. They’re still great family dogs, but maybe not as tolerant as Labrador Retrievers.

      And that’s the thing about choosing a tolerant dog. It’s good to find one that gets on well with other dogs. Years back, my uncle owned a purebred Pit and a mutt we rescued. And they hated each others’ guts. I don’t know if it was their specific breeds or the fact that they were both females and felt like they were in competition. So it’s great that your Lab tolerates other dogs well. That’s definitely a key requirement in families with multiple dogs.

      Go ahead and bookmark! I’d love for you to come back!

  2. Reply
    Danny Barley - January 26, 2019

    I enjoyed reading your article about dogs and I enjoyed learning about the different traits. I also like that you rated the dogs in different categories like energy level or grooming requirements. We will be looking for a dog soon and this gives me some insight into what would be the best family dog for us.

    Thanks for the great article. Keep up the good work!

    1. Reply
      Britney - January 26, 2019

      Hey Danny!

      That’s great that you found this post helpful. I’d love to hear about your great adventures of choosing a family dog.

      Good luck!

  3. Reply
    Lan - January 26, 2019

    Informative article. Can you kindly suggest what kind of breed is the best for being a guard dog and companion? Currently, I think the Border Collie is the best and really suits that role but I need to confirm it first.

    1. Reply
      Britney - January 26, 2019

      Hi Lan!

      Sure! Border Collies aren’t typically known to be guard dogs. Some of them are too excitable and even hyper to sit and watch, patiently. It’s not impossible to make them guard dogs but it will prove more difficult than with other breeds. They do make great companions but keep in mind that they have high amounts of energy.

      If you want a good guard dog and companion, I’d go with a Rottweiler, German Shepherd, Bullmastiff or Pitbull. These breeds are known for their aggressive temperaments, but it’s really all about how you train them.

      Hope this helps! Good luck!

  4. Reply
    Bella - January 26, 2019

    So thankful I found this site. I’m a dog lover and I like them more than some untrustworthy friends. They treat you well.

    1. Reply
      Britney - January 26, 2019

      Hey Bella!

      I’m thankful you found this site too!
      And that’s very true that dogs are better companions than some friends.

  5. Reply
    Cassie Lovelace - January 26, 2019

    Lots of good information! I had a Belgian Malinois that passed away recently. So this is good information to have when I decide to get another dog. I have a German Shepherd and she is so loyal, protective, and so good with kids. My 1 year old just crawls all over her and she doesn’t do anything. I have to move him though cause I’m sure she is annoyed. Plus, I wouldn’t want anyone crawling all over me.

    1. Reply
      Britney - January 26, 2019

      Hi Cassie!

      I’m so sorry hear about your dog that just passed. The Malinois is such a beautiful dog! It reminds me so much of the German Shepherd.

      It sounds like your German Shepherd is well-behaved and sweet. I’m sure you’ve done a great job raising him.

      I have small kids too and my dogs are tolerant of them, but they’ll hurry up and move when they start grabbing them and pulling their fur. But for the most part they adore my children. Both dogs give them tons of kisses (ewww, I know) when they get the chance. Just sweet girls overall.

  6. Reply
    Jamaar sampson - January 26, 2019

    Recently, I was just talking about getting a dog as I will be moving out soon! This is great content. Thanks so much!

    1. Reply
      Britney - January 30, 2019

      Hi Jamaar!

      Glad you enjoyed to post.

      Good luck on getting a new dog!

  7. Reply
    stefanie - January 26, 2019

    Aww. I LOVE dogs and and I love your great list here. You have described really well the best types of family dogs, and in my opinion they are all gorgeous. I just wonder where the French Bulldog is? Haha. I have a Frenchie called Eddie and he is just the most playful, lovable dog and he adores kids. In fact, I don’t know which country you’re in, but the French Bulldog was declared last year to be the most popular family dog in the UK. Just though you might be interested to look into that one too 🙂 Great post!

    1. Reply
      Britney - January 30, 2019

      Hey Stefanie!

      I’m glad you like the list. And you know what? I should have thrown the French Bulldog in there. I might just do that because Frenchies are great family pets as well. Thanks for the idea!

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