The Best Family Dogs
Heading out the door? Read this article on the new Outside+ app available now on iOS devices for members! Download the app.
Dogs aren’t just accessories to your kids and spouse—they are as much a part of the family as any two-legged member.
Dogs are there from the beginning, running around when the children start walking and licking the tears away when they have their first tantrum. They snuggle on the couch and faithfully “clean” the kitchen floor. They watch sadly from the door when the kids leave for school, and they happily accompany their family on outdoor adventures, no matter the pace or distance.
These dogs wag, bark, and cuddle—and they’ll never willingly leave your side. Whether you choose to rescue, adopt, or purchase a pup from a breeder, here are the best dogs to add to your brood.
This breed is one of the most popular in the nation according to the American Kennel Club. And for good reason: these beautiful dogs are loyal, protective, and smart (read: easy to train). But they aren’t skimping on playful energy either. They will run or swim for hours. If you can’t walk or hike with them regularly, make sure you have a large backyard where they can get in enough playtime with the kids.
Labs tend to be a medium to larger breed, so they won’t get hurt if your kids like to wrestle. Lab puppies have extreme amounts of energy and need plenty of attention; they’re also some of the mouthiest pups, with razor-sharp teeth (hide anything you don’t want chewed). Labs are often bred for hunting and will play fetch and tug-of-war endlessly. As they age, though, labs mellow out quite a bit.
These dogs do tend to shed, but consider yourself warned: once you get the cuddles and sloppy kisses of a lab, you might end up with two, or even three, taking over your house.
This breed is easy to train, very friendly, and always eager to please. Goldens have copious amounts of energy to play fetch and retrieve (especially in the water), which means they need space and time to run around. These dogs are very loyal, too.
Golden Retrievers are similar to Labrador retrievers but they have longer fur and require more brushing and grooming. Bonus: this breed rarely barks and has a “soft mouth,” meaning they can snatch up an egg without breaking it.
If you are looking for a smart, smaller dog that can hang with even the most active families, the beagle is the perfect breed. Beagles are small enough to be picked up, and sturdy enough to withstand being handled by rambunctious kids. Plus, they definitely won’t run out of energy—although they do require bathing and grooming.
Beagles are also known for being vocal. They have three different barks to break the silence: a regular bark, a yodel-like bay, and of course, their infamous howling. No apartments for this pooch, please!
Similar to beagles, bulldogs are small and sturdy. Unlike the beagle, the bulldog isn’t high energy at all. It’s perfect for smaller houses or apartments, as long as you don’t mind large amounts of drool all over the floor (and plenty of snorting and grunting to go along). Bulldogs are very easy going, which makes them great pets for families with little kids because this pooch pretty much puts up with anything—ear pulling, tail swapping, and rough petting.
Bulldogs aren’t necessarily easy to train—they basically do whatever they wants, but they love their families to the end. They do best in cooler climates and aren’t good in water.
The main downside to this breed is their health—they often suffer from heart and respiratory problems or cancer, and rarely live more than ten years. Many owners recommend investing in pet insurance from the start.
Thank Lassie for making this breed a popular choice. Loyal and friendly, the collie is a larger breed with medium energy. They are gentle and predictable, but need regular brushing, especially if they are running through the woods with sticks and brambles that can easily get caught in their fur.
Remember the pooch that took care of the kids in Peter Pan? Yup, Nana was a Newfoundland, said to be the best dogs for kid and often referred to as “Nature’s Nanny.” These large dogs (110 to 160 pounds) are surprisingly good to have even if you live in a smaller house or apartment because the breed is very low energy. They are easy to train and very loyal, protective, and gentle, but drool plenty and have to be groomed regularly.
If you’ve got crazy, energetic kids or a hunter in the family, the Irish Setter will please both. As a top bird dog, the Irish Setter has tons of energy and needs space to run around and let its bark out. It is very playful and easily trainable. The perfect companion dog, this breed usually lives to be 11 to 16 years old.
Once you see a Boxer grin and wag its little nub of a tail, it will be hard to say no to taking one home. But, be warned about their energy. Boxer puppies are super energetic, and they don’t grow out of this energy as quickly as other breeds. They can also be a bit clumsy and might easily topple over small children. However, these pups are loyal, intelligent, and expressive, and will gladly cuddle up with you on the couch—after running out all of their energy.
This breed is very smart and easily trained, but consider obedience classes to have all parties stay sane. Boxers don’t need grooming, but their short coats don’t keep them warm in cold temperatures; they also have issues regulating their body heat in warmer temperatures.
Considered a designer breed, the social and gentle Labradoodle has all of the top qualities from the poodle and the Labrador. This pooch will be extremely smart like a poodle, but playful and loyal like a Lab. Possibly the best part about this breed? Labradoodles are low shedding and produce less dander than other breeds, so they are perfect for family members with allergies who still want a furry friend. Labradoodles can live in smaller spaces, but still need an outlet for their energy.
Lovable mutts combine the best attributes of many breeds. Usually playful and energetic, and often loyal and protective, mutts are a great addition to the family. When choosing a dog—mutt or purebred—keep in mind their size compared to your living space, their energy compared to your yard or park space, and whether you want a puppy or an older, relaxed dog that has already been trained.