There's no one-size-fits-all family dog. The right breed of dog for a particular family depends on lifestyle, location, children's age, other pets and dozens of other considerations. The American Kennel Club recognizes more than 160 canine breeds, with dozens more holding interim standing before official recognition. Once you research the "dog of your dreams," it's possible that breed doesn't fit your family situation. There's no question that there's an AKC breed to fill the bill.
Choosing a Dog
Take into consideration how much time and effort you can spend grooming a dog and exercising him. There's also the potential breed health problems and accompanying high vet bills. Some breeds do well living in apartments or townhouses, while others require fenced-in yards or lots of exercise to avoid boredom and the potential to develop destructive habits. Are your kids outgoing and athletic, or relatively shy? Try to match typical breed temperament with that of your family.
Many toy and small breed dogs are too fragile for young children. For older children, consider the nonshedding, playful bichon frise. The Cavalier King Charles spaniel loves being part of a family, as does a similar spaniel breed, the English toy. The smart and saucy Japanese Chin adapts well to family life. For more active families, a rat terrier serves as both best friend and companion for long hikes or jogging.
Most of the classic family dog breeds fall into the medium-sized category. These include the Labrador and golden retriever, boxer, bulldog, collie and beagle. Spaniel types often make fine family pets, including the English or Welsh springer spaniel, the Brittany, the rare American water spaniel and field spaniel, and the Boykin spaniel. Allergy sufferers might consider the Portuguese water dog. For families with large yards and who can provide dogs with plenty of exercise, members of the setter class could make a good fit. These include the English setter, the Gordon setter and the Irish setter.
Large dogs, those maturing over 100 pounds, might be too big for young kids. For older, active children, some plus-sized canines make good companions. The Bernese Mountain dog is generally a good family pet, although this breed requires frequent grooming. For families who love water sports, a Newfoundland will fit right in. Great Danes usually have good dispositions and don't require as much exercise as other large breeds. While Saint Bernards serve as good playmates, there's one caveat: This breed drools a lot.
Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.