Best Family Dogs
Researching the ideal family dog can be a very confusing time indeed, especially when there are more breeds than there are car makes and models! For example, one reliable source insisted that Golden Retrievers are about the best dogs to have with kids, yet a recent survey of dog bites in Britain revealed that these are actually one of the most common attackers, despite not being classed as a dangerous breed (although these numbers may be high due to their popularity). Another source correctly mentioned the social nature of Beagles, but then neglected to mention that you must never disturb them while they are eating - hardly a good scenario for a young family with toddlers who don't know not to go near the dog bowl!
It is vitally important to understand that there is NO completely safe breed of dog. We all tend to stereotype dog breeds in much the same way that we do people, and this can be dangerous. While certain traits and characteristics are related to certain breeds, dogs are individuals with different characters, just like people, and so any breed of dog can potentially be dangerous. This literally means that there can be placid Rottweilers and aggressive Poodles out there. Small breeds (such as toy dogs) are often selected by families with children because of their small size, but these dogs can sometimes be rather nervous and snappy, whereas some bigger breeds can surprisingly be gentle giants - but again this is not always the case; it all comes down to the individual character of the dog.
The key points to choosing a safe dog for families with young children are:
- Buy from a good breeder. Try to choose breeders that breed from dogs with good temperaments and who rear their puppies in home environments where they will be adequately socialised. Breeders who test for hereditary problems are a bonus too.
- Choose the right breed. Personalities apart, the environment into which the dog is to be brought should help in deciding which breed to choose, especially where families with kids are concerned. Quiet and gentle children will suit different breeds than noisy or boisterous kids, as will inquisitive toddlers and moody teenagers. The daily routines and activity levels of the children may even help with selecting a suitable breed. As supervising your kids with the dog will not always be practical, be aware that any dog, however placid or tolerant, can become agitated by rough handling or teasing, while others can simply be plain clumsy and boisterous (especially when young), risking unintentional injury. Keep this in mind when choosing the breed.
- Choose the correct puppy. Each litter will contain a range of personalities, regardless of the breed. For most families the puppy with the "average" temperament is most suitable, that is, not the one that rushes to greet you first nor the one cowering in the corner. An over-confident and dominant puppy may prove too much for a busy household, while a nervous or shy one may not deal well with such an environment. The most suitable puppy is the one that approaches without jumping up and mouthing hands and clothes too aggressively, that doesn't panic with loud noises (such as a clap of hands), and doesn't struggle too much when restrained.
Top 10 Suitable Breeds for Families with Children
From the research we carried out before buying our dog, here are our recommendation for the top 10 most suitable breeds that we think make good family dogs. Several factors have been considered such as suitability with kids, agression levels and also health. Please note that we have omitted some breeds that we consider have become unhealthy due to excessive inbreeding by breeders obsessed with certain looks, such as the lovely but unfortunate Pug, whose facial features are being drawn back into the skull and creating breathing difficulties.
Bichon Frise. These are sweet-tempered little dogs that can be both entertaining and affectionate. They have a varied history from being favoured by the royal courts to being associated with organ grinders and the circus. Popular these days as family pets and show dogs, these sociable animals are not bossy or dominant and get along fine with children and other pets, and they are also good around strangers. They are intelligent, obedient and easy to train, and are not prone to barking. Despite this and their size, they make effective watchdogs and will alert owners to the arrival of strangers. And when groomed properly, they are low shedders too. Find out more.
Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. These energetic little dogs tend to have a loving nature and adapt well to suit different lifestyles. They are very sociable and have a gentle, non-aggressive temperament. They are active and need regular exercise, as well as grooming, and unfortunately the breed does come with some congenital health problems, such as heart disease. They like to chase and so need watching during walking, and as they tend to regard strangers as friends, they don't make very good guard dogs. They do have a strong hunting instinct, and so should be monitored around other small animals and birds. Find out more.
Cocker Spaniel. One of the oldest types of Spaniel, these are intelligent little dogs and relatively easy to train because they are eager to both please and learn. Despite being affectionate, they can also be both sensitive and strong-willed. They need some grooming and a fair amount of exercise (they are capable of considerable speed combined with great endurance). As they were originally bred as a game dog, their keen hunting instincts will need keeping in check. They do well with kids and other household animals, and don't be fooled by those sad, manpulative eyes: they are in fact a very happy breed, always wagging their tails and bringing presents. Find out more.
Rough Collie. These gentle-natured dogs have calm dispositions and make protective and devoted companions and family pets. These dogs often show no nervousness or aggressiveness but may require early socialisation in order to prevent shyness. They are intelligent, eager to learn and train relatively easily, although training should be carried out in a positive manner as these dogs can be sensitive. Rough Collies get along well with older, more considerate children and also with other pets too. Around strangers they tend to be wary, and this makes them good watch dogs. Find out more.
Golden Retriever. These gentle and trusting dogs have even-tempers and can be very affectionate. They are very popular as companions and family pets due to their ease of handling and their exceptional tolerance. These loyal creatures love giving and receiving attention and have generous playful streaks. They are highly intelligent with responsive natures and are relatively easy to train, as they learn quickly and are always eager to please. Golden Retrievers are very sociable dogs and get along well with children and other pets, and also with strangers, which means they don't make very effective watchdogs. Find out more.
Labrador Retreiver. These affectionate and good-natured dogs have plenty of spirit and love to play. They are loyal and patient and make popular and reliable family pets and companions. Despite being athletic and energetic, they can be quite laid back and relaxed and thrive on companionship and affection. Although often independant, they are intelligent, responsive, very quick to learn and obedient too, which makes them easy to train and housebreak. Labrador Retrievers are confident, friendly and sociable animals, and will get on well with children, other pets and strangers too. Find out more.
Beagle. These fine looking dogs are happy and sociable, especially around kids, and enjoy attention and activities such as playing ball. They are generally obedient but as they are essentially a scent hound (they have one of the best developed senses of smell of any dog), once they pick up a trail they will generally become obsessed with it and ignore their owner's commands. Care is needed at mealtimes too as they do not like to be disturbed. Although intelligent, they can be single-minded and determined, which can make them hard to train. They make poor guard dogs as they enjoy company and can easily be won over by strangers, but they make good watch dogs as they will bark or howl when confronted with something unfamiliar. Find out more.
Border Terrier. These sturdy, short-haired dogs are ideal for families with active children. Noticeable for their otter-shaped heads, they are good-tempered, affectionate, obedient, highly intelligent and easily trained (they are occasionally used to aid the blind or deaf). Equally at home in town or country, they get along with others dogs and make good watchdogs too, although some of their characteristics have to be kept in check, such as their love of digging. They can long coats if left to grow naturally, and the short coat is only maintained by weekly stripping which can be time consuming. Find out more.
Shih-Tzu. Having one of the most ancient of ancestries, these enthusiastic, intelligent toy dogs with their long flowing double coats can be fun but they can also be independent and willful too. Bred originally as companions and house pets for Chinese Royalty, they tend to have a friendly if sometimes arrogant nature. They are tougher than they look (their name literally translates as Lion Dog) but tend to be sweet natured, affectionate and playful. They love children and will accept other household pets and dogs if introduced from an early age. As a breed they can be independent and wary of strangers. Find out more.
Please remember, however, that like people all dogs are individuals with individual histories, and in some cases it is not enough to simply rely upon a dog's breed as a guide for suitablility for families with kids.