Bringing home a dog is an exciting time for anyone but there are lots to consider when choosing a dog including the breed, size, age and whether it will be a good fit for your family. After all, all families are different, with their own lifestyle and needs.
Some enjoy spending lots of time at home while others like to get out in the fresh air. Similarly, some families have young children to care for while other families are smaller and perhaps have health concerns to consider.
The characteristics to look out for in a family dog
When visiting the dog shelter or a new litter, you'll want to look out for some signs that the dog you might adopt has the characteristics you'll want around your family. It's worth chatting to the breeder to see what the dog's parents' temperaments are like if you're buying a puppy, or speaking with the dog shelter volunteers to understand more about the dog's characteristics. We've listed some of the characteristics you'll want to look out for when it comes to a family dog.
• Friendly and affectionate with people
• Friendly with other dogs
• Gives you eye contact
• Relaxed when being petted
• Doesn't excessively bark
• Responds to basic demands like sit, stay and here
• Plays nicely with toys but does give up toys and food when told and doesn't play too rough
• Doesn't get anxious when left alone or when they hear loud noises (such as a baby's cry)
The best dog breeds for families
Whatever your situation and needs, we’ve rounded up the best family dogs for you.
These stout and sturdy dogs have playful personalities and their grooming needs are minimal. Just be sure to clean their facial wrinkles regularly!
Behaviour characteristics: Affectionate, friendly, easy to train, playful, doesn't like being left alone and doesn't deal well with hot weather.
Size: 11 to 12 inches tall at the shoulder and 16 to 28 pounds
How active? A ten to 15 minute walk everyday should make them happy
Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
Good with other pets, these friendly and loving dogs have gorgeous large, dark round eyes and are child-friendly, eager-to-please and will love being your faithful companion. Don’t be surprised if the two of you become attached at the hip!
Behaviour characteristics: Affectionate, friendly, playful, playful, fairly easy to train and friendly with other dogs
Size: 12 to 13 inches at the shoulder and 13 to 18 pounds
How active? Need one hour of exercise per day, usually in two half an hour walks
As pack dogs, Dachshund’s adore being part of a family and are protective of their family members as a result. They can get jealous but this is easy to handle by being firm and letting your pup know who’s in charge. These intelligent breeds love to play but don’t need as much exercise as other dog types.
Behaviour characteristics: Affectionate, playful, good with most other dogs and strangers. Not as easy to train as other dogs.
Size: 8 inches to 9 inches tall at the shoulder 16 to 32 pounds
How active? Need around 50 minutes of exercise per day, but they aren't huge fans of long walks.
Known as a ‘gentle giant’, Great Danes enjoy having a close bond with their owners, making wonderful family pets who enjoy playing. Being the size they are with long tails, you’ll need enough space to accommodate them so they can comfortably move around and play.
Behaviour characteristics: Playful, affectionate and good with children and friendly with dogs they're familiar with and can be trained.
Size: 26 to 34 inches tall at the shoulder 100 to 200 pounds
How active? Need around a half hour to hour and a half walk per day
They may be popular pups on Instagram but it’s for good reason! These intelligent, generally quiet dogs enjoy gentle play as well as snuggling up on your lap. It’s worth bearing in mind that due to being a flat-faced breed they can experience a lot of health problems.
Behaviour characteristics: They're very affectionate and friendly with other dogs and children but they can sometimes get quite possessive
Size: 10-13 inches and 14-18 pounds
How active? 30 minutes per day
Beagle’s thrive off of company so love a busy home. They have high energy levels but as long as they are getting plenty of walkies, they will be happy whether they live in the city or country. Family-oriented, Beagles don’t enjoy being left alone for long and can become distressed and bored.
Behaviour characteristics: They're not as affectionate as other breeds but they are friendly with other dogs and children. They can be quite vocal and they're not always the easiest to train.
Size: 13 to 15 inches tall at the shoulder and 18 to 30 pounds
How active? Two 30-minute walks per day
They make great therapy dogs so are perfect if you have an anxious grandchild, these smart and gentle dogs love being in the middle of the action. Highly intelligent, you’ll receive endless love from these beautiful pooches.
Behaviour characteristics: They're very affectionate and friendly dogs with high energy levels. They're easy to train and good with kids.
Size: 1 foot, 2 inches to 1 foot, 3 inches tall at the shoulder and 24 to 28 pounds
How active? A minimum of one hour of activity per day which can be spread over multiple walks
A great breed option if a member of your family is allergy-prone, poodles produce fewer allergens. Easy to train, they come in three different sizes: standard, miniature and toy and we love the variety of colours they can come in.
Behaviour characteristics: They're affectionate dogs who are good with children and easy to train. They're sometimes not so good with other dogs and can be quite vocal.
Size: From 10 to over 22 inches tall at the shoulder and 6 to 70 pounds
How active? 1 hour of exercise split over two walks
An athletic and agile dog breed, Vizsla’s require vigorous daily exercise as well as lots of personal attention. Typically they get on with everyone but they do need a lot of early socialisation to help build confidence
Behaviour characteristics: They're affectionate, good with people, very playful and easy to train.
Size: 21 to 24 inches tall at the shoulder and 45 to 65 pounds
How active? Minimum of two hours of exercise per day
This small, cheerful breed has a lot of love to give to your family. With their fluffy white coat, the Bichon is seriously cute although they don’t enjoy being left home alone for too long like many breeds.
Behaviour characteristics: They're affectionate, good with people, children and other dogs.
Size: 9 to 11 inches tall at the shoulder and 7 to 12 pounds
How active? 30 minutes of exercise per day
Square-jawed and muscular dogs, Boxer’s have high energy levels and require a lot of exercise so are great if you like getting out and about. Easy to groom, this dog breed is happy to be trained and is sure to be a hit with your family members.
Behaviour characteristics: Affectionate and good with young children, they're not always so good with other dogs and they're fairly easy to train.
Size: 23-25 inches (male) 21.5-23.5 inches (female) and 65-80 pounds (male) females are about 15 pounds less than male
How active? Minimum of two hours per day
Another popular breed, Border Collie’s are always on the go and enjoy spending time running around so you’ll need to provide plenty of exercise. These long-haired beauties respond well to training and are generally friendly with children although they can be rather boisterous.
Behaviour characteristics: These affectionate dogs are very easy to train and have high energy levels so they're not always so calm around young children and with other dogs.
Size: 18 to 22 inches tall at the shoulder and 30 to 45 pounds
How active? An hour to an hour 30 of exercise per day.
A popular dog breed you’ll already be well aware of, these beautiful and friendly dogs have a gentle caring temperament that makes them perfect for the family home. Just as happy curling up in the warm as they are exploring the great outdoors, Golden Retriever’s are especially good around young children who like to tug tails.
Behaviour characteristics: They're affectionate, good with children, great with other dogs and strangers and easy to train.
Size: 21 to 24 inches tall at the shoulder and 55 to 75 pounds
How active? Two walks a day for around 45 minutes per walk
A regal dog breed with bounds of energy, Irish Setter’s can grow large so they’ll need lots of space and exercise. They enjoy playing with toys and balls so are bound to get on well with any children you have around at home.
Behaviour characteristics: These dogs are affectionate with people, children and other dogs. They're very playful with high energy but they can be trained.
**Size:**27 inches (male) 25 inches (female) and 70 pounds (male) 60 pounds (female)
How active? 1 - 2 hours of activity per day
With a reputation for being outgoing, gentle and even-tempered, on the whole, Labrador Retriever’s make popular pets, especially for active families as they sure like their exercise. They have a lot of lovely traits but labs are often quite large which may not be suitable around any frail adults.
Behaviour characteristics: They're affectionate dogs who are good around children and strangers. They're easy to train despite being very energetic and playful.
Size: 22.5-24.5 inches (male) 21.5-23.5 inches (female) and 65-80 pounds (male) 55-70 pounds (female)
How active? At least two 40 minute walks per day
Once you've decided on your dog breed, it's time to start thinking about dog names for your new best friend.