Best Dog Breeds for Families: Top 4 Picks for Family-Friendly Dogs

Family with dog
John Walton
Written by John Walton

Looking for a compilation of the best dog breeds for families? If you are considering getting a new furry family member, whether it is for companionship, to teach your children responsibilities or any other of the millions of reasons, these are five of the most family friendly dog breeds around. When you are considering a dog for your family there are many things that you need to consider.

For example:

  • Do you live in an apartment or a home with a large fenced yard?
  • Do you have the time to commit to a dog (or even more if you get a pup)?
  • How big of a dog do you want?
  • Can you handle shedding year-round?
  • Can you afford food, vaccinations and other vet bills?
  • Are you a more active family or more of a couch-potato family?
  • Are you ready for a 10-15 year commitment?

If you’d like to know more about you should do before you bring him a new dog, we have a great article on preparing for a new dog.

These are all important questions to ask yourself when you are considering adding a dog to your family. Some of these questions are more relevant to the type of dog you are considering and some are more as to whether or not your family is right for a dog at all.

Some families are just too busy for a dog, which leads to the dog being taken to a shelter, which is why we have an over population of pets without homes.

What dog can do for a family

If you are just starting your research (as any good pet owner does before impulsively bringing an animal home) then here is a list of five extremely family friendly breeds of dogs to consider!

And if you’re particularly looking for kid-friendly dog breeds, take a look at our article on the best dog breeds for children.

Golden Retriever

One of the most popular dog breeds in the United States is the Golden Retriever and there are many good reasons for that. These dogs are loyal, active, family dogs. They love to be around people – they need interaction with their families and any family friends. They also love to be social with other dogs, meaning occasional trips to a dog park is a great exercise option.

The pros:

  • Super friendly
  • Strong work ethic
  • Intelligent
  • Easy to train

The cons:

  • Lots of shedding
  • They are a bigger dog
  • Require lots of exercise
  • Not great watchdogs

A golden retriever will likely become a loved and respected family member once they have settled in. They are truly a pack animal and they need to feel like it. Unfortunately though, if you are looking for a dog that will protect your family in the event of a break-in, a Golden is more likely to bring the intruder their favorite toy or lick them to death rather than attack.

On the other hand most families are not looking for a guard dog, but rather a new family member. Golden retrievers love to be where you are, doing what everyone else is. If your kids have friends over often, you are likely to never have to worry about aggression towards the new face, instead they are likely to be excited to meet a new friend.

Golden Retriever

When it comes to energy levels though, Golden retrievers do need a decent amount of exercise. They were bred to be duck hunting dogs and they need to be exercised like it even if they are your house pet.

Some families actually get into sport duck hunting trials and similar activities, which is great for you and your dog, but if that isn’t exactly up your ally, then you will need to be prepared to take long walks at least twice a day. (Walks should be between 30 minutes and an hour each, preferably with additional time to run unleashed in a fenced in area.) Almost all dogs get destructive if not properly exercised!

One more thing – Golden retrievers shed. A lot. Not just a lot during seasonal changes, but a lot. All the time. If you aren’t prepared for extra vacuuming or finding another “dog” in the corner near your dogs’ bed, then a golden may not be the right dog for your family. Also, if your child or any other member of the family is allergic to dog hair, then you should consider a breed that sheds less. (Though those dogs require regular trips to a groomer!)

Labrador Retriever

Probably just as popular as the Golden retriever is a Labrador retriever. These dogs have many of the same pros and cons as the Goldens. They make great family pets since they also look at the family as a “pack” who must stick together. Some dogs are more likely to stick to one human being or another, but labs are one of those breeds that just love people and love to be around them.

The pros:

  • Friendly and good natured
  • Easy to train
  • Intelligent
  • Love to please

The cons:

  • Require lots of attention
  • Love to chew
  • Shed a lot
  • More of a “dog” smell

As you can see, the pros and cons list for a Labrador are almost the same as we have for the Golden retriever. They both are very happy, gentle, good natured animals with a family or pack mentality. This does mean (as it does with any dog) that you must put yourself in the position of the “pack leader” or “alpha” of the pack. If you don’t, then your dog is likely to run your life, rather than the other way around.

Being as smart as they are labs are easy to train, but if you are not consistent with your training (meaning all family members following the same set of dog-care rules), then your dog could easily become unruly. This is one of the leading reasons that there are so many labs found in shelters these days!

Labrador Retriever

Labradors love to please their humans and since they were bred as hunting and working dogs, they really, really want to make you happy. Training them to get your slippers or a soda from the fridge might seem cruel in a way – but really you are giving the dog a job and they will love you for it. They will love even more to be rewarded for their good deeds with love, affection and food. Speaking of food, all retrievers are big eaters, meaning you should carefully monitor their diet to make sure they don’t become obese.

The worst of all the cons is probably the chewing and the shedding. Shedding is something you will have to learn to live with when you bring any breed of dog into your home. But if you aren’t prepared to wear your dog’s fur just as often as he does, then you should not consider a Labrador. They shed massive amounts even with their slightly shorter coats, this is because they have a double coat.

Along with the shedding you should prepare yourself for chewing when you get a lab. Make sure to keep chew toys in any room your dog is allowed in. Otherwise, he will turn to your new shoes, bed posts, or even carpets. Labs will really chew on just about anything they can sink their teeth into.


Beagles are a wonderful breed of dog for any active family. I say active specifically because for such a little dog, they sure do have a ton of energy to burn off! Like the retrievers they were bred as a hunting dog. Their instincts to track are flawless, the second they catch a scent they are locked in – and there is hardly a distraction from that unless you intervene. If you are considering a family dog and are looking for a lover with a thing for adventure, then a beagle might just be perfect.

The pros:

  • Smaller breed
  • Family oriented
  • Shorter coat
  • Intelligent

The cons:

  • Escape artists
  • Very vocal
  • Highly energetic
  • More difficult to train

One of the biggest advantages to owning a beagle is that they are a smaller dog with a shorter coat. If you are living in an apartment situation where you have a size limit, a beagle will likely fit that range as they are usually around 20-30 lbs when full grown, unlike the other dogs on this list. Along with their compact size they have a much shorter coat which means less shedding. If you or someone in the house has a dog fur allergy then you may be better off with a beagle than a golden retriever.


Of course, there are down sides to these great advantages. While they are very family oriented dogs, that doesn’t mean they will listen to you! Beagles are very stubborn and can be difficult to train. You may be in need of puppy kindergarten (but even that doesn’t stop them from wandering off!) to handle training such a stubborn breed.

They also have this reputation as escape artists. This goes hand in hand with their intelligence, stubbornness and their incredible sense of smell. If a beagle catches a scent, nothing is stopping him. Not even that fence – beagles have escaped even the most secure yards to go after a squirrel!


If you are not concerned with size and a larger breed is more your thing, then a collie might be the right breed of dog for your family. They are great companions as they absolutely love to be part of the family. They are highly smart and very agile dogs. A collie is a brilliant addition to almost any family as they are very loyal and have a longer life expectancy than other large dog breeds. After Lassie, it’s no wonder why so many people love collies and have chosen them as an addition to their family!

The pros:

  • Loyal
  • Friendly with other animals
  • Beautiful
  • Long life expectancy

The cons:

  • Lots of energy
  • Sensitive to heat
  • Grooming is a must

A Lassie dog as many call them is a brilliant dog that will make a wonderful addition in most family situations. If you like to take long walks or even runs then a collie is a great work-out buddy since they are very high in energy. On the other hand, with their long hair increasing in weight when wet, they are not the ideal dog to go swimming with. They are also sensitive to heat, which means they should not be kept outside for extended periods of time even if water is available.


If you don’t like the idea of brushing and bathing your dog regularly, then you might want to consider another breed. Collies have exceptionally long fur, which while it is beautiful, does require a bit of maintenance. This can get quite expensive when you are taking regular trips to the groomer, but a weekly or twice weekly brushing can help cut down on needs for visits to the groomers. All in all, if you don’t mind bonding while brushing and going for long walks, a collie is a great choice in family dog.

Honorable mentions

The Bulldog: A boxer can make a great family pet. If you are looking for a dog that is far less active then the above mentioned breeds, but just as sturdy then a boxer might be perfect. They are known for being friendly and great with kids, able to withstand even the most rowdy of kids.

The Bulldog dogs

The Newfoundland: Remember the nurse-dog, Nana, from Peter Pan? She is a Newfoundland and that movie is a great example of how great this breed is with children. They are an all-around great dog for any family with children, regardless of their large size.

Newfoundland dog breed

The Irish Setter: These dogs go on the list of dogs that need a lot of room to run or ample chances to exercise. While they do require a lot of time outside they are extremely loyal and loving dogs who just want to make you happy. This overall makes them a great choice for a family looking for a friendly breed.

The Irish Setter dogs

The American Pit-bull Terrier: While these dogs have gained a bad reputation in the media, they really are a great family dog. If you are looking for a dog that is loving, loyal and protective, then a pit-bull terrier might be the ticket.

The American Pit-bull Terrier

Do your research before buying and always buy from a reputable breeder – it’s breeding the wrong blood lines that creates dogs with bad temperaments and aggression issues. (The dog from The Little Rascals was a pit-bull terrier!)

And don’t forget to instill some rules with your dog; if you give him the run of the house just because he’s a new addition, you’ll quickly lose control. So why not avoid the problem by reading our article on basic obedience training as a head start?

Breeder vs rescue

No matter what breed of dog you choose for your family, make sure you do all your research ahead of time. Make sure that you look into how much exercise the breed needs, any habits you may not be able to handle and be sure you are ready to be around for your dog’s entire life. While they are only a temporary part of your life, you are there for their whole life. You are their family and shuffling dogs around from one family to the next, only to end up in a shelter is part of the reason for over population.

If you do not have enough time to commit to potty-training a puppy, keeping them away from your power cords and more, then a puppy might not be for you. Puppies of any and all breeds will whimper, have accidents and chew (and they chew a lot, on everything). They are babies and toddlers and you have to be prepared for anything and everything that could happen. If you don’t think you are ready for a puppy but you are still convinced you want a dog, then consider going to a local rescue or shelter. There are hundreds of adult dogs just waiting to be adopted.

Breeder V.S. Rescue

There is a misconception about rescue dogs – they are not all mutts, they are not all aggressive or completely terrified. Most of them are just misunderstood. The thing is, many people get a puppy on impulse, because of their adorable and fluffy features. Once they start having trouble with training, chewing or anything really, they decide they must have gotten the bad one in the bunch and just give up on them.

Since you are reading this, I assume that you are in the beginning stages of your research. Take what you read here about different breeds and continue to research. Find a dog breed that will fit your family’s needs and life style. Then decide if you want to get a puppy from a reputable breeder or adopt from a shelter.

Honestly, owning a dog is a great experience for anyone and everyone should get the chance at least once in their life. Whether it works out well or not – it’s a learning experience and it’s a brilliant one. On the other hand – if you cannot honestly see your family having the dog for the next decade or more, you don’t like going on regular walks or you expect your kids will actually hold up to taking on the responsibility full time (which often doesn’t happen), then you may want to consider a pet that requires less maintenance.

About the author
John Walton
John Walton

John Walton lives in Somerville, MA, with his two dogs, two sons, and very understanding mate. He is a Certified Pet Dog Trainer, a member of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants, a mentor trainer for the Animal Behavior College, an AKC Certified CGC Evaluator, and the Training Director for the New England Dog Training Club.