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What's the Best Family Dog?

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by Lorraine A (subscribe)
Avid trail runner, freelance writer and a mother of four with a healthy obsession for the great outdoors. Join me in my discoveries along the Mornington Peninsula and further afield by subscribing to my articles.
Published April 4th 2013

For me having a pet is an important part of our family, Lady joined our family a few months ago. Lady is a gorgeous little cross bred dog with an amazing personality and a calm gentle nature, perfect with children.

Though finding a dog like her was extremely difficult, we went to dog shows, talked with many breeders and trialled a few different breeds to find the perfect fit for our family's needs.

On the top of the recommendation list was;
Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, for their placid temperament and family friendly nature.

You do need to be careful as this breed often have heart problems. The best way to avoid this problem is to buy from a reputable breeder that can provide the parents' heart check paperwork.


Next was Pugs, a small dog with a big personality, very cute and fashionable, great with children.

We had a gorgeous Pug called Tinkerbell, fantastic with children, never barked, happy little dog and we loved her to bits.

Before buying a pug you must understand their health issues. Often Pugs get dumped because their owners don't realise that Pugs are high maintenance. Pugs are prone to eye problems, ear infections, sleep problems because of their restricted airways and they shed hair like no other dog we have ever owned.

Golden Retriever was another suggestion from breeders for their loyalty and intelligence, they are fairly robust without too many medical conditions to worry about.

A great family dog, that consistently rates as the best family dog.

Labrador Retriever is protective, playful, patient and reliable and great with children. Obesity can be a problem.

Poodles are smart, gentle, patient and great for people with allergies.

Poodle cross breeds such as Spoodle, Cavoodle,Moodle, Groodle, Labradoodle, are easier to maintain with their lack of shedding, but you do need to have them clipped every 10 weeks or so depending on how fast the coat grows. Choose the mix of breeds carefully, and meet the parents as it usually gives you a good indication.

A Cavoodle (Cavalier cross poodle) is a great choice with the nature of the cavalier being gentle and the poodle intelligent.
Spoodles (Spaniel cross Poodle) which I have owned, and plenty of other Spoodle owners who I have met, agree they are a bit nutty. Ours was still like a puppy at 7 years of age and not particularly intelligent. Others were jumping 6 ft fences and chewing houses to bits. Hopefully they are not all the same.

Maltese are great little dogs, but are less likely to put up with really young children that may pull their coat, however it really depends on the dog's personality. They can have problems with Little White Shaker Syndrome and don't like to be left alone.

The breeds we were advised to avoid were Terriers as they can be unpredictable and nippy with young children, with the only exception being the Miniature Schnauzer which are less aggressive, playful and curious but can bark a lot and can get diabetes.

If you have plenty of room a Collie (Lassie Dog) has a sharp mind, friendly nature and is great with children. Newfoundland nick named 'natures baby sitter', is sweet, intelligent, large and love children but require a big yard.

Dogs from the local pound can be the most loving and loyal dogs. They may not have had the best start to life or may have been surrendered by an elderly owner that can no longer care for them.

These dogs will reward you for years to come, as long as you take the time to make sure it's the right breed/fit for your family.

After all who else is going to get excited every time they see you, follow you, protect you and wake at all hours of the night to keep you company?
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Our family has had the pleasure of having owned 2 Golden Retrievers. They are probably one of the best dog breeds for families/children as they're very placid and eager to please. Even with just the minimum of formal obedience training you will have a wonderful dog to add to your family. We're constantly stopped on our walks for people to pat and ask questions about our particular dogs. They're very approachable and love making friends with humans and other dogs, which sometimes can be a bit hairy! We find small dogs are far more aggressive (small dog syndrome!) to our placid, friendly lot. Just make sure you buy them from a breeder so you have an extensive family history. You won't be sorry!!
by steve (score: 2|134) 2136 days ago
West Highland Terrier (My Dog Advert). Very robust little dogs, very few health problems compared to other breeds. Great with kids and not too big for small properties. Ours is almost 17 years old and still going strong.
by rickm (score: 0|4) 2135 days ago
English Staffordshire Bull Terrier - they're not called nanny dogs for no reason.
by kylie (score: 0|4) 1291 days ago
The best family dog is a dog adopted from a shelter. So many beautiful lovely dogs in need of a home, getting put down every day due to no fault of their own. With an adult, you know exactly what you are getting, and no need to go through the "baby" stage. Many "doodles/oodles" come from puppy farms and pet shops and many purebreds have all sorts of inbred genetic health issues. Shelter dogs are best and really appreciate a second chance! My last four top family dogs have been rehomes!
by sunda (score: 0|3) 2147 days ago
A very friendly family dog is a Beagle. My baby who is almost three, is great with our family, just needs somebody at home a majority of the time, as they love company. We get stopped on walks so kids can pat him.
by vicky3 (score: 0|3) 2146 days ago
The best family dog is a well trained submissive dog. When picking a dog for a family with very young children in particular look for the dog that stands calmly in the background with a loose relaxed body with the tail down. An excitable dog that rushes up to people and jumps on them is alpha minded. Such a dog is likely to feel superior to little children and bite them. Terriers and many toy breeds are notorious for this. People often get them because they look like cute fluffy toys and don't train them, then they make excuses for their aggressive behaviour that they would not allow in larger dogs. I would NEVER get a chihuahua or a jack russell for a really young child. I've had the misfortune of inheriting such a dog because everyone else has gotten rid of him because he attacks animals and children. Training him was a difficult process because he was so dominant in nature and even a year after working with him I would not trust him with children.
by reswo (score: 0|3) 2146 days ago
I agree with "Sunda": our family's ethos is to adopt from the Animal Welfare League, Wingfield. I got my first dog, Molly from there and she was wonderful (a border collie cross). Then after I had my first child and we no longer had Molly, when my child was old enough (5yo), we returned to Wingfield and selected Polly based on the qualified staff's assessment (each dog is thoroughly vet checked and assessed to who it is suitable). Polly is classified as a "Terrier cross" - we've had her for 7 years now (she's estimated to be around 9yo). She's perfect for us and we constantly get feed back from others on how gentle and lovely she is!
by Jenny (score: 3|1661) 2146 days ago
Best family dog I've ever had was a "Basenji". Perhaps best described as a curly-tailed, tree-climbing, active large fox-terrier-type of body-shape.

A neighbourly, thoughtful purchase, because Basenji's do NOT bark. Hahahahahahah. We soon found out it can howl; as good as any timber wolf!!!

Intelligent, clean (very short haired), and very protective. Our wonderful Basenji let a visitor walk up to our front door, and knock on it.

BUT he totally stopped our friend leaving the porch (we were not home).
So we eventually returned, from our shopping-trip, to find our distressed visitor, sitting uncomfortably on the doorstep.

That day we discovered the clever, guard-dog/burglar-detaining aspect of his character. They do need a Basenji-proof, fenced property. Because as we discovered, left to run down the road he became a Bruce Lee dog-fighter.

When he returned, cloaked in blood from nose to tail, we assumed an immediate, expensive vet rush trip was about to happen.

But when we hosed the saturating blood off his fur, we uncovered our original, pristine, not-a-scratch" Basenji. Hence the Bruce Lee comparison.

That's how we learned to always corral "Benji" at home, or walk him only on a leash. "Benji" was great with our small (6 YO) children, protective of both family and property; and a feisty, single-minded 'crocodile from hell' to external threats.
Maybe, in retrospect, Basenji's should be "Best Adult-Owners Dogs' :)
by paris0 (score: 0|8) 1285 days ago

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