Before you choose a dog for your family, consider the age and personality of your children. For instance, while active school-age children may love to romp with a Labrador, a toddler learning to walk might get hurt by a boisterous pup. Small dogs are best avoided for families with small children who may easily injure fragile breeds such as Yorkies or Chihuahuas. While most dogs exhibit the overall characteristics of their breed, keep in mind that each dog is an individual. Take the time to assess your prospective new pet before taking him home.
The Labrador retriever is the most popular dog breed, according to the American Kennel Club. That's no surprise, considering that labs are smart, eager to learn and friendly. Often trained as seeing-eye dogs, they're also patient and loving. Labs require plenty of exercise and love games of Frisbee. They get along well with other animals and people of all ages. You'll find that your Lab is quick to learn new tricks and will be well-behaved with some basic training.
Elegant and energetic, the vizsla originated in Hungary, where it was bred to serve as a pointer and a retriever. As a result, this breed likes to keep close to humans. Your kids will find their vizsla in whatever room they're in -- usually snuggled up at their feet. This breed has a reputation for high intelligence and typically is eager to obey. Kids who curl their noses at stinky dogs will find that the vizsla rarely smells bad.
The golden retriever is gentle, loyal and will put up with just about any behavior -- even ear-pulling -- without complaint. He's athletic and needs regular exercise, so kids can teach him to play fetch or Frisbee. He'll appreciate a splash in pretty much any body of water; his water-repellent coat was made for swimming. His long, thick coat sheds seasonally. Bath him often and give him a good brushing to keep him looking beautiful.
"Nana" from the story Peter Pan made the Newfoundland famous for being loving, protective and affectionate. A Newfie will carry kids around on her back, lie motionless while they nap snuggled against her and endure games of dress up. The Newfoundland grows to as much as 150 pounds, so she's best suited for families with spacious homes or yards. Start training your Newfie at 2 months old; you'll find that she learns quickly and is good-natured.
The beagle is a curious, friendly little pup. He's a scent hound and can become obsessed with tracking while outdoors, so keep him on his leash when you go for walks. Beagles grow to about 30 pounds, so they're ideal for families living in apartments. The beagle is active and enjoys regular exercise. The kids easily can groom their beagle. His short coat is low-maintenance; brush him occasionally to keep shedding at bay. His long, droopy ears should be cleaned regularly.
The Irish setter is eager to please and has lots of energy. Older children will enjoy training him and he'll love spending time with them. In fact, your Irish is best behaved when he's around his people. If your family enjoys hunting birds, he'll thrive; his breed was developed as gun dogs. He loves to sniff out and track birds, then point to their location. Spend at least an hour daily exercising your setter. Otherwise he can become bored.
The bulldog is happiest when snuggled up to his human companions for a nap. His frequent kisses are wet and slobbery. He's a good fit for a family with small children, because he's affectionate, patient and sturdy. The bulldog's limited exercise requirements make him a good companion for more sedentary families, though you'll still want to engage in daily play. If your home is located in a hot climate, consider your bulldog an indoor-only pet. His short, little snout makes him prone to overheating.
The short, sturdy pug loves his humans and wants to be around them all the time. He's eager for a snuggle and will follow the kids around the house like a sidekick. The whole family will be amused by the pug's comical antics. He loves attention The pug has a double coat that's prone to lots of shedding; ask the kids to brush him daily. Your pug is an indoor dog. Much like the bulldog, he easily overheats in hot, humid weather.
The laid-back personality of the basset hound makes him a fine companion for children of all ages. His short, little legs render him slow-moving. His patient personality allows for a limited amount of poking and prodding. The basset hound loves his people. He'll howl if left alone for long periods so busy families might consider puppy day care or a dog walker to keep him happy.
Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
The little Cavalier King Charles spaniel is a doe-eyed lap dog, but she'll also give energetic kids a run for their money in the backyard. This little pup needs a fenced area -- otherwise she might chase a squirrel down the block. She's quick to train, especially when treats are involved. Cavaliers are appreciated by families with children of napping age; they rarely bark and readily adapt to the family's activities.
- American Kennel Club: Labrador Retriever
- PetMD: Vizsla
- American Kennel Club: Golden Retriever
- American Kennel Club: Newfoundland
- American Kennel Club: Beagle
- PetMD: Irish Setter
- PetMD: Bulldog
- Animal Planet: Pug
- American Kennel Club: Basset Hound
- American Kennel Club: Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
- American Kennel Club: Best Dogs for Kids
- PetMD: The 10 Best Dogs for Kids and Families
- Animal Planet: Family Dog Breeds