What makes for a good family dog? Ideally, the candidate should be affectionate, gentle, and able to live comfortably in your space. Limited barking and shedding are other qualities to consider when picking a pup.
Which breeds fit the bill? Let’s dive into our pool of the best family dogs.
Best Family Dogs: Labrador Retrievers
Labrador retrievers are everything we all strive to be: adaptable, confident, patient, hard-working, and kind. They also love to hold things — yet they’re so gentle they can transport eggs in their mouths without breaking them!
On the dog fancier circuit, Labrador retrievers are widely considered the best dog for families with children. They’re always ready to play, aren’t too aggressive, and are easily groomable. Also, Labradors build close bonds with kids.
Best Family Dogs: Boston Terrier
Playful and loyal, Boston terriers easily land on our best family dogs list. These high-energy bundles of muscle love to prance around with their pals and get along well with other four-legged members of the family — especially if they’re introduced when the Boston terrier is a puppy!
But beware! On rare occasions, Boston terriers get tetchy and display mildly aggressive behavior if they think one of their family members is in some way threatened.
Children over eight years old do best with Boston terriers. By that age, they understand that pets aren’t toys and can energetically play with their canine buddies without getting out of control.
Best Family Dogs: Beagle
Beagles are great dogs for active, energetic families! These spirited, medium-sized canines are always game for play. Plus, they relish attention and crave cuddles.
Curiosity rules the beagle brain, and they love nothing more than following a scent — a trait from their days as fancy hunting hounds. On the downside, beagles are big barkers; it’s how they alerted their gunmen of nearby prey. But some families, especially ones in rural areas, often value dogs who speak up when someone pops on the property.
Beagles living in close-knit communities can be trained to curtail their cries if they receive training early on.
Best Family Dogs: Newfoundlands
Is there anything more endearing than a big, gentle, family-oriented dog? That’s why Newfoundlands — the large dogs with angelic souls — make our list of the best family dogs.
These gentle giants are all about you and the kids. They become so attached that many suffer from separation anxiety if they’re parted from their humans for extended periods. Some folks consider them “nanny dogs,” but experts caution against leaving them alone with babies. “Newfies” can be very playful and accidentally get too rowdy.
Another thing: Newfoundlands are one of the more expensive dogs to care for because of extra grooming needs — plus, their pet insurance can be pricey. If your budget is tight, consider a lower-maintenance breed, like the French bulldog.
Best Family Dogs: French Bulldog
French bulldogs are tiny, stocky, bullets of love. Bred as companion dogs, they savor time with their human families and do everything in their power to please us. Kids love them because they’re teeny, fun, and cuddly.
Since they’re not big on barking and don’t need tons of exercise, French bulldogs do well living in apartments and condos. Plus, they’re flat faces don’t lend themselves well to oodles of outdoor time.
A short-hair breed, French bulldogs don’t shed much — which is a boon for hypoallergenic households.
Best Family Dogs: Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
Cavalier King Charles spaniels are beauties! Their long, silken fur, floppy ears, and adorable faces are irresistible! Considered the perfect lapdog and affectionately called “a love sponge,” Cavalier King Charles spaniels are patient and excessively friendly — sometimes to a fault.
Cavaliers also get along famously with other family pets, but they may run into trouble at the dog park because they think every dog is friendly like them!
Naturally gentle dogs, Cavalier King Charles spaniels are a super fit for young families.
The Best Family Dogs: Category Awards
Now let’s get specific. What is the best hypoallergenic family dog? How about a large pup that’s great with kids? Or the best medium sized family dog? Below, we award superlatives in four categories: best medium sized family dog, best large family dog, best family dog that doesn’t shed, and best small family dog.
Best Medium Sized Family Dog: Golden Retriever
Golden retrievers are the gold-standard family dog. In part because of their lustrous flaxen coats, but also because they’re devoted additions to families of all sizes — even cozy families of one!
Bred for companionship and helpfulness, golden retrievers are intelligent, loyal, and jolly. They’re also gorgeous and easy to train. The Peter Pans of Dogdom, golden retrievers often maintain their playful puppy personalities well into adulthood.
Best Large Family Dog: Bernese Mountain Dog
Do you appreciate giant dogs that are gentle with the newborn? If so, then Bernese mountain dogs may be the right fit for you and the kids. Described by the American Kennel Club as good-natured, calm, strong, and extra gentle with children, Bernese mountain dogs are the Santa Clauses of the canine world. They love to make people happy and can work hard, which is why they’re our pick for the best large family dog.
Be aware that like most large, long-haired breeds, Bernese mountain dogs shed frequently, and their grooming costs are more than an average-sized hound.
Best Family Dog that Doesn’t Shed: Labradoodle
They look like stuffed animals and cannot be more friendly. A mix between poodles and Labrador retrievers, labradoodles are extremely intelligent, intuitive, and love mental stimulation. They’re wonderful for active families and can tirelessly play with young kids — who are just as curious as they are!
Beyond having people-like personalities, labradoodles also have a practical trait that makes them excellent family pets: they’re hypoallergenic hounds, making the breed the best family dog that doesn’t shed.
Best Small Family Dog: Staffordshire Bull Terrier
Staffordshire bull terriers were bred for the ring. However, over centuries, those fighting instincts have eroded, and dog fanciers now put Staffordshires on “best family pups” lists and place them in the “nanny dog” class.
SBTs are small and don’t shed or bark frequently — but Staffordshire bull terriers are mimics. So if you already have a howling hound at home, a “staffy” may choose to join in — and it won’t be melodic.
Good luck finding a pup that fits in perfectly with you and the kids! We hope our list of best family dogs has helped! To read more about other animals, head to our animal blog.