It’s one of those chocolate-box images we have in our minds – watching our kids grow up alongside the family dog. More than a pet, the dog is their confidante and protector. They’re best friends for life.
Having a dog around the home is a wonderful experience. They become one of the family and can help teach the kids about caring for and taking responsibility for others. In return, they offer loyalty and unconditional love.
If you’re thinking of getting a dog, choose carefully according to your lifestyle and the ages of your children. Some breeds need more company, exercise and stimulation than others. Others are more patient – or more aggressive. You might have loved the television show Lassie, but a highly strung and intelligent Border Collie won’t be happy in a house where everyone is out at school or work all day.
There are many breeds that make a great family dog, but these are among the most popular.
Their small size and calm temperament mean the beagle is an ideal family pet. Originally bred as hunting dogs, they love exploring and will really enjoy discovering the great outdoors. They’re pretty sturdy and have plenty of energy to play games – always a plus if you’ve got young kids. Their friendly, happy attitude means they generally get on with other household pets, too. They do shed quite a lot of hair, so be prepared to groom them regularly – as in every couple of days.
Full of energy, bichons are friendly and playful. They’re great around children, who love them because they have so much character. If you’d prefer a low-maintenance dog when it comes to grooming, you’ll be glad to know the bichon fits the bill. They need regular care, of course, but their coats don’t shed much. As a smaller dog, they also need less living space than other breeds.
Known for being docile, friendly and loyal, bulldogs have far more patience than many breeds. They’re an ideal choice if you want a dog who can put up with noise and rough play. It’s fair to say the bulldog doesn’t have high energy levels, so if you’re a more sedentary family who doesn’t enjoy long walks and activity, this could be the breed for you. Bulldogs are generally sociable and get on well with non-family members and other pets. Be aware that the shape of their jaws means they do need some special care when it comes to their teeth. You’ll also need to clean their facial wrinkles regularly.
This is a highly intelligent and loyal breed. Their wolfish appearance and frequent use by the police and security services means many people believe German Shepherds are naturally aggressive. In truth, they can be as gentle and playful as any other breed. They’re very easy to train and learn tricks quickly, which is one reason children love them. You can also teach them how to behave around specific people. They’re very protective and will look after you and your home. Their thick double coat means they need regular grooming, especially when they start to shed in warmer weather.
One of the most popular breeds when it comes to choosing a family dog, retrievers are known for being kind, patient and very loyal. They love to play and do need plenty of exercise – as the name suggests, retrieval games are their favourite. Affectionate and obedient, a retriever will be your child’s best friend. Their beautiful coats are their distinctive feature, but it will take care to keep them in good condition. You’ll need to commit to regular grooming and be prepared to find hair everywhere.
This is another very popular dog for young families. Labradors are patient, playful and protective. They’re also very intelligent and generally easy to train – if you’ve ever thought of trying dog agility or working trials, this is a great breed. They generally love swimming and need plenty of exercise – they’re strong dogs with lots of stamina. Their short coats are also easy to care for. If you do get a Labrador, make sure you never leave food lying around within reach – they’ll eat almost anything, and quickly!
The Newfoundland has been nicknamed ‘nature’s babysitter’ – it’s known for being protective and very fond of children. It’s also one of the most intelligent types of dog in the world, with a gentle and patient nature. They’re great swimmers and have saved people’s lives in the past. Newfoundlands enjoy the stimulation of training and tasks and love being with people. You’ll need to have plenty of space though – an adult male generally weighs 130-150lbs (59-68kg), and a female 110-120lbs (45-54kg).
If you’re an energetic family, you might want to consider this breed. They’re lively dogs that need plenty of exercise, but they’re also very sensitive and gentle. Obedient and clever, they form close bonds with their ‘pack’. Although not one of the obvious breeds that comes to mind, they do make great family dogs.
- Remember that no dog can be trusted to never react or attack. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve had it, how old it is, or how it has behaved previously. It’s an animal and will follow its instincts – any dog is capable of lashing out. For this reason, you should never leave a baby or small child alone with your dog.
- While some breeds are more likely than others to display certain characteristics, each dog is still an individual – just like a human. Labradors are known for being easy going, but some can still be aggressive. Temperament or any past experiences can shape their behaviour, just as ours do.
- Be realistic about the kind of dog that will fit with your lifestyle. A young, energetic dog will need more of your time for walks and play. A large dog will need plenty of room, so the size of your home is also a factor. If you can’t give your dog what it needs, it will affect its behaviour in future.