As a dog lover and long-time trainer, I can assert without hesitation that a dog is a fantastic addition to any family, including one with infants as well as children of all ages.
The health benefits of family dogs both for adults and children are legion, and I’ve highlighted them in previous posts.
Family Dogs: Which Breeds Are Best?
Of course the first question that comes up for many people when considering adding a dog to the family is which breeds make the best family companions.
Suggestions are not hard to come by. Search the Internet and you’ll find hundreds of lists purporting to give you insight into which breeds make the best family companions.
Personally, I find such lists too general to be of much use. Why? Because as with all relationships what matters is not one individual or another, it’s the right fit between the two.
In other words, there is no breed that consistently makes the perfect family dog.
What Criteria Do You Need To Consider?
But there is a perfect dog for every family. And finding the right fit is based on a variety of criteria.
You should consider the following: the size of your family, the ages of the kids and their general level of activity, the size of your house or apartment, the availability of a back yard or other play area, whether you’ll want to travel with your dog, and whether anyone in the family suffers from disabilities or allergies.
The list goes on.
Once you’ve outlined the relevant criteria of your life you then have to consider the characteristics of the dog. These include size, temperament, trainability, energy level, etc.
Dogs that make great family companions should be playful as well as patient, even-tempered and tolerant of the rough handling young kids commonly dish out.
For an excellent resource filled with breed specific evaluations of such characteristics see Daniel Tortora PH.D’s The Right Dog For You. There’s even a handy little comparative chart in the book that helps you sort our which breed is best for you based on its respective temperament.
Key Questions To Ask Yourself
Also before kicking off your search for that perfect family dog ask yourself a few additional questions.
1. Puppy Or Adult?
First, puppy or adult? Puppies require a lot of work and can add stress to an already busy family.
On the other hand kids love puppies and will generally enjoy the process of raising and training them even if they are less excited about taking responsibility for them when it comes to puppy related chores.
On the other hand, adult dogs tend to require much less attention and training and in most cases don’t have the insane energy reserves of a four-month-old pup. Also, with an adult dog what you see is generally what you get.
When it comes to a young pup there’s no way to be certain exactly what kind of adult she will develop into.
2. What’s Your Lifestyle?
Second, does your family engage in lots of outdoor activities or is everyone so busy that there’s little time for that?
If the latter is the case a laid back breed like a Mastiff, Newfoundland, Bernese Mountain Dog, Great Danes or even retired racing Greyhound might be best.
If you have a high energy family who is constantly engaged in outdoor activities breeds like border collies, Golden Retrievers, Labradors and some terriers as well as beagles might be great family companions (though the latter two can be a bit stubborn when it comes to training).
3. Do You Travel A Lot?
Third, does your family do a lot of traveling? If so then a smaller breed might be best considering the greater ease of transport. For more on this see my previous blog on best small dogs for kids.
In short, consider the various dimensions of your life and ask yourself pertinent questions about what doggie traits would best slot into it. Then take it from there.
Look for characteristics first and then consider individuals, each on their own merits rather than breed generalizations, before making a choice.
And don’t forget that it’s often the mixed breed mutts that make the best fit into the largest variety of social situations.
Want to learn more about preparing your dog for the arrival of your baby? Check out my book: Good Dog, Happy Baby