From companionship to unconditional affection, dogs can offer so many benefits to a family – and growing up with pets can teach a child some important life skills such as empathy, responsibility and sharing. But which are the best dog breeds that suit family life, babies and boisterous children?
We caught up with Kate Higgins, a veterinary surgeon at Village Vets in Formby for advice on which breeds are great for different family settings.
First off, she advised that it’s really worth doing some research and careful thinking about your home set-up before you take the plunge.
And remember, too, that as much as it is about your family’s needs, it is also important to consider the individual needs of the different dog breeds, and whether you are able to provide them with the kind of environment they’ll thrive in.
When selecting a dog, of course their individual temperament is important, but the general temperament of a particular breed is vital to consider as well, along with a dog’s size and energy levels.
Here are 10 different dog breeds to suit different family needs including whether you have children with allergies, other animals or live in a fairly small space, etc.
10 of the best dog breeds for families…
1. Bichon Frise
What are Bichon Frises like? As a general rule, the best breeds for families are those that are patient enough to handle a child’s energy and curiosity, resilient enough to handle their playfulness, but still gentle with affectionate personalities – all of which the Bichon Frise tends to have.
Why they make a great family dog: Bill Lambert, a Kennel Club spokesperson and breeder in Suffolk, says the cute Bichon Frise pup, with its fluffy white coat and sweet round black eyes, is an ideal companion dog.
“The Bichon Frise is a friendly, loveable and playful breed who loves to be a part of the family,” he explains.
“And their minimally moulting coats can make them suitable for all types of families and households.”
What are poodles like? Poodles and poodle crosses hardly shed any hair from their curly coats and are good for people with allergies.
Why they make a great family dog: They are one of the smartest dog breeds, and highly trainable, explains Kate. They also get along well with other pets so will be an excellent choice if you already have a cat.
But be aware: they need plenty of exercise, can get lonely and bored easily, and can become very anxious if there’s shouting and arguing in the house.
What are spaniels like? Cavalier King Charles Spaniels are perfect for small spaces. They don’t need as much exercise as other spaniels and have a laid-back relaxed disposition and so are good around lively children.
Why they make a great family dog: Cocker Spaniels have a friendly disposition and they like regular playtimes. Spaniels are also really friendly with other dogs and cats.
In addition, their smaller size means that they require less food than other larger dog breeds. Shedding is moderate, so they do not require a lot of cleaning.
4. Old English Sheepdog
What are English Sheepdogs like? Easy-going, amiable and keen on lots of exercise, these dogs make wonderful family companions advises Kate and they’ll inspire a love of the great outdoors in young children too.
Why they make a great family dog: “Old English Sheepdogs are steady, intelligent and lively, and they thrive on human companionship so they are very well suited to dog-loving families,” says Bill from The Kennel Club. “They love outdoor exercise whatever the weather.”
The dogs were made famous by that paint advert, but in fact the ‘Dulux dog’ is now classed as a vulnerable breed. “There are less than 350 registrations of these pups each year,” says Bill. “These dogs need you!”
What are labradors like? Labradors are lovely natured dogs and adore human company. They are excellent pets if there is a large garden and space.
Why they make a great family dog: They are friendly, easy-going, and not bothered by loud noises. They are also very caring and protective of small children.
However, they do require frequent energetic walks. Jo Stockell who runs Paws n Claws in Formby, a dog-walking and boarding business, explains: “Labradors need regular long walks as they can gain weight very easily which can cause health conditions such as hip dysplasia later on in life.”
What are beagles like? Beagles do need constant stimulation: so they’re actually more likely to enjoy a busy active household rather than anywhere too quiet.
Why they make a great family dog: Beagles love lots of exercise, but they are also very gentle and do not need much grooming. Do note, you will need a fenced garden, as they can be adventurous.
“If your family likes long walks and you live somewhere where there are many opportunities for taking lots of strolls, such as near the sea or in the countryside, then beagles are excellent family dogs,” advises Kate.
What are collies like? “Collies need moderate amounts of exercise: they are intelligent and also watchful dogs without being aggressive,” says Kate.
Why they make a great family dog: Collies get along well with other dogs and cats, as well as humans – although they might try to herd them! If you have time for regular walks, and regular grooming, they could prove to be a brilliant pet.
Important to think about is that collies are probably a dog only to consider if someone in the house works from home as they can develop separation anxiety if left alone for too long.
What are greyhounds like? Greyhounds like to run fast, but they don’t need to be running all day. They don’t need too much space, either, as they don’t require as much activity as some of the other large dogs.
Why they make a great family dog: Greyhounds are one of the least expensive dogs to maintain. “They are large but because of their slender frame do not require much food unlike other similarly large-sized dogs,” says Kate.
Training and exercise costs are low, as are grooming costs because of their short coat.
9. Labrador-Retriever cross
What are labrador-retriever crosses like? Labrador-Retriever crosses get along well with other dogs and cats. Due to their active lifestyle, it is important (as with all dogs) that they get a nutritious and high-energy diet.
Why they make a great family dog: These are friendly and extremely patient, beautiful and very intelligent dogs. They are great around children, however they are also energetic and not good in small spaces.
10. Soft-coated Wheaten terrier
What are soft-coated Wheaten terriers like? These lovely small dogs have a hypoallergenic coat that does not shed much at all so, like poodles, they’re perfect for families and children with allergies.
Why they make a great family dog: Wheaten terriers are exuberant, joyful and playful and very devoted. However, this means you shouldn’t leave them alone at home for too long, says Kate.
Also note that they love to chase anything that moves – so are maybe not so good with a fast-moving crawling baby.
A note about child safety and dogs
Some new parents can worry about introducing a dog into a home with babies, or bringing a baby into a home where there is a much-loved dog. This is natural.
The most important thing, advises Kate, is to introduce them gently to each other and continue to give the dog the attention and love they deserve – as well as your baby!