Choosing a new pet can be overwhelming — there’s so much to consider! There are the pros and cons of owning an animal versus adopting one from an organization or shelter (which is often cheaper), whether you want your dog to have lots of energy or sleep at night, what size they should be, how much exercise do they need, etc., etc… It takes time (and research) but it’ll help when choosing which breed might work for you and your family.
Whether you’re looking to adopt a new family pet or rescue an older one from the local shelter, finding your perfect pooch can be overwhelming with so many options available. To help narrow down those choices and make it easier to find that special someone, here is our list of the top15 best dogs for families and your home.
1. Labrador Retriever
The Lab has long been considered one of America’s most popular pets as well as one of its favorite working animals. These gentle giants have become synonymous with search-and-rescue work, both in human form (including members of NASA) and canine form thanks to their ability to swim, haul objects up mountains, pull sleds, carry people on water skis, guide boats through rough waters and much more.
Labs also serve as loyal companions and loving parents. They’re smart, athletic and eager to please — traits they’ll pass along to their pups. According to the American Kennel Club (AKC), there were roughly 1 million purebred Labs registered worldwide in 2015, making them the seventh-most common breed in North America.
The AKC recognizes seven different varieties: Standard/Toy, Classic/Miniature, Nylon Coated White, Blue, Tricolor, Chocolate and Cream Sable. Each variety exhibits unique characteristics based on coat color.
2. Golden Retriever
Golden retrievers are known for being friendly, good natured and full of energy. This cheerful pooch was bred by 19th century English sportsmen who used the large golden retriever to retrieve birds out of the water when hunting wildfowl.
Today, this active breed loves spending time outdoors running around in fields, swimming at the beach and playing fetch. Golden retrievers love children, but may not do as well if left alone too often because they like to explore and get into trouble unsupervised.
Their calm demeanor makes them great with seniors who need extra attention. A few years ago, a study showed that these cuddly goofballs could actually reduce blood pressure among elderly patients suffering from hypertension. But don’t let their sweet disposition fool you. Although they look harmless enough, golden retrievers are strong swimmers and will bite humans if provoked. If you decide to buy a goldie, make sure you know how to properly care for this lovable giant.
Poms are affectionate little fur balls that require lots of physical activity and stimulation. Unlike other small dogs, which tend to sleep all day, pom owners report their energetic toy spaniels spend plenty of time awake exploring their surroundings and getting involved with activities such as digging holes, chasing frisbees and climbing trees.
Pom puppies start learning about household rules early on and usually grow up to be independent thinkers. However, because these curious critters enjoy interacting with people, they should only be introduced to strangers slowly over several days. This breed tends to bond closely with its owner and doesn’t typically act aggressively toward others unless provoked.
Like golden retrievers, pomeranians are playful and fun but shouldn’t be allowed outside unattended due to their tendency to run off without supervision. And just remember, despite their tiny stature, pomeranians aren’t afraid of big things. In 2011, one pup successfully rescued his family after becoming tangled in fishing line while attempting to free his sister during playtime [Source: KTVI].
This friendly pocket-sized terrier originated in England where he served as man’s best friend by keeping watch over sheep from afar. He would bark and warn wandering flocks away before scurrying back home to alert his master. Beagles today still protect us from harm, but now they’ve got bigger problems than annoying farmhands.
While some folks view beagles as “man’s best friend,” others consider them “woman’s best distraction.” Because of their size and strength, this breed isn’t ideal for households with smaller kids or cats. Despite their diminutive appearance, beagles are very protective of their homes and belongings and may nip at any perceived threat to their comfort zone, including furniture legs, shoes and even people! Fortunately, training helps curb these unwanted behaviors. Not surprisingly, beagles are highly intelligent, easygoing and patient creatures. They don’t mind waiting until dinner is ready to eat instead of helping themselves to whatever food happens to be closest.
5. Bichon Frises
These cute white ballers originate near Lake Geneva in Switzerland where bunnies called chonniers once hopped around freely. When French farmers began bringing rabbits onto their farms, the area became overrun with pests.
Enter Louis Dejean, who created what we call modern bichons today. His original intent was to create a rabbit that wouldn’t destroy crops and wasn’t prone to carrying disease. Instead of using a single gene pool, however, he crossbred various types of European rabbits together creating distinctive colored coats and short ears. Similar to teddy bears, bichon frises come in a range of colors, patterns and sizes.
Some even sport sweaters, collars and leashes made entirely of wool — yes, really. Most prefer chew toys and lounging indoors. However, since they’re so laidback, bichons are occasionally susceptible to separation anxiety. As a result, they sometimes exhibit destructive chewing behavior or dig under fences trying to escape. Training helps ease this issue.
6. Boston Terrier
Boston terriers embody everything that’s wonderful about the adorable yet resilient spirit of New England. Originally bred to hunt vermin, today’s version serves as a devoted companion and selfless protector. Known for their spunky personalities, Boston terriers are excellent with kids and adults alike.
One thing worth noting is that Boston terriers are notorious for barking incessantly. Owners must learn effective ways of communicating with their noisy buddies and remain vigilant against potential triggers. Other than that, these happy-go-lucky pups provide endless entertainment with their mischievous antics.
Boxers are energetic, muscular and fiercely loyal. These proud giants are known for their powerful jaws and intimidating stares. Boxers originally came from Germany and were developed specifically to compete in fighting events.
Before settling down to guard their masters’ property, boxers participated in brutal fights against other larger dogs, particularly bull mastiffs. Over time, this breed evolved into a versatile athlete capable of competing in sporting events as well as dog shows.
Boxers are generally content staying close to home but can adapt to indoor living. Trainers recommend introducing young boxers gradually to prevent behavioral issues later on. Otherwise, expect your furry buddy to keep busy with agility courses, flyball competitions and obedience classes. Boxers typically weigh between 80 pounds and 110 pounds and stand anywhere from 17 inches to 26 inches tall.
When two brothers named James Hogg and William Tennant decided to build a steam engine in 1832, they needed a sturdy frame to support the weight. So they brought in a massive bulldog named Toby to hold up the heavy boiler. That’s why this sturdily built, slow moving but stubborn breed gets its name. Today, the bulldog remains one of the world’s oldest existing breeds. Its origins date back to ancient Greece where it served as a watchdog protecting livestock from predators.
In Victorian times, British aristocrats favored the breed for its docile nature. By 1900, bulldogs had gained popularity throughout Europe and the United States. Bulldogs vary widely in terms of coloring, shape and overall temperament. Generally speaking, though, these faithful friends excel at guarding their owners and sleeping next to them every night.
Dachshund lovers claim this goofy wiener dog possesses certain qualities reminiscent of Santa Claus himself. For starters, dachshunds possess soft bellies and long backsides resembling jolly old Saint Nick. Secondly, this wiry breed enjoys rolling around in piles of snow and mud. Thirdly, dachshunds are adept at escaping danger.
Fourthly, this clever critter uses its long body to shield itself from flying debris. Lastly, dachshunds have a knack for sniffing stuff out.
All of these attributes earned dachshunds their place atop Christmas wish lists across the country each year. Dachshunds originated in Germany where they protected rural villages from wolves. Since then, this breed has conquered the hearts of millions of Americans who appreciate its helpful personality and warm brown eyes.
10. German Shepard
German shepherds are famous for assisting police officers and military personnel during dangerous missions. Also referred to as Alsatian herding dogs, german shepherds originated in France where they worked alongside monks tending to cattle herds.
During the Middle Ages, German shepherd assistance proved vital during crusades led by Pope Gregory III. Later, German shepherds spread westward, eventually arriving in Germany. Many of these impressive dogs continued performing similar duties right up until the 20th century.
11. Pit Bull
This gentle giant was bred as a fighting machine by humans who used them as guard dogs against other animals and people. They were also prized because their meat could be cured using smoke. But today, Pit Bulls are some of the most popular pets in America. The American Kennel Club named this canine its “Dog Of The Year” in 2015, recognizing its positive impact on society. Pit Bulls tend to live longer than average compared with many other large-sized dogs, making them very good choices for older owners looking for companionship.
These dogs love attention, require daily walks and play fetch, just like any other pooch. However, keep in mind these smart, protective dogs may not appreciate being left alone all day while you head out to get groceries, so plan accordingly. And don’t forget about training! This versatile pup loves learning tricks.
Why we love them: Their friendly personalities, huge hearts, loyal nature and willingness to learn makes them ideal for families.
Where else would they fit? Great choice for small apartments where space is tight, or big yards where they’ll enjoy chasing balls and running around after their favorite toys.
Best friend(s): Older children
Papillons look cute and cuddly, but under those soft exterior beats a heart strong enough to take down prey twice their weight. These elegant little fluffballs hail from France and Belgium and come in two sizes — Standard and Giant. Both offer similar characteristics, including intelligence, gentleness and patience.
What sets them apart is their longevity. While smaller papillary types typically only last four years due to health issues such as hip dysplasia, allergies and thyroid problems, larger varieties boast lifespans up to 15 years thanks to stronger bones and less prone to arthritis. Larger Papillons also tend to weigh between 30 pounds and 40 pounds, meaning they’re perfect bedfellows for owners with kids and teens. Like Pit Bulls, Papillons require plenty of exercise, so consider enrolling them in agility classes if you’d rather let them run free once in awhile.
Why we love them: Cuteness factor aside, their long lives are reason enough to choose this sweetheart over bigger dogs. Also, they’re easygoing and won’t chase your cat like most terriers will.
Where else would they fit? Perfect addition to urban homes where space is limited. Small apartment dwellers or busy parents without yard access are sure to fall in love with Papillons’ laidback dispositions.
Best friend(s): Younger children
13. Shih Tzu
Shih Tsus are tiny, delicate creatures that resemble miniature versions of Chinese lions. Not content to rest on their laurels though, this lovable hairball is known for being highly intelligent and fiercely independent. To top off the package, most shihtzu puppies are born deaf, so expect plenty of ear scratches before they start listening to commands.
Fortunately, even during their first months, shih tzus respond well to basic obedience training and thrive with regular socialization sessions. Despite their high energy levels, shih tzus aren’t particularly demanding and can happily coexist with cats and small children. They prefer low-key environments, however, so avoid bringing home another fur ball. You’ll find that shih tzus love lounging and snuggling in soft beds or baskets, preferably in pairs. Shihtzu coats consist primarily of short, silky hair, although they do sport flowing manes and tails. If yours has either, cut it off early. It’s easier to groom and clip shorter hair than longer locks.
Why we love them: Intelligent, affectionate and hardy despite their fragile appearance, shih tzus are among the easiest pups to own. Plus, these super adorable critters are also extremely fashionable.
Where else would they fit? Shihtzus excel in active households where constant movement keeps everyone entertained. They also adore sleeping together, so bring along extra pillows and blankets.
Best friend(s): All ages
14. Basset Hound
Bassett Hounds originated in England, where packs of hounds hunted hares, foxes and vermin throughout rural villages. Today, bassette lovers enjoy hunting rabbits and retrieving tennis balls across fields, wooded areas and city parks alike.
In fact, according to the AKC, more than half of U.S. households with dogs include at least one Basset Hound. A compact frame houses a medium sized chest, sturdy legs and a loose skin covering their faces. Although bassets grow into adult weights ranging from 50 pounds to 70 pounds, they usually stay within 20 percent of that range. For example, if you opt for a 60 pound puppy, expect him/her to reach approximately 48 inches tall upon reaching adulthood.
Why we love them: Bassettes are great for those seeking a loving, patient companion, especially seniors. As faithful as Labs, yet calm and docile themselves, they’re also adept swimmers and climbers. Basset Hounds are also excellent watchdogs, able to alert their masters to suspicious activity or overhear barking noises coming from inside the house.
Where else would they fit? Bassetts are happiest in cities and towns where there’s ample room to roam outside. Due to their diminutive stature, they’re suitable for living quarters lacking adequate vertical spaces.
Best friend(s): Adults
15. Miniature Schnauzer
The world’s oldest purebred still belongs to Queen Victoria’s beloved schnauzers, now called miniaturized show schnauzers. According to the AKC, this type of schnauzer originated in Germany in 1866. Its original purpose was to hunt rats and mice.
Afterward, English aristocrats began breeding their working herding dogs alongside bloodhounds imported from Spain. Today, the American version of this type of schnauzer weighs roughly 25 pounds and stands somewhere between 22 and 26 inches tall.
With a sleek coat consisting of dense waves atop their heads, full muzzles and rounded ears, miniature schnauzers are recognizable by their tufted eyebrows. Unlike standard schnauzers, minis retain their natural wiggly ways, making them fun to ride bikes with. Since they’re sensitive to cold temperatures, don’t leave them locked up during snowstorms. Instead, provide them with thick sweaters and fleece jackets.
Why we love them: Minis are energetic, playful and eager to please. Owners must train them to use leashes and harnesses, otherwise they’ll pull away when walking through crowded streets. Luckily, they’re quite tolerant of separation anxiety, so having someone nearby is sufficient. Finally, since this breed tends to bark and whine, it’s important to set boundaries regarding noise level and length of barks.
Where else would they fit? Miniature Schnauzers are better suited for families and couples wanting a canine buddy to share adventures with. They’re also wonderful additions to groups of friends who frequently meet up outdoors. Have something to add to this story? Share it in the comments.