Whether you’re looking for a dog that can keep up with a busy house or want a couch potato/love bug to read your paper with in the mornings, these are some of our favorite family-friendly dogs.

By Chad Taylor
August 24, 2020
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Few things say “home” as quintessentially as the family dog. But just as the look and definition of families has evolved over the years, so too has the family dog. Not everyone is looking for the Spot who will nap in front of the fireplace and play the occasional game of fetch.

“Matching a dog to your lifestyle is important from a quality-of-life standpoint as well,” says Michelle Beck (DVM, CCRT, CVA) of the Omaha, Neb., Backlund Animal Clinic. “If you’re the stay-at-home type and have a dog with lots of energy or a really active mind, that dog is going to get bored and start acting out.”

So whether you’re looking for that dog who’s perfect with small children, one to be a companion to older parents and grandparents, or an athletic outdoor buddy for hikes and camping trips, here are some of the very best dogs for families, no matter what form they take. 

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Labrador Retriever 

The versatility of the stalwart Lab is not exactly a secret: They’ve been the most popular breed in the United States every year since 1991. Excellent hunting and camping companions, Labs are also marvelous family pets—thanks in no small part to their incredibly easygoing personalities. Patient with even the most rambunctious children and large enough not to be easily hurt by rough and tumble play, Labs are well-deserving of their status as great family pets.

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Bulldog 

Despite their grumpy appearances, bulldogs are famously pleasant-tempered dogs who have historically shown a remarkable level of patience with small children. These stocky little fireplugs are massively built for their relatively small frames, making them well-suited to rambunctious play. But they’re also easygoing dogs with low physical demands—more than happy to spend Sunday mornings on the couch or lying protectively next to sleeping toddlers.

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Beagle 

A perfect fit for families with more active lifestyles, the beagle is a well-mannered dog with tons of energy. Natural born hunters, beagles are at their best when they’ve got an activity to do, so active play with older children is a perfect outlet for all that energy! If you’re a family of hikers, campers, or hunters—or if you enjoy agility, flyball, or retriever competitions—this is a great dog for you. Families in quieter neighborhoods or apartments should be aware of this breed’s famous vocalization, aptly called the “beagle bay,” which you won’t be able to train out of them.

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Pug  

There can be a bit of debate on whether or not pugs are cute (we vote yes!), but there’s no argument about how well-suited they are to family living. Their compact size and steady, curious, easygoing nature make them wonderful home companions, and they are affable enough to make solid travel partners as well. As one of the smaller dogs on this list, pugs may not be the perfect fit for families with lots of toddlers, as tiny hands and rough play may scare or hurt them. But school-age children and up will love their little faces and happy demeanors.

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Irish Setter  

Another high-energy dog, the Irish setter is going to be a perfect fit for families with active lifestyles or room in the backyard to run. Irish setters are excellent family dogs because they get along well with children and other dogs, are smart enough to be easily trainable, and have enough energy and size to play and run for as long as you (or your kids) want!

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Newfoundland 

More than perhaps any other dog, the Newfoundland breed standard focuses as much on personality and temperament as it does on physical traits. This means that every “true” Newf will be intelligent, patient, sweet-tempered, and loyal. In other words: everything that makes for a great family pet! Working dogs to their core, Newfoundlands are able to learn and obey commands quickly, are able to learn to make independent decisions, and have a natural instinct to protect and nurture their human companions.

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French Bulldog  

As one of the most popular small breeds in the world—and a particular favorite for apartment dwellers—these highly adaptable little pups are extremely easy to train, require very little in the way of space or exercise, and have a reputation for being quiet companions. All of which makes them excellent in households with babies and nap-age toddlers.

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Collie  

When you think “family dog,” is there any better example than Lassie?? Even if your family doesn’t experience a weekly bout of falling-down-a-well-based peril, collies are some of the best family dogs thanks to their sweet dispositions and high degree of trainability. These are dogs who love to learn tricks, nap with their humans, and follow you on adventures. They can be vocal dogs, which is a consideration for apartment life, but these versatile pups are a solid fit for most any lifestyle.

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Cavalier King Charles Spaniel 

The smallest dog on this list is also one of the best house dogs. Incredibly sweet and even-tempered, the Cavalier King Charles is also an intelligent, extremely long-lived companion who will remain a loyal family friend until your toddlers have graduated from high school. “For me, these are just the perfect family dogs,” Beck says. “They’re intelligent, super-sweet, and highly trainable.”

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Boxer  

An athlete through and through, there’s no mistaking the boxer’s readiness to run and play. Tall, well-muscled, and agile, boxers are best suited to families who have the time and space to work them out. While they are gentle and even-tempered enough to be around small children, supervision will be important for playtime, since the boxer is stocky enough to knock over little ones if things get too rambunctious. Older children and teens will adore the boxer for its willingness to run, camp, play, and fetch until the cows come home.