Looking to add a furry new member to your family? Animals make great companions. Caring for one teaches empathy and discipline. Research bears out the common understanding that pets can improve our mental health. But the responsibility of owning a pet can be a great one. While we don’t recommend giving a puppy as a Christmas gift, here’s a list of the ten best family dogs to make your decision easier for when you do. These pups aren’t listed in any particular order, so think carefully about the one that’s best for your home
1. Bull Terrier
We are partial to this breed, because a bull terrier is one of our favorite clients. Friendly, happy, and playful, you might recognize this little guy as the mascot for a national store chain. Bull terriers aren’t as common as some other dogs on this list, but that only makes them more precious! Bull terriers need early socialization and consistent commands to prevent a natural obstinacy, but once they’re on your side they are there for life! Their playful and silly nature will win you over.
2. Labrador Retriever
Unlike bull terriers, labs are a common pet, and with good reason. They make for adorable puppies, which is why you see them frolicking about in many pet food commercials. Labs are easily trainable, even-tempered, and happy to socialize with anyone. This makes them lamentable guard dogs, but excellent family members. Because of their keener sense of smell and persuasively cute faces, labs are also excellent at becoming obese. They need lots of walks and playtime in the yard to keep them trim!
Speaking of cute mugs, beagles top the list! They also have a great sense of smell, as they were bred to be foxhounds. This single-mindedness can make them difficult to train and attend to recall. Although relatively quiet, their bark is more of a deep bugle bass when it’s employed. If you can put up with occasional “hunts” that render your beagle mysteriously deaf to your voice, you will be quite happy with this little charmer. Beagles are also even-tempered and known to become attached to their pack. Keep this puppy with you to prevent separation anxiety and relish in his relaxed companionship. As a happy bonus, beagles lack the inherited health problems that often come with purebreds. So you can look forward to a long, happy life with your love-able Snoopy!
4. Golden Retriever
The golden retriever is probably on par with the Labrador Retriever as the most popular pet, again with good reason! These gorgeous blonds are known for their affectionate and energetic natures. They are patient and calm with children, other pets, and other people. So while they may be poor guard dogs, they are excellent company. They love to be given tasks! This breed is known for living up to the “retriever” part of its name, so beware stray shoes and foreign dinner plates appearing on your doorstep. They also love to swim, so if you live near a beach – as many of us do—a golden will make an excellent swimming partner.
As a former part of our staff, we can confidently say that this dog is a calm, affectionate friend. They also like to swim and retrieve, and they are easily trainable. Vizsla’s are highly intelligent, so they need lots of mental stimulation and love. Unlike other social breeds, they can make good guard dogs when they are properly trained. Vizsla’s are also expressive, so you will be given many cues on how to make her happy and healthy. Luckily it is easy to do! They just want your attention, affection, and plenty of playtime.
These dogs are gentle giants with a baritone bark. They have sweet dispositions, which make them excellent emotional therapy dogs. They are good with children, often referred to as ‘nannies’. Nana, the beloved dog in Peter Pan, immortalized this breed. However, their size and length makes it possible for them to knock over smaller children, so keep a watchful eye on playtime. Newfies also love to swim! Originating from Canada, these dogs were bred to take on icy waters. Conversely, their thick double coat makes it easy for them to overheat and difficult to groom. This means their owners have to make an extra investment in the regular upkeep of their loyal Goliath. Unfortunately, the sheer size of Newfoundlands contributes to common health defects, such as hip and elbow dysplasia. A large, level home is ideal for this breed, as is a large comb!
7. Border Collies
This type of dog is ideal for active families with a large yard. Border collies are impressive, as they are credited with the highest intelligence among domesticated canines. Originally bred to herd livestock, border collies are highly alert and easily trainable. However, this isn’t just an aptitude they have. They need to be given work — or else they will go berserk. If you have children that you’d like to see tired at the end of the day, a border collie makes a great playmate. But try to prevent them from herding your children around the yard, no matter how cute it is initially!
8. Irish Setter
This hunting breed is enthusiastic in its love. Like the Newfoundland, they are also used as therapy dogs. They’ve also been known to sit with children as a non-judgmental reading partner. Irish Setters may have trouble adapting to smaller pets in the household. Although they don’t make the best guard dog, their hunting instinct is still intact. They would do best with other pets of comparable size. Irish setters adore their humans and need lots of attention from their owners. Like the Border Collie, they will become destructive and anxious if they are bored. So it’s important to adopt an Irish Setter into an active family with a large backyard!
9. Standard Poodle
One of the most smartest and trainable of all dogs. This breed is not low maintenance though. Besides needing regular daily exercise, they’ll need regular clipping too (about every 4-6 weeks). As the first hypoallergenic breed on this list, the poodle is an excellent choice for those with sensitive sinuses. Just get someone else to brush out their curly coats!
These dogs may not win any beauty contests, but they are easy to love all the same. Stocky and with prominent under bites, bulldogs look more like extras in a mafia film than loving companions. In fact, they are often used as mascots of strength and fortitude. They are the official mascot of the Marine Corps! Bulldogs are generally patient and pacific. Although they can be a little a stubborn sometimes, a well-raised bulldog should never be aggressive. Bulldogs are known in particular for forming strong bonds with children. They shouldn’t have a problem with other pets and dogs. And who can resist a bulldog puppy?
Bonus! Rescue a Mixed Breed
Mixed breed dogs are different from cross-breeds (like the golden doodle) in that they are the result of unintentional breeding. It’s impossible to know beforehand what a rescue dog’s temperament will be, so it’s important for your family to visit several times at your local shelter to get to know your potential family member. Volunteering is a great way to do this! Many shelters, including CASA, will allow you to take their dogs on walks and play with them in the yard. Mixed breeds have the added benefits of generally longer lifespans and fewer inherited diseases. They can also be highly intelligent. And it will be fun to try and guess their heritage!
Whether you’re adopting a purebred puppy or a mixed breed, it’s important to read up on your preference and go into the adoption well-informed. Make sure your family and living situation is the right fit, so you can give your best friend a forever home.