Newfies are definitely one of my favorite dogs, but very few people are familiar with them. Despite their bear-like appearances, they’re sweet, loving, loyal, and completely impervious to poking, prodding, and being pounced upon. As the epitome of the “gentle giant,” Newfoundlands are incredibly laid back and patient. Newfoundland puppies are also extremely laid back and gentle, making them perfect companions for children. Their patient and loyal nature also make them extremely easy to housebreak, especially at a young age. Probably one of their most interesting characteristics is their inclination toward water. Equipped with webbed feet and a water-resistant coat, these furry mammoths absolutely adore the water. They’ve even been known, on more than one occasion, to save people from drowning.
Pros: Sweet-tempered, easy to train, loyal watchdogs, extremely good with children, active but laid back.
Cons: As large dogs, Newfies are prone to several health issues. Hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, and cystinuria, a hereditary defect that causes calculi stones to form in the bladder. They are also prone to SAS (subaortic stenosis), a genetic heart defect that affects the heart’s valves. This can cause Newfies to die at a young age.
Newfies require a little more grooming than most dogs, and should be brushed as often as possible. Their thick coat can easily become matted, but when a few minutes a day are spent brushing it, Newfoundland’s coats are the softest and most luxurious fur you will ever feel.
Staffordshire Bull TerrierRead more in Dogs
This may seem like an odd choice of a family dog, but they have an incredible affection for children. They’re both quiet and trustworthy, making excellent family dogs. Despite their muscular build and fierce appearance, they are incredibly gentle dogs that love nothing more than cuddling and sun bathing. Staffies make excellent guard dogs, especially the females, but don’t confuse loyalty with aggression. They will defend themselves and their people, but they are almost always happy to meet new people. When socialized with other dogs early, they can be great playmates. They almost always get along with other pets in the household, too. They are extremely obedient and live to please, making them a breeze to train. Because of their trainability, Staffies can be trained to do just about anything, including agility and competitive obedience.
Pros: As far as health problems, Staffies have very few. There have been a few instances of hip dysplasia in this breed, but it is not as common as in the larger breeds. They are prone to cataracts, but there has been DNA work that has the potential to cure the problem completely. They are expected to live anywhere between 10 and 16 years. Staffies are incredibly easy to groom. With their smooth, short coat, all they need is an occasional brushing with a firm bristle brush. When rubbed with a piece of chamois, their coat shines.
Cons: While Staffies do well in most environments, they do require a rigorous exercise regime in order to maintain that fabulous muscle definitions. They were bred as working dogs, so it’s important that they are allowed to get outside and exercise. As puppies, Staffies tend to chew a lot. They have powerful jaws that will rip through just about anything, so make sure that all chew toys are durable and in good shape so that your Staffie doesn’t accidentally swallow a squeaker. Because of their fearless nature, Staffies may end up inadvertently hurting themselves. Their bravery leads them to do all sorts of things that other dogs would be afraid of doing, like jumping off decks or through broken glass. While they make excellent family dogs, Staffies require that all members of the family act as confident, consistent pack leaders. All members must provide firm rules and place limits on what their Staffie can or cannot do. If they don’t, this dog can become very stubborn and difficult to handle.
Easily one of the world’s most popular dog breeds, it’s easy to see why the Lab makes a great family pet. Most commonly used as a hunting dog, the Lab excels at other tasks, too, such as being guide dogs, search and rescue dogs, and drug-sniffing dogs. These dogs are incredibly active and aim to please. They have an even temperament and are easily trainable, making the Lab a great pet. They are intelligent and adapt to almost any environment. Labs require exercise on a daily basis. Because of their strong necks, they can become terrible “pullers” on the leash, so early training is imperative. Labs are good companions for people of all ages. They’re extremely tolerant which makes them trustworthy and good with children. They are patient and gentle, which makes them excellent service dogs, too. They also respond well to praise and positive attention, so trained, the Labrador Retriever is one of the most dependable, obedient, and adaptable dogs out there.
Pros: They are not prone to being territorial, like some other dog breeds. They are mellow and love to spend quiet time with the family, but they can also have loads of energy. They easily adapt to any activity. Labs generally only bark when they are alarmed; overall, they’re a quiet breed. They’re easygoing and trustworthy with strangers, which may be a bad thing if you’re looking for a guard dog. Labs generally live 12-13 years. They are generally a healthy breed, suffering from only a few health issues common for dogs their size, such as hip and elbow dysplasia. Because of their floppy ears, ear infections are common, but avoidable with proper cleaning. Overall, however, Labs can live a long time without any major conditions.
Cons: Because of their intelligence, Labs are known to be destructive if not allowed much mental or physical stimulation. They also LOVE to chew. If you don’t have the time or energy to exercise this rambunctious breed, then the Lab may not be for you. They also require every member of the family to act as pack leaders, since the Lab can become difficult to handle and destructive if left to his own devices. Labs love to eat, often ingesting non-food items that may be harmful to his health. Because of their food obsession, Labs are prone to obesity, and their diet must be carefully monitored. Labs are also excellent escape artists. They will often climb or jump fences purely for their own amusement, so it’s a good idea to present mental stimuli so you can avoid boring your Lab to the point that he finds his own amusement, as well as microchip him, in case he should succeed in his escape efforts.
This is the smallest dog on my list of suggested family dogs, but pugs aren’t your typical ankle-biting toy dogs. As incredibly sociable animals, pugs prefer the company of humans over other dogs (though they generally get along with other dogs just fine). They love children and think of them as the pug’s own siblings, often forming a special bond with them. They also love to play, making them the perfect companion to children. Pugs are very attentive and thrive on the affection of their humans. Without it, they become anxious and agitated.
Pros: They are very devoted and affectionate. They make good watchdogs, but they rarely bark. They are extremely well-behaved, even with minimal training, and can be trusted around children of all ages (as long as kids have been instructed to be gentle with the little guy). They do well in any temperature-regulated environment, including apartments. As long as they are kept out of the heat, they do well and don’t need much exercise, though a daily walk is always a good idea. These little dogs generally live 12 to 15 years. Grooming is minimal. The most important aspect of grooming is making sure their wrinkles are free of dirt and other debris to avoid infection and sores.
Cons: Unfortunately, pugs have a myriad of health problems. Because they’re brachycephalic (have short snouts), they have compacted breathing passageways which make it difficult for them to breathe, as well as to regulate their temperature through panting. Because of this, they need to be closely monitored in warm environments. Pugs are also susceptible to PDE, pug dog encephalitis, an inflammation of the brain. The condition is chronic, and most pugs die or are euthanized within a couple months after the onset of the symptoms. The condition generally occurs six months to three years into the pugs life. Pugs also experience difficulties during pregnancy and birth, and they often must be whelped by means of a Caesarian section. The wrinkles on their face are also prone to infection and irritation if not cleaned on a regular basis. Pugs are generally not a very active breed, so they are prone to obesity as well.
When most people think of the Collie, they think of Lassie saving Little Timmy when he fell down the well. Well, that description is actually not that far off. In addition to being beautiful dogs, Collies are very gentle family dogs and are well-suited to a life with children. They are highly intelligent, making them easily trainable. They are very devoted and protective of their loved ones, which also makes them good watch dogs. Because Collies are herding dogs, they often exhibit this same behavior with children, attempting to herd them or steer them away from danger, like they would a flock of sheep. This breed actually comes in two variations: the Rough-Coated Collie (with a long coat) and the Smooth-Coated Collie (with a short coat).
Pros: Collies housetrain without a problem, generally within a week. Indoors, Collies are mellow and easy going, but outdoors, they have boundless energy. Collies are generally healthy, with very few health problems. Hip dysplasia and arthritis are not uncommon in this breed. They are also prone to eye defects, which may lead to blindness. Collies do well in most environments, including apartments, as long as they are allowed to get out and exercise on a regular basis (a long walk daily). Because of their thick, long coats, they are also sensitive to the heat, but as long as they are presented with plenty of shade and water, they generally do just fine. Collies generally live between 14 and 16 years. Despite appearances, the Collie’s coat requires little maintenance. A good brushing every week or two is really all that is needed to maintain that beautiful coat.
Cons: Collies are wary of strangers, but, when socialized early, can get along with just about anyone. Collies can be very stubborn, and they often think for themselves (which may or may not be a good thing). If you can’t stand vaccuuming pet hair, the Rough-Coated Collie may not be the best choice. They shed heavily twice a year.
Bernese Mountain Dog
Self-confident, alert, and good-natured, the Bernese Mountain Dog is a loyal, gentle companion. They are so loyal, in fact, that they have a difficult time adjusting to a new owner after they reach 18 months of age. They’re friendly towards everyone; strangers, other dogs, cats, etc. They are rarely shy or anxious, and they are always willing to play. The Bernese is a very social dog, and he needs to be around his human family, not relegated to a kennel or a run for long periods of time. Most people recognize the Berner by his soft, beautiful, tri-colored coat.
Pros: The Bernese is a dog that matures very slowly, maintaining his puppy-like nature well into adulthood. They are sensitive to training and aim to please, making them very obedient and polite pets. The Bernese is a very hardy dog breed and has few health issues, but, like most large dogs, the Bernese is susceptible to hip and elbow dysplasia. On a few occasions, cancer has occurred as well, but most dogs live a long time without any major health problems.
Cons: The Bernese is a large dog, as you may have guessed, so they are not particulary suited to apartment life. While they are relatively inactive indoors, they occasionally need to get out and romp, preferably in a large, fenced-in yard. These dogs also do not do very well in warmer climates for obvious reasons. When cancer does occur in a Berner, death is almost always inevitable. Because of the devastating effects of cancer, the average life span of the Bernese Mountain Dog has decreased from 10 to 12 years to 6 to 8 years. While grooming is not incredibly time consuming, attention does need to be paid to a Berner’s fur. Weekly brushing is recommended, as well as regular shampooing. The Bernese is also a heavy, seasonal shedder, so be prepared…
While the bulldog appears intimidating, they are actually one of the gentlest of all the dogs. They are affectionate, gentle, and dependable with children. Despite their gentle nature, they are definitely not afraid to chase away intruders. They’re incredibly loyal and courageous, so they make excellent guard dogs. Bulldog’s love attention and will do everything they can to spend as much time as possible with their family.
Pros: This dog does very well in small environments, such as apartments. They are not a breed that requires a lot of exercise, since they are incredibly inactive indoors, but a walk a day suits it well. They are incredibly easy to groom, only requiring a quick brush and regular cleaning of his wrinkles because, like the pug, infection and irration can occur. Bulldogs are not massive shedders, so vaccuuming is minimal.
Cons: These dogs are incredibly bullheaded and stubborn, so training can be a bit of a hassle. If the owner displays dominance, however, the bulldog can understand his place in the pack and be obedient and reliable. This dog is good with other pets he’s used to but is uncomfortable around strange dogs. Because their breathing is restricted by their short snouts, snoring, and other more serious breathing problems, are issues. Bulldogs have a lot of energy when they’re young, but slow down as they get older. They also have poor eyesight and are very susceptible to heat stroke when in a climate that is too warm for them. However, they are also sensitive to the cold, so temperature regulation is imperative. On average, Bulldogs only live 8 years. Bulldogs also have terrible gas, so if you are easily offended by foul smells, this dog may not be the pet for you.
I don’t know anyone who doesn’t love a Golden. They’re intelligent and multi-talented, excelling in everything from hunting, tracking, retrieving, narcotics detection, agility, competitive obedience, swimming, and being guide dogs. They’re sweet and playful, yet protective and mellow. They’re patient and gentle with children and very easy to train. Like the other breeds I’ve mentioned, they’ll do anything to please you. Because they enjoy training, obedience and agility training is fun as well as physically and mentally stimulating. Goldens are friendly with just about everyone, even other dogs, but they do make good watch dogs, alerting their family to a stranger’s approach. When trained, the Golden is mellow and contented. If guidelines are not set, however, this dog can become mischievous and high-strung.
Pros: Goldens are relatively healthy, only affected by typical large-breed issues such as hip dysplasia. They’re also prone to congenital eye defects and skin allergies, but none of these are life-threatening, and your Golden can live a very long, happy life. Goldens can adapt to almost every environment, including apartments. They are a larger breed and require at least moderate exercise daily (like a long walk), but do not require excessive exercise. Since they’re retreivers, they love to fetch and play ball, and that’s a great way for them to exercise as well. The Golden is expected to live between 10 and 12 years. Their coat is easy to maintain, only requiring an occasional brushing to avoid matting. They shed, like most long-coated dogs, but only moderately.
Cons: Goldens need a confident, consistent pack leader in order to avoid behavioral issues. If not properly exercised, and if their diet is not carefully monitored, the Golden tends to put on weight.
For those who prefer the smaller breeds, and perhaps are a bit wary of having the larger dogs around small children, the Border Terrier might be a good fit. At only 15 to 25 pounds full grown, Borders are affectionate, intelligent, even-tempered and obedient, making these little terriers excellent with children. Like most terriers, they have moments of ultra-high energy, but generally they adapt to the energy level of their owners. They don’t demand exercise, but they are more than happy to receive it. Borders are more than happy to engage in any activity, including hiking and running with his owner, or just lounging in the sun for hours. While they love company, they also don’t mind being left alone for long periods of time. They are eager to please, but they still retain a sense of independence, an important characteristic for when they were used to chase rats and foxes. They love the challenge of agility training and are skilled jumpers! But their love of people and calm temperament also make them perfect therapy dogs, especially for children and the elderly. These dogs are also excellent contenders in a competition called “Earthdog.” In the Earthdog trials, a terrier is trained to navigate a series of underground tunnels, eventually reaching his goal, a rat in a cage. Terriers of all kinds compete to see who can reach the rat the fastest. This activity stimulates the dogs natural instinct to burrow and seek out prey.
Pros: Border Terriers are very adaptable and are able to deal with different environments, situations, and other changes. Borders are generally a hardy breed, but can be affected by hip dysplasia, cataracts, various heart defects, and progressive retinal atrophy; most of which are not fatal conditions. Border Terriers generally live a very long time, upwards of 15 years or more. Their coarse, wiry double coat requires little maintenance, besides an occasional brushing and regular shampooing.
Cons: Because of their instinct to chase and kill small things, it’s not unlikely that a Border Terrier could consume an inedible toy, which could result in serious injury, so supervision is a good idea. These dogs are also jumpers and borrowers, so make sure you don’t leave the little guy alone in the yard for too long. While they generally get along well with other dogs, and sometimes even cats, their instinct to chase little critters makes them unsuitable to allow around other pets, such as rabbits, birds, rats, mice or guinea pigs. Borders need to be socialized with other dogs early. Even though they generally get along well with other dogs, if a Border decides he dislikes another dog, he won’t hesitate to fight. And, like most terriers, it’s difficult to get him to stop once he starts. His alert and fearless nature sometimes causes him to pick fights with dogs who are much larger and stronger than him, so monitor his behavior and reactions carefully to ensure no one gets hurt.
The Leonberger is lively and loves to play while also being affectionate and loving. They are calm and have an even disposition which makes them trustworthy around children. They have incredible patience, even with the most obnoxious children. If the Leonberger is irritated, instead of showing aggression, he simply walks away. The Leonberger is not a very good watchdog, as he accepts and loves anyone and everyone. Despite their massive size, Leonbergers are incredibly agile and even compete in agility competitions.
Pros: Despite their intimidating size, these dogs are the epitome of the “gentle giant.” They respond well to training, as they are determined to please their owners. The Leonberger is trustworthy around children. While they do not need a lot of exercise, and are relatively inactive indoors, the Leonberger really only needs a daily walk to be properly exercised. They’re incredibly adaptable, enjoying tasks such as swimming, hiking, and pulling carts and sleds. These dogs prefer colder climates because of their thick coat, but can live inside or out.
Cons: The Leo doesn’t do well in smaller environments, such as apartments. These dogs do best with a large yard to romp in. Like all large breeds, the Leo is also prone to hip dysplasia and other skeletal problems. They are also susceptible to eyelid defects and bone disease. The life expectancy of the Leo is 8 to 9 years, which isn’t bad for a dog this size. Grooming is moderate, and they require a weekly brushing to maintain that beautiful coat. Mats form easily in the fur where feathering occurs, such as the tail, behind the ears, and on the legs. The Leo sheds heavily on a seasonal basis and should be brushed and combed daily during this time. The ears must be kept clean to avoid ear infections.