How To Choose the Right Dog for Your Family

How To Choose the Right Dog for Your Family

Round, lean, short, tall, active, sedentary, long-haired, wiry-haired, fuzzy-faced DOGS! It’s incredible how creatures in the same species can all express so many different physical and mental characteristics, from coat maintenance requirements to activity and intelligence levels. There is not a one-size-fits-all pet; as families are unique, so are the various dog breeds and their suitability for different living situations.

What is the right dog breed for your family?

To choose the best dog to bring home to your nest, it’s best to understand a bit about each of the 7 classes of canines and what traits are common among them.

Sporting Breeds

This class includes retrievers, such as the Golden and Labrador, as well as spaniels, pointers, and setters. About 25% of purebreds registered with the American Kennel Club belong to a sporting breed. They are known to be hardy dogs, capable of flushing out fowl and responsive to training due to their high level of intelligence and desire to please. These dogs tend to be gentle in nature, which makes them ideal companions for families with young children, as well as service dogs.

Because most are highly active, don’t expect lazy Sunday afternoons when you’ve got a setter or spaniel by your side. In addition to the more intense grooming needs of longer-haired breeds, they thrive when given a job like retrieving a ball, stick or romping in the woods using their noses to pick up a scent.

Non-Sporting Breeds

This class includes a wide variety of shapes, sizes, and personalities. It’s more than likely you’ll find a dog that meets your family’s needs. Looking for a dog that sheds minimally but is highly intelligent and great with kids and adults alike? Look no further than a poodle! It’s no wonder we see so many -oodles these days!

French bulldogs are adaptable, playful, smart, and adorable at under 28 pounds. Just be sure you seek a reputable breeder that strives to maintain healthy skin and a longer snout in their lines.

The mid-size Dalmatian was once used to guard horses and to clear paths in the days of horse-drawn fire engines. They can be sensitive and aloof but are also known to be energetic, goofy, playful, and active shedders.

Working Dogs

This class is composed of dogs that were bred to perform tasks such as pulling sleds, guarding property, or to be used in police work. Boxers, Mastiffs, Huskies, Dobermans, and St. Bernards all belong in the working dog group. They tend to be large, athletic, occasional droolers, loyal, and fearless. These dogs aren’t suitable for apartment living, those with spotless upholstery, or families with young children.

Herding Dogs

This class includes Collies, German Shepherd dogs, and Australian Cattle dogs. Herding dogs are known to be confident, courageous, and extremely intelligent. Collies and Shepherds are also fearless shedders! These dogs live to do a job like rounding up small children (not always desirable) and need mental and physical stimulation. If you love obedience, nose work, or agility classes, herding dogs may be the perfect choice for your family.

Hound Dogs

This class of dogs has one thing in common: a natural ability to provide hunting assistance with their exceptional nose or speed. Hound dogs include Beagles, Bloodhounds, Basset hounds, and Greyhounds. Beagles like to welcome family members home in an ebullient way! Notorious for making loud braying sounds, they hunted in packs and are companionable, happy-go-lucky pups great for families who don’t mind the noise but value loyalty and their friendly nature.

On the other end of the spectrum are the hounds such as the Afghan and Irish Wolfhound, gentle giants who can grow up to a pound a day during their first months as pups. (5) Greyhounds, surprisingly adaptable to small space living, may not co-exist well with small children or other furry creatures as they have a high prey-drive, particularly those bred for racing.


This class is best known for its easy to maintain haircoats and independence. They can be stubborn, energetic, and intolerant of other dogs, but are incredibly friendly and loving. The most famous terrier, the Soft Coated Wheaten terrier from the Wizard of Oz, is known to shed minimally and be a lovable family member. The alert and playful Scottish terrier are among those best suited for modern family living.

The Toy Group

Represented by the smallest members of the canine species, ranging from 4-16 pounds, and by those with the longest average life expectancy. Some pups such as the Pomeranian, low shedding-Maltese, Miniature Poodle, and Chihuahua can live up to 18 years. Due to their physical nature, they are the most portable canine pets and ideal for families who can’t exercise their dog rigorously.

Like the gentle retriever, Shih Tzus are a calm companion in a much smaller package but with equally challenging grooming requirements. If you enjoy brushing, trimming, and bow-tying your lap dog’s locks, these are the pups for you. Pugs are typically friendly little sprites who also age into calm family members with a love of attention and treats! (6)

Choosing the top dog for your family is a little bit of luck and a lot of research…may the best dog win!

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