10 Overlooked Dog Breeds That Make for Great Family Pets
Dogs are always a beloved member of every family, but some breeds are especially well-suited to a home with kids. Gina DiNardo, executive secretary of the American Kennel Club, explains that the best breed for your family definitely depends on your lifestyle. If you can't go a day without a bike ride or a long run, a Whippet will race around the block right alongside you. If you've got young kids who keep you busy enough as it is, a laidback Leonberger would be a much better fit.
Disposition isn't the only thing to consider—you'll also want to look into the care they need. Breeds that are eager to please will be easy to train while those that are especially intelligent may require a more thoughtful approach. Some dogs have hair and will barely shed at all, which is better for allergies; others have fur that requires regular grooming.
Whatever breed you choose, they will all be much more confident and agreeable if they're trained and socialized early on. Introduce them to lots of people and places when they're puppies, so they will feel comfortable acclimating to new things when they're older. While you may recognize a few, we've included many dogs that often fly under the radar. "There are so many cool breeds that would make good family pets that people just don't see every day," says DiNardo. "AKC wants all these breeds to continue to exist and to thrive."
Rhodesian Ridgebacks were bred to track down lions in Africa so they are very energetic and intelligent. "Training and teaching them tricks is a good way to entertain a dog that's smart," says DiNardo. These pups are instinctively protective and very patient so they are great with kids. A bonus: Ridgebacks have short hair so you won't be spending all of your time sweeping up after them.
Whippets are as fast as their name implies. They are very athletic dogs who love to have a big yard to run around on, but they're just as comfortable curling up on the couch with you on a cozy night in. Although they're an energetic breed, they won't cause a ruckus with lots of barking. They can live for up to 15 years so they're a great fit for young families who want to grow old with their pup.
English Springer Spaniel
Gentle, sweet, and playful, English Springer Spaniels are a great fit for young families. "They have deep, soft, expressive eyes," says DiNardo. "They're a very beautiful breed." While these dogs are more than happy to stay indoors all day, they are energetic and social by nature, so you'll definitely want to work a trip to the dog park into your daily routine.
Poodles are considered one of the most intelligent breeds so you'll have a very easy time training them, but they'll need lots of mental stimulation to prevent them from getting bored. Miniature and toy poodles range from four to 20 pounds and can live for up to 18 years! Standards won't live quite as long, but are very sturdy and athletic. None of them shed, but it's important to keep them well-groomed so that their hair doesn't mat.
This breed is new to the U.S., but it makes for a wonderful family dog. Lagotto Romagnolos have tightly curled, double coats of hair so they're great if your kids are prone to allergies. They shed very infrequently so you won't have to work grooming into your busy schedule. They are active, extremely affectionate, and eager to please so you'll have an easy time training them.
Small breeds aren't usually great for small children, but French Bulldogs are sturdy enough to tolerate tight hugs and rough petting. If your life is active enough without having to incorporate long walks with a dog, you can't go wrong with a bulldog. "They're active and playful, but they're not usually very loud or boisterous," says Dinardo. Frenchies are content with a short walk or a quick game of tug of war before plopping back down for a snooze.
Known as a "nanny dog," the Leonberger is cuddly and loves to be around kids. Their deep bark will keep intruders at bay but they are big lovebugs with hearts of gold. Because they are so big and fluffy, they'll shed and need lots of grooming. Leonbergers are very calm and patient but will need at least a nice jog every day to keep their exuberant energy at bay.
Australian Cattle Dogs
Australian Cattle Dogs are obedient and smart so they will be well-behaved if they are well-trained and given lots of mental stimulation. Bred to herd cattle, they are strong, athletic, and may try to herd your children. "They're good for an active family and need to be walked every day," says DiNardo. These dogs are friendly and loving enough to quickly become an integral part of the family.
Pugs love children, and children love pugs. It's a match made in heaven! They're spunky and quirky, but patient and laid-back. They're happy to sit and snack all day long, so you'll want to make sure to play with them often. No need to go for a run around the block—messing around with the kids is all the entertainment a pug needs!
Portuguese Water Dog
The Portuguese Water Dog stole our hearts when the Obamas brought two into the White House as puppies. Just like Bo and Sunny, this breed is beautiful, hypoallergenic, and adventurous. Teach your pup to swim early because they are born to swim—they even have webbed toes! Enthusiastic and easy to train, a Portuguese Water Dog will always stick by your side.