How to Adopt the Best Dog for Your Family

Young girl snuggles with a brown curly-haired dog

Note: Individual pets will vary. Pease consult the adoption organization for details on a specific pet.

The best family dogs make excellent companions for everyone in your household. 

It’s true that every breed (and every individual within a breed) has their own personality, but many dogs are loyal, affectionate, and form strong bonds with the people closest to them. In fact, pet owners often consider their dogs to be members of their family. 

Not every canine is perfect for every home. So, if you’re wondering, “What is the best family dog?”, let’s take a look at factors to consider before you adopt or buy, as well as specific breeds that may be right for you. 

What Makes a Good Family Dog?

There isn’t a perfect answer for determining the best dog breeds for families. Every family has different needs and preferences. To help you identify what you’re looking for, here are some questions to think about: 

  • How big is your family? A big family may do well with a high-energy canine who loves to play. A smaller family that doesn’t have as many helpers or as much time might prefer a low-maintenance or older pet. 
  • How old are your kids? Young kids can be rambunctious and forgetful of pet etiquette; a low-key, patient dog might be ideal in this case. 
  • Have you ever owned a dog? First-time pet owners may want to adopt an older dog who’s more self-sufficient. 
  • How active is your family? Active families who want to take their pet on frequent, long walks or hikes might prefer a bigger, active canine. 
  • How big is your home/yard? Having adequate space can help your dog stay physically and mentally stimulated.

Still not sure which breed is right for you? Take Petfinder’s pet selector quiz to narrow down your options. 

Best Small Dog Breeds for Families

If you have your heart set on finding the best small family dog, there are several options that may be a good fit. Here are some popular small dog breeds.

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is known for being adaptable, which makes them a good choice for a range of families. Affectionate and gentle, they can be comfortable with energetic young kids or at home in a calm, cuddly environment.


Beagles are perhaps one of the most playful dog breeds. They do well with active families due to their high level of energy. Known for their sense of smell and vocalizations, they’re friendly to people and other dogs.


Typically, Havanese are happy to provide low-key affection to everyone they meet. With a thick, long double coat, they respond well to training and are people pleasers. 

Best Large Dog Breeds for Families

If your family is looking for a gentle giant or wants a pet to take on long walks, a large dog breed may be a good fit. 

Labrador Retriever

The Labrador Retriever is friendly and upbeat, and tends to get along with other pets and people—including small children. Originally bred to be a sporting dog, the Labrador does require a lot of exercise. This can be good news if your family loves to hike, run or swim.

German Shorthair Pointer

The German Shorthair Pointer is a devoted family pet who needs a healthy amount of physical and mental exercise. They can be a good addition in homes with kids, but their physical nature may not make them ideal candidates for families with toddlers.

Bernese Mountain Dog

Bred as a rescue dog, the striking Bernese Mountain Dog is known for its loyalty and protection. Despite their imposing size, though, they’re not known for aggression. Rather, they have a gentle disposition.

Best Family Guard Dogs

If you’re looking for a strong, watchful dog to protect your family, a guardian breed may be a good choice. They can be trained to alert you when people arrive at your home, and to identify and save you from a dangerous situation.

Speaking of training, it’s important to train and socialize guard dogs due to their strength and power.

Here are some family watch-dog breeds to consider. 

German Shepherd

German Shepherds are highly intelligent and protective of their home and family. They may also be one of the most loyal dog breeds. They have a reputation for being agile and committing to a task. 

Doberman Pinscher

An athletic breed, Doberman Pinschers are loyal and adventurous companions. While they can be assertive with other dogs, they enjoy mental challenges and are known for their obedience.

Best Family Dogs That Don’t Shed

If you or someone in your home is allergic to dogs, it is possible to find good family dog breeds that don’t necessarily make you sneeze and wheeze.

No dog breed is completely hypoallergenic, but some breeds shed less than others. Consider these low-shedding canines 

The Best Family Dog for Kids

Generally, good dogs for kids are patient, gentle and can match their energy level. Here are some examples: 

Adopting a Mixed Breed Dog

As you search for the best family dogs, you may be drawn to the specific traits of, say, gentle dog breeds. Remember, though, there are many mixed breeds available for adoption.

Mixed breed dog breeds are the offspring of two different breeds, and are just as loving and loyal as purebred canines. As you might expect, mixed breeds often exhibit traits of both parent’s breeds.

So, for example, if you’re looking for calm dog breeds, you might consider a mixed breed with a Great Pyrenees parent.

Some families may be hesitant about adopting a mixed breed, as they can’t completely anticipate which of their parent’s traits are dominant. If you’re adopting from a shelter, talk to the employees or volunteers. They may be able to tell you about the dog’s behavior. 

To start your search for the best family dog breeds and mixed breeds, complete your pet adopter profile. This allows you to search a large database of animal shelters and rescue organizations in your area, and beyond.

Explore more dog breeds and find your perfect canine companion with Petfinder. 

22 Dog or Puppy Breeds