It’s easy to see why people say dogs are man’s best friend, but they can also completely transform family dynamics. If you’ve ever had a dog, you know that each member of your family develops their own special relationship with the pet and in return receives unconditional love. Many of us probably consider them additional members of our families.
Dogs have a way of lightening the mood with their antics and presence. Often, they are simply great company. But also, kids learn responsibility through feeding, walking, and helping to care for them, and skilled watchdogs even create an extra layer of security to make you feel safer at home.
All dogs aren’t created equal, though; some are better suited for children than others. Stacker compiled its list using data from the American Kennel Club’s Best Family Dogs list and considered breeds that were in the top 200 most popular breeds in America in 2018 (data released 2019). In addition, criteria such as friendliness, trainability, temperament toward other dogs, gentleness with children, and, of course, cuteness were other factors considered.
So which breed is right for your family? The age of your children plays just as much a role as your living space. City dwellers often opt for small- or medium-sized breeds like pugs or French bulldogs so they can easily navigate their apartment complexes and crowded sidewalks. But suburban families can make room for labradors and retrievers with plenty of backyard and park space.
And maybe it isn’t size that affects your family’s decision but cleanup: Do you mind if your dog is long- or short-haired? Shaggy or often shedding? Do your kids make enough of a mess—or do they have an allergy?
Maybe more importantly for working parents is how much—or little—responsibility your children will take in caring for a breed that needs more attention vs. one that is more autonomous. Luckily this list should provide some insight into these decisions.
Here are the 16 best breeds to welcome into your home and make a part of the family.
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- U.S. popularity rank: 187
The massive mane on a Bergamasco sheepdog is a marvel. These dogs are chill, ideal for kids, and low-maintenance. Don’t look for these sociable canines to start fights with others on the trail, but they are smart enough to protect you when needed. The good news, too, is that you only have to bathe them one to three times a year, according to the Bergamasco Sheepdog Club of America.
- U.S. popularity rank: 155
For loyalty, the Icelandic sheepdog is likely to be your kids’ best friend. If you’re looking for a dog that will make you feel like you’re a king or queen, look no further. They are known for the special tail-wagging gleeful greeting that is hard to resist. They’ll help get your kids from behind their computer screens, as Icelandic sheepdogs are energetic and crave outdoor fun.
- U.S. popularity rank: 127
Friendly, fun-loving bearded collies will always be ready to play, no matter the weather. They are so friendly they may not do much for scaring away burglars, but they have a mighty bark. You’ll love the fact that bearded collies have a reputation for "herding" children to safety.
- U.S. popularity rank: 122
The American Eskimo dog will kill you with cuteness: They have a sweet face and an angelic white, fluffy coat. They love to be smack dab in the middle of family activities. Eskies, as they are nicknamed, are so friendly they likely will be pals with the household cat. They’re also entertaining; some owners of these pets will tell you their dog "talks" to them.
- U.S. popularity rank: 98
Brussels griffons are around 10 pounds of charm. Something about these dogs will likely make you laugh. They are full of personality, are ever confident, and can exhibit a bit of a strut. They’re ideal for families with older children, as they are bold and up for mischief.
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- U.S. popularity rank: 85
The American Staffordshire terrier is the breed of dog you may recall from watching Pete the Pup in the "Our Gang” comedies. While AmStaffs—as they can be known—are gentle with children, they can show their swagger with other dogs. You must do some training to keep him or her a member of the well-behaved club.
- U.S. popularity rank: 60
This dog is known as the "king of terriers" because it is the largest. Despite the size, it is still friendly, calm, and aims to please, according to the Airedale Terrier Club of America. The organization recommends you enroll your dog to "puppy or kindergarten classes." The Airedale is a sweetie pie at heart, but don’t mistake him or her for a wimp: They will bark for just cause.
- U.S. popularity rank: 58
You want to get it right with an Alaskan Malamute from the outset. From the early days of puppydom, lay down the law to make it clear you’re the boss. Otherwise, the dog may think he or she can run the house. These dogs can be tough to fence in, as they are excellent diggers and climbers. Gain their respect and you’ve got an ideal family pet who will show you a good time.
- U.S. popularity rank: 41
If you’re not up for an independent dog who wants what he or she wants, forget about a Rhodesian ridgeback. These dogs hail from South Africa and chase lions, making them great companions for active families. According to Animal Planet, they can give a horse a run for its money for 30 miles. Word is, they’re also immune to bug bites.
- U.S. popularity rank: 40
The Newfoundland is so big it’s reminiscent of a bear. But this gentle giant is beloved and called a "nanny dog" because it will watch children better than some babysitters. They are known for being calm, patient, and good not only with children but other animals and strangers. Newfies aren’t big on barking, but they will do so when it’s called for. They also love swimming. One thing to note: They can be challenging to train.
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- U.S. popularity rank: 38
Collies are the classic family dog. They like being outside, but are happier, still, inside, snuggling near the family. Collies are loyal and protective of their owners. Remember how many times Lassie saved the day in the small farming community where she lived?
- U.S. popularity rank: 28
Pugs are beloved for an expressive face that gets right to your heart. They are affectionate and love kids and other dogs. Pugs are peaceable, laid back, and typically don’t go overboard with barking and chewing. They do, however, snore.
- U.S. popularity rank: 22
Bernese Mountain dogs can be sedate, but with a little nudging they’re down for play. They are friendly and amenable to training. Understand that with the dog’s size and energy, they could challenge you at times to keep up. Their loud bark makes them ideal watchdogs.
- U.S. popularity rank: 6
Beagles are one of the most-favored hounds among American pet owners, according to the American Kennel Club. Those loving eyes suck you right in and the dogs are cuddly and loving. They are ideal for families as they are high energy and entertaining, and they like to play. Be sure you and your family have time to show your beagle the attention he or she craves and needs.
- U.S. popularity rank: 5
Bulldogs have a face like none other. Your stocky pal will keep you guessing with his or her inquisitive looks. Bulldogs are docile, but keep them moving because they love to eat. Don’t disturb them at mealtime; you might hear barking if you do.
- U.S. popularity rank: 4
Maybe it’s the large bat ears or the face of a deep-thinking old man, but French bulldogs are among the most popular small-breed dogs in the world, according to the American Kennel Club. These dogs are fond of other dogs, so be prepared for the flirting and clowning around they will do with their furry friends. Don’t be jealous because they’ll shower you with affection, too. In fact, be ready to have an additional shadow as they love to follow you around.
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