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7 Best Family Dogs You Never Considered Before

Erica Irish, DVM

What might be the best family dog for you, might not be for someone else. There’s a lot to think about before diving into the big responsibility of owning a dog. You have to be really honest about your lifestyle.

Pets are a commitment and a big responsibility. Consider how much time you really have to exercise, play, train, groom, and care for your new dog.

The amount of time you have to care for a dog is one thing. You’ll also need to consider your budget. Vaccines, boosters, flea and tick medication, collars, leashes, beds, food, toys, and regular wellness checks will be required.

Finally, think about where you live. Many dogs will do just fine in an apartment or condo, where others really need a lot more room and freedom.

The best experience with pets comes from a little time in research. When looking for your perfect dog, you should also consider the following:

  • how much barking can I handle?
  • do I want a guard dog?
  • do I want a protective dog?
  • should my dog be great with children?
  • will I be happy with a lap dog or a more energetic breed?
  • what kinds of health conditions is the dog prone to?
  • am I ready to commit to a dog for the next 10 to 15 years (or more)?

What Kind of Dog Should I Get for City Living?

Think about how much exercise your dog will need (breed specific) and how easy that’s going to be to accomplish.

While true that any breed can be a “city dog,” some large and giant breeds are not cut out for apartment life, even with daily trips to the dog parks.

If you live in a city, some other things to consider include:

Air Conditioning

Will your dog be comfortable inside?

Apartment/Condo Friendly

Not all apartments/condos are dog-friendly, and if they are, it’s possible there’s a size restriction in place.


City living means access to public transportation without the need for a vehicle. Do you have a vehicle? If not, do you live within walking distance of a veterinary clinic?

If you’re thinking of getting a puppy, you’ll need to be able to get him in for vaccinations, deworming, etc.

Public transportation tends to frown on people bringing dogs a board unless they are certified guide dogs.

What Type of Dog Should I Get for Country Living

Again, any dog can be a “country dog.” Country dogs typically have a back yard or reasonable stretch of land to run on.

Country living has a lot of perks for dogs and a lot of drawbacks, including greater susceptibility to ticks, fleas, worms, and run-ins with wildlife.

Wide Open Spaces

If you live in the country, you might think twice about getting a roamer. Labrador retrievers and hounds of all kinds tend to wander off and get lost. Once their noses become engaged, that’s it.

Any dog breed with the word “hound” in it has a higher chance of running off. Unfortunately, when dogs run off into the woods, they tend to get in trouble with porcupines and other wildlife.

Dogs That Tend to Run Away:

  • Golden Retriever
  • Cocker Spaniel
  • Jack Russell
  • Staffordshire Bull Terrier
  • Border Collie
  • Labrador Retriever
  • German Shepherd
  • Boxer
  • Poodle
  • Australian Shepherd
  • Coonhounds
  • Bernese Mountain Dog
  • American Bulldog
  • Great Dane
  • Saint Bernard
  • Bloodhound

7 Best Family Dog Breeds

If you know anything about dogs, it’s safe to say you probably conjure images of golden retrievers and cuddly Labrador retrievers at your feet.

They’re great dogs, but there are so many other options that you’ve probably never considered before.

The following is a list of the 7 best family dog breeds that are sure to inspire and surprise you.

# 1: Miniature Pinscher

miniature pinscher
Miniature Pinscher

Surprised? Miniature Pinschers are exciting balls of energy best suited to experienced dog owners.

Family Friendliness

Miniature pinschers are friendly with children and strangers, provided they’re given time to socialize as puppies. Miniature pinchers need a strong pack leader to look up to. If it becomes evident that you’re not the leader, your tiny dog may want to take that role.

Min-pins might be small, but they can be temperamental.

Grooming Requirements

These dogs shed very little and are considered easy to groom.

Life Span

The miniature pinscher can live an average of 14 years.

Health Issues

If you are purchasing a puppy from a breeder, ask if they perform health and genetic testing on their breeding dogs. By doing this, they help reduce the risk of potential health problems.

Health Issues Include:

  • Progressive Retinal Atrophy
  • Legg-Calve-Perthes Disease
  • Epilepsy
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Patellar Luxation


The best dog breeds for families are those that are smart and easy to train. For your safety and the safety of the dog, it’s important that he/she can respond to basic commands like “sit,” “stay”, and “leave it”.

Miniature Pinschers are given a 3/5 for trainability.

Exercise Requirements

This is where you have to really get honest with who is going to exercise the dog and how much time it’s going to take.

Miniature Pinschers tend to be fantastic escape artists so leaving him/her alone in the backyard to play isn’t the best option.

Miniature Pinschers are active bundles of energy. However, they are small dogs (8 to 10 pounds) and can burn off that energy in relatively small spaces.

#2: Rottweiler

rottweiler as a family pet

Rottweilers have a bad rap for aggressiveness, but when properly socialized and trained, these dogs make fantastic family dogs.

Family Friendliness

Rottweilers should be introduced to children and other pets right from the start. Once fully vaccinated, socialize Rottweilers with other dogs on their own turf and in public.

Socialization cannot be stressed enough when it comes to this breed. You need to be an assertive and confident dog leader with this breed.

Rottweilers are great family dogs but would do best in the country or in a family home as opposed to an apartment or condo.

Grooming Requirements

The overall grooming needs of a Rottweiler are fairly low. They have a nice, smooth coat that will shine after brushing. Short-haired breeds like Rottweilers are very easy to groom.

Rottweilers tend to drool.

Life Span

Rottweilers live an average of 11 years.

Health Issues

All dog breeds are susceptible to something, whether it’s hip dysplasia, eye problems, or some other condition. This is where good breeding comes into play.

Examples of conditions health issues a Rottweiler may experience include:

  • Aortic Stenosis
  • Hip Dysplasia
  • Eczema
  • Juvenile Laryngeal Paralysis
  • Cruciate Ligament Rupture
  • Elbow Dysplasia
  • Eye problems


Rottweilers need to be trained by someone who is assertive but patient. This dog likes to be the dominant one, so it’s important to really step up and be the leader.

Exercise Requirements

This breed fits in well with an active family. If you’re up for the challenge, these dogs need up to two hours a day whether it’s running with you, swimming, or fetching the ball.

#3: Portuguese Water Dog

Portuguese Water Dog

Portuguese water dogs are highly intelligent dogs that live happily with families of all sizes.

Family Friendliness

This working dog is a very happy breed that will attract the attention of strangers every time. If you like an amusing dog, the Portuguese Water Dog is your best bet.

Portuguese water dogs are excellent with children and babies. In fact, these dogs require a lot of time with people to be content.

Grooming Requirements

You’ll want to live near a groomer if you get a Portuguese water dog. These dogs are perfect if you don’t want a shedding dog. However, they do require frequent grooming to prevent their hair from matting and tangling.

No dog is truly “hypoallergenic”. However, the Portuguese water dog sheds very little and is the perfect fit for people allergic to dogs.

Life Span

The Portuguese water dog lives, on average, 10 to 14 years.

Health Issues

Different breeds have different susceptibilities to disease, and the Portuguese water dog is no exception. Make sure to get your dog from a reputable breeder who can explain the breed line to you.

Potential problems could include:

  • Hip Dysplasia
  • Addison’s disease
  • Follicular Dysplasia
  • Rare genetic disorders


Portuguese water dogs are highly intelligent and fun dogs who love to be trained. As long as your paying attention to him/her, the dog will be happy to do whatever you want.

Exercise Requirements

This dog definitely needs outdoor space to roam. He/she will need a brisk walk for an hour a day. If you live near a hiking trail, even better.

#4: Bergamasco

bergamasco dog

The Bergamasco is a breed of sheepdog originating from the Alpine regions of Italy. This breed is incredibly loving, loyal, and intelligent. This large breed can weigh anywhere from 59 to 82 pounds.

This dog is best suited to experienced, active, dog owners.

Important note: This dog can be a good escape artist. Do not rely on an underground or wireless fence to keep this dog in the yard.

This breed is not suitable for apartment or condo life.

Family Friendliness

The Bergamasco is a herding breed with a protective and loving nature. They need to be socialized early in order to become well-balanced adult dogs.

This versatile breed enjoys agility work, scent work, herding, obedience, and hiking.

Grooming Requirements

The Bergamasco has three types of hair, including:

  • the undercoat
  • the wooly coat
  • the goat hair outercoat

These three hair types weave together and become what is known as “flocks”. Flocks are flat and wide. They are distributed along the body in various ways. They start as clumpy mats and must be separated by hand.

As the puppy grows, his/her hair will require manual separation until it sets. These dogs do not shed and are considered more hypoallergenic than other dogs.

The coat will continue to grow in length for the life of the dog.

For detailed information on the grooming requirements, see: Bergamasco Canada.

Potential Health Issues

  • Hip Dysplasia
  • Bloat


When training this breed, consistency and imagination are key. The Bergamasco is a highly intelligent breed that requires plenty of physical and mental stimulation.

Exercise Requirements

This dog breed requires daily exercise. A long daily walk with some play time will keep this breed happy and healthy.

#5: American Staffordshire Terrier

American Staffordshire Terrier
American Staffordshire Terrier

The sad thing is that this type of breed is banned in many places around the world.

Other banned dogs in parts of the United States include the Shar Pei, Akita, Rhodesian Ridgeback, Bull Terrier, and the Cane Carso to name a few.

If you’re a supporter of this misunderstood breed, then you probably already know that they make amazing family dogs.

It’s important to remember that ANY dog can be dangerous if it’s sick, afraid, trained to attack, not socialized, mistreated, etc.

Don’t underestimate the lovely nature of the American Staffordshire Terrier as one of the best family dogs you can find.

The sheer strength of these dogs makes it even more important to be a responsible dog owner. If you are a calm and assertive leader, this dog will be the best dog you’ve ever owned.

Family Friendliness

American Staffordshire Terriers are very loyal and loving dogs. They’re not naturally aggressive. However, like with any dog, there could be external factors that influence aggression.

As a dog owner, it’s important to be the leader and begin training them as pups.

Grooming Requirements

These dogs are very easy to groom. They have very short, shiny fur that only requires an occasional brush.

Life Span

American Staffordshire Terriers have a general lifespan of 10 to 12 years, although with proper health care, they have been known to live longer.

Health Issues

American Staffordshire Terriers are prone to a few conditions including:


These dogs are highly intelligent and love human companionship. For that reason, they are highly trainable dogs.

They love physical and mental challenges to keep them stimulated.

Exercise Requirements

One aspect of keeping the American Staffordshire Terrier happy is a good exercise routine. These dogs love a good game of fetch where they have plenty of room to run and burn off energy.

These dogs are not necessarily high-energy dogs, but they do need to have their minds and bodies challenged. Unfortunately, a bored dog may run off so it’s important to keep good barriers in place.

#6: Border Terrier

Border Terrier

Border terriers are fantastic family dogs. They are at low risk of disease and, for that reason, they are one of the least expensive dogs to insure.

Family Friendliness

This is the perfect dog for a family with young children. These dogs (like most terriers!) are energetic and fun to be around.

They will get along well with other animals in the house, but tend to be happier with another dog of the opposite sex.

Grooming Requirements

This dog does not shed and is good for those who suffer from allergies. This is the perfect dog if you don’t want to constantly be sweeping up dog fur.

A professional groomer will be required to keep the dog’s coat short and neat.

Life Span

The Border Terrier can live between 12 and 15 years.

Health Issues

Border Terriers may have a tendency toward common health issues including:

  • Dislocation of the knee (patella luxation)
  • Hip Dysplasia
  • Pulmonic Stenosis
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Undescended testicles


The Border Terrier is a friendly, easy-to-train dog. He will be so eager to please that he’ll do whatever you ask of him. This affectionate terrier can also be a little stubborn and/or independent. That just means you shouldn’t assume he’s always going to be 100% behaved.

These dogs have a natural instinct towards hunting and chasing, so it’s important to watch that they don’t run off. Focus particularly on training the dog for recall.

Exercise Requirements

The Border Terrier, like any dog, needs a reasonable amount of exercise every day. This active little dog should have a 1/2 hour to an hour of exercise every day. Leash walking is best.

Other types of activity to keep his mind and body engaged include interactive games like catch, Frisbee, obedience and agility training.

#7: Cardigan Welsh Corgi

Cardigan Welsh Corgi

This little dog has short legs and a deep chest. They are powerful herding dogs with a remarkable speed that you would not expect. Well-trained Welsh Corgi’s are very good with children.

Family Friendliness

The Cardigan Welsh Corgi is perfect for families with children. The dog isn’t so big that he’s overwhelming or so small that he could be in danger from rambunctious children.

These dogs love to play outdoors and would have a ball running around with the kids in the backyard.

Grooming Requirements

Unfortunately, this little dog does shed and will need regular grooming as it goes through two shedding cycles: spring and fall. A metal comb is suggested with medium to widely spaced teeth. If the prospect of grooming becomes too much, a professional groomer is always a good, time-saving choice.

Life Span

The Cardigan Welsh Corgi can live anywhere from 12 to 15 years.

Health Issues

Health issues inherent to the Welsh Corgi including the following:


This dog is a quick learner and excels at obedience training. It’s important to leash train and, as the puppy grows, begin to introduce the crate.

Exercise Requirements

These little dogs do best in the home with the family as opposed to being alone in the yard on a line. A good daily walk will help to keep this little dog happy and healthy. Don’t forget play time! All dogs love that human interaction that comes with a good game of fetch.

Choosing the Best Family Dog Summary

There are so many dogs that the choices can be dizzying. When choosing a family dog it’s vital to assess just how much work you’re willing to do. Some dogs, for example, require more food, more exercise, and more attention overall.

High energy families should look for dogs that do well on hikes, running, travelling, etc.

Some families have children with unique needs, in which case you’re going to want to find a loving, loyal dog that doesn’t require a lot of grooming or one-on-one attention at all times.

It’s not easy to find the best dog for your family, but it’s extremely rewarding when you do.

Pet Insurance

You’re going to spend good money on whichever dog you choose. After having researched the various health issues he/she may have, it’s important to find a good pet health insurance that will cover those things should they arise.

The only way to narrow down the coverage is to compare insurance companies against each other. Remember that quoted prices may just be general averages and not your actual price.

Contact the insurance company and let them know the type of breed you’re considering. The price of insurance may go up if the breed is predisposed to bigger (and more expensive) health concerns.

Thank you for reading

I want to say thank you for taking the time to read this post. I hope you enjoy the process of narrowing down the perfect dog choice for your family. Taking the time to do the research means having a much richer experience with that new dog in your life.

If you found this helpful at all, please take a second to share.

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