My family only owned one dog when I was growing up, but she was as perfect as pups come. Loving, gentle, and obedient, Misty quickly worked her way into not only our hearts, but those of everyone she met. As a Standard Schnauzer, she was also a medium-sized dog who was great for a family: big enough not to get stepped on by us kids and our friends, yet small enough that an 11-year-old could comfortably walk her without getting dragged down the street. Like most Schnauzers, she was energetic and always up for a game of fetch, but still happy to lie down next to us when we were feeling lazy.
That's why I'm a little partial to the medium breeds when it comes to doggie favorites, and you may be leaning that way yourself if you're considering getting a dog for your family. Fortunately, there are many to choose from, and a number of them are particularly good with kids for a variety of reasons. Certain medium-sized breeds are typically mellow, which may appeal to parents of small or shy children. Others are naturally energetic, and would love nothing more than running around the yard with an enthusiastic group of kids. Still others have a long-standing rep for being affectionate and loyal family pets.
Finding the right dog for your family is a matter of your own preferences and needs; however, no matter which you choose, there are guidelines to keep in mind. Teach your children how to treat a dog gently and respectfully. And no matter how sweet your new best friend may be, babies and small children should never be left unsupervised around any dog.
Here are some of the not-too-big, not-too-small dog breeds that animal experts rank as being among the best for families with kids. With patience and proper training, they might turn out to be your best-behaved "child" at the end of the day.
Soft-Coated Wheaten Terrier
This fluffy breed gets high marks from dog experts for its playful, loving nature; Dogtime recommended it for families who "like terrier looks but find their personalities a bit overwhelming." Well suited to both house and apartment living, the Wheaten also gets along with other pets. Its coat does need frequent brushing, however, and this breed doesn't do well in the heat.
You probably already have this one on your list already, since the Golden is the third most-popular breed in the American Kennel Club (AKC) rankings. Families love it for its friendly disposition and eagerness to please, and its history as a waterfowl retriever means that your kids will have a blast playing fetch for hours and romping on the beach. But Dogtime cautioned that it's not the best choice for families who can't spend much time with it or give it daily exercise. That beautiful golden coat also sheds twice a year and needs to be brushed well. Also, this breed definitely skews on the medium-large side than the small-medium end of the size spectrum.
Despite its tough-guy looks, this breed is actually a devoted and playful companion, assured PetMD. Boxers maintain a puppyish nature well into adulthood, and love to run, cuddle, and even "dance" on their hind legs when excited. This is another breed that needs attention and exercise, and its snub nose can lead to breathing problems, especially in the summer.
Forever associated with Target stores and Spuds McKenzie, the Bull Terrier is a clown at heart and great with children, though sometimes aggressive toward other dogs. The AKC said that as long as this breed is socialized and trained early on and gets plenty of exercise and family time, "there is no more loyal, loving and entertaining companion."
If your family doesn't have the time or energy to devote to long runs with a dog, then this breed should be on your radar; the English Bulldog is a classic couch potato that enjoys the company of kids. Dogtime reported that this mellow companion is perfectly content to hang out at home next to the people it loves. Its build and flat face can lead to joint and breathing problems, however, so keep that in mind.
Like its Miniature and Giant counterparts, the Standard Poodle is "wickedly smart," according to the AKC, and with consistent obedience training, regular exercise, and attention, it makes a super family pet. The Poodle's low-shedding curly coat makes it popular with families with allergies, although you'll need to find a good groomer for regular clips.
English Springer Spaniel
Dogtime gaves this handsome variety of spaniel high marks for friendliness towards kids and other dogs, playfulness, and trainability. The English Springer Spaniel needs regular exercise, so it's not the best choice for apartment dwellers, but the AKC said that long walks and some daily backyard playtime are sufficient.
The Lab is another dog that has it all, according to Dogtime: a loving personality, gentleness toward children, easy trainability, a low-shedding coat, and enough energy to keep up with a busy brood. But early obedience training and frequent exercise are the key to making the Labrador an ideal companion, cautioned the AKC. And bear in mind that, like Golden Retrievers, they fall on the upper end of the medium-sized scale.
Less of a household name than the popular retrievers, this breed, which originated in Spain, is an enthusiastic runner and jumper, said PetMD, making it a good option for families whose kids never seem to tire out. If you add this mild-mannered pooch to your household, however, you'll need to keep your leftovers out of sight; the AKC reported that Ibizans are notorious for sneaking scraps out of the kitchen.
This sweet pooch, with its lamb-like face and fur, is loyal and calm, according to PetMD, but won't back down from a fight if a neighbor's dog gets in its face. The Bedlington's low-shedding woolly coat makes it popular with families with allergies as well.
Charlie Brown knew it all along: For kids, happiness is a warm puppy, especially if it's a Beagle like Snoopy. The AKC lists it as one of the breeds that's sweet and easygoing not only with children, but also with cats; certain other family-friendly dogs are more aggressive toward small animals.
This Hungarian dog's name may be a bit of a tongue-twister (it's pronounced VEEZH-la), but it's worth it to have this super-loyal companion in your home. Dogtime reported that the dog is often referred to as the "Velcro Vizsla" because of its amiable personality and love of staying close to the people it loves. If you're able to give this breed lots of regular exercise (with kids, that shouldn't be hard), the Vizsla could be the dog for you.