Bark All About It!
Every family needs a dog. At least, we like to think so. And when people start talking about the best dog breeds for families with children, there are a few breeds that always come up, such as beagles, retrievers, collies, and so on. Most of these breeds are family favorites for a reason. But every breed has its own quirks and cons that tend to catch unprepared owners by surprise.
It’s best for both the dogs and the families that adopt them if the soon-to-be dog owners know exactly what to expect when deciding on what pup to bring into their growing family. So we sat down with our senior dog trainer and behaviorist, Ann King, to find out what she thinks people need to know about ten of the most popular breeds that come up in discussions about family friendly dogs.
Due to the length of this discussion, this week we will be featuring five dog breeds, and next week we will post the concluding half of this article with Ann’s thoughts on five more popular breeds.
For each breed, we’ll lead off with the general consensus on their notable qualities, and then follow with Ann’s commentary. Without further ado…
The conventional wisdom is that beagles—90% of which are named “Snoopy”—are a good fit for families with rambunctious kids due to their high energy levels and sturdy builds. Many owners consider them to have a good balance of intelligence and good-naturedness, with their only downfall being their tendency to shed a lot.
What Ann has to add: “Beagles are never too tired to play with the kids. But a dog that’s never tired is a dog that needs a LOT of exercise. The average beagle is going to need a nice long walk every day, or perhaps even a jog or two. They’re usually sweetie pies, but their hunting instincts are powerful, and they can be unpredictable when you take them off the leash. This breed needs some good training in order to keep them on their best behavior. Also, beagles love the sound of their own voice, so if you’re looking for a quiet dog, you may want to look elsewhere.”
Anybody who has ever had a Newfie knows that they LOVE kids. These dogs are gentle giants, and are very protective of the children under their watch. It’s impossible not to love a Newfoundland. But they love the great outdoors and taking a swim nearly as much as they love their young charges, so they’re best suited for families with a lot of acreage, and who frequently take trips to their local rivers, lakes, or beaches.
Ann: “I don’t know if I’ve ever met a more loyal fan club than Newfie owners, and I can’t blame them. They are ridiculously good-natured, which makes them great family pets. However, Newfies tend to shed a lot, and consider themselves to be lap dogs, contrary to their massive size. So you want to make sure that you have sturdy, easy-to-clean furniture. They also drool a little sometimes, but not as much as other large breeds.”
This breed is most definitely not the redheaded step-child of dog breeds—their red coats are absolutely gorgeous. Besides their luxurious fur, Irish setters are known for being loving, energetic dogs that are a great match for similarly energetic kids who have a big yard to play in.
Ann’s thoughts: “What you see is what you get when it comes to setters, which is definitely not a bad thing. However, it’s not enough to just have a big yard or large piece of property for an Irish setter to roam around in. Setters will easily get bored and lonely if they aren’t kept busy. You need to be outside with this dog, and doing things.”
Labs may well be the most popular breed of dog in the United States, and it’s easy to see why: they’re hardy, fun, patient, smart, and loving pups. And it doesn’t hurt that they’re easy on the eyes too.
Ann’s take: “A lab will make an ideal dog for almost any family. However, these dogs must be well-trained and -socialized. They were originally bred as working dogs, which means that they have a very strong instinct to be busy doing things, and have a lot of energy. Consequently, they need a lot of opportunity to play and engage with their families, and need training in order to keep their strong personalities in check. Your lab will love you to death, but if you don’t take the time to instill discipline and let your dog get bored, you’re going to come home to discover that your couch has been disemboweled and scattered over half of the house.”
Bulldogs are built like tanks, but are low-energy, low-key pets. They’re known for being docile and friendly, but still up for a bit of roughhousing with the kids now and then. Due to their small size, they can be a good fit for both large houses and small apartments. In addition, they usually get along well with other pets in the home.
Ann’s thoughts: “Bulldogs definitely have a calm disposition, but they absolutely need consistent physical and mental stimulation. And because they look so ‘squeezable’ young children really need to be coached on respectful ways to pet and handle them. Bulldogs, like most dogs, must also be socialized with other animals to develop polite greeting and play habits. Their ‘bulldoggy’ nature can be overbearing to other dogs if they’re not given the chance to learn polite social skills. You’ll definitely want to put some time into training them to establish house rules, or they’ll be happy to make their own. And because of all those adorable folds, bulldogs often require regular maintenance on their skin, especially their tail pocket – the deep fold of skin under their tail. That means daily wiping. Bulldog owners (and being one myself, I can attest) often joke that they need a special savings account for their adorable but medically high-maintenance bulldogs.