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                                   Ashley Winder
                           15 August 2020


Are you on the hunt for a great family dog? Choosing the right dog for your family is definitely an “if the shoe fits” situation. So your choice shouldn’t be made lightly. After all, two-thirds of Australian families consider their furry household companions as a part of the family, so you want to make sure you are picking the best breed that works for yours.  

Luckily, there are plenty of fantastic dog breeds for families out there. We’ve researched and gathered the top 9 dog breeds for Australian families to help you make the right decision or at the very least, lead you in the right direction when it comes to adding a new furry member to the family. 

What Makes A Great Family Dog?

When you have small children to think about, you might be wondering which dog breeds have the best temperament or reaction for those inevitable times when your kids decide to lay on it, pull its tail, or shove something in its face (it happens!). The last thing you want to worry about is whether your dog is too aggressive, too rough, or nips at the kids at the slightest provocation.

While a dog’s natural temperament does come into play, it’s critical to understand that the ultimate “family-friendly” dog doesn’t just happen. No dog will immediately love or successfully handle children, full stop. Owners still need to correctly train and socialise their dogs with kids (especially younger ones) as soon as possible.

If you want to rest assured that your dog’s interaction with your children has the highest success rate - there are two things you can do. 1) You need to train and socialise your dog with kids and, 2) you can choose a dog breed known to have positive interactions with children and families. 


Why Should Your Family Have A Dog?

Owning a dog has been proven to be incredibly beneficial for your family’s mental and physical health, and this is especially true for children. Here are a few convincing reasons why families with children should have dogs:

  • -Playing with dogs can lower blood pressure.

  • -Children with dogs at home have less risk of developing common allergies and asthma.

  • -Kids (and the whole family) tend to get outside more when they have a dog to walk or play with.

  • -Feeding and caring for a pet encourages childhood responsibility.

  • -Children with pets display improved impulse control, social skills (like patience and compassion), and self-esteem.

If you are looking for a family dog, make sure to look carefully at each breed to determine which one best suits your family needs. For example:

  • -If a big dog (and the exercise they usually require) doesn’t fit your family’s lifestyle, opt for a smaller breed that doesn’t need long walks or tons of playtime.  

  • -If you have a lot on your plate, maybe an energetic dog isn’t the right choice for your household.

  • -Boisterous dogs might better suit parents who don’t mind their kids getting knocked over every once in a while compared to parents who do mind.

There are a lot of things to consider when it comes to family dogs!

Not Every Dog Breed Is Black and White

It’s important to note that whilst the traits and characteristics outlined below are common and average for each breed - your specific dog might vary in energy levels, quirkiness, and personality - as we all do.

This list also doesn’t mean that the dog breeds in this post are the only ones that will be good family dogs. These breeds make this list specifically because their natural temperament reduces the risk that can occur when combining kids and dogs in one household. While the dog breed might help determine how they will react and their ability to put up with kid’s antics, this doesn’t guarantee a no-bite policy.

Top 9 Dog Breeds for Families


1. Beagle

Beagles tend to be more well-known for their scent receptor abilities, but they are actually fantastic family dogs. Small, happy, and fun-loving, Beagles love playing and spending time with children (and any other human form)—bonus points for being big cuddlers.

They only require moderate exercise but are prone to wander - so keep that in mind when on outdoor family adventures! 

Temperament: Friendly, Gentle, Independent, Intelligent, Lively, Loving, Sweet


2. Boxer

Boxers are notorious for being extremely loving and affectionate towards children. This makes them one of the best options for a family dog. As a very people-oriented dog, Boxers do well when their family is nearby.

One thing to note is that they do have high energy levels and wagging bums, which can quickly lead to toddlers getting unintentionally knocked over. This is definitely something to consider depending on the age of your kids!


Besides that small hiccup, Boxers are intelligent, low maintenance, and known for their cleanliness, which makes them an excellent dog for the home. Most importantly, they thrive on human relationships and are great companions for small dogs (a perfect combination for a multi-dog household).

Temperament: Alert, Cheerful, Courageous, Energetic, Friendly, Intelligent, Loyal, Outgoing, Playful


3. Cocker Spaniel

There are actually two Cocker Spaniel breeds that vary slightly in height, weight, colours, and maintenance - the American and the English - with the latter being the bigger of the two. 

But in terms of family-friendliness, both Cocker Spaniels are easy-going, affectionate, and love people. Intelligent and friendly, this breed is exceptionally social, meaning that they require a loving family and should live inside the house with them. Spaniels are also extremely energetic and need plenty of exercise.

Temperament (American): Affectionate, Cheerful, Friendly, Gentle, Intelligent, Lively, Loving, Loyal, Outgoing, Playful, Responsive, Stubborn

Temperament (English): Affectionate, Alert, Energetic, Friendly, Gentle, Intelligent, Loving, Loyal, Outgoing, Stubborn


4. Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

Compared to Cocker Spaniels, the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel has a more gentle nature, higher obedience levels, and a stronger eagerness to please their human family. Any mutt that has a mix of Cavalier in them are also excellent family dog options.

These spaniels are known to be easy-going, friendly, small, and don’t usually make a lot of noise. Cavaliers are affectionate and playful, making them the perfect companion for young children or even other household pets.

Extremely adaptable, cavaliers are happy in a variety of environments. From countryside living to city apartments, the Cavalier King Charles Spaniels are happy enough to join you in playtime or will readily have a lie down next to you in the evenings.

In general, Cavaliers are intelligent, easy to train, and socialise. Given their naturally gentle and sweet nature, they are known to be excellent therapy dogs for both children and adults.

Temperament: Affectionate, Alert, Cheerful, Courageous, Curious, Energetic, Friendly, Gentle, Independent, Intelligent, Lively, Loving, Loyal, Outgoing, Playful, Protective, Responsive, Social, Sweet


5. English (or British) Bulldog

Loyal, friendly, docile, and, most importantly - tough, this dog breed is a great candidate for young families. English Bulldogs have lower energy levels and the sturdiness to handle the roughness that can sometimes result in a child’s play. Sweet-natured and loving, they are a great companion dog for both children and parents alike.

We chose British Bulldogs - instead of their Australian or American relations - mainly because they have shorter legs, are generally smaller, lighter, and a bit slower. These physical traits tend to be more beneficial for having toddlers or small children bounding around the house - or around the dog. Considering they have low energy levels, bulldogs can more easily keep up with smaller children during playtime without overwhelming them with energy.

Temperament: Affectionate, Courageous, Friendly, Loving, Social, Sweet


6. Golden Retriever

One of the most intelligent dog breeds around, Golden Retrievers, are fanatics family dogs. Not only are they are gentle with children, but they are even-tempered, affectionate, patient, and playful.

Due to their exploratory nature and energy levels, Golden Retrievers need to meet their daily exercise requirements, which can be quite high. They do well with long daily walks or access to a big yard where they can often run and play.

Temperament: Alert, Friendly, Intelligent, Loyal, Playful, Quiet


7. Great Dane

Given their size, Great Danes might be a strange choice for a family dog, but in reality, they are gentle giants that get on well with other dogs, children, and pretty much anyone and everyone they come across. Known for their devotion, gentleness, companionship, and eagerness to please, Great Danes crave human interaction, making them excellent family dogs. This doesn’t mean they won’t accidentally knock things off tables due to their size. So consider yourself warned!

Temperament: Affectionate, Alert, Cheerful, Courageous, Curious, Docile, Energetic, Friendly, Gentle, Intelligent, Lively, Loving, Loyal, Playful, Protective, Quiet, Social, Territorial


8. Labrador Retriever

If you’re open to having a bigger dog, Labs are definitely an excellent choice for families. Easy-going and easy to train, these dogs are naturally sweet-natured and extremely affectionate with humans, big and little alike.

Bonus points for being extremely adaptable - meaning they would be great dogs to have before bringing home and introducing them to your newest and littlest human family member. Just remember they have high energy levels and should have enough room to exercise daily (back yards, daily walks, and weekly swims are all great options).

Temperament: Affectionate, Alert, Cheerful, Energetic, Friendly, Gentle, Intelligent, Loving, Loyal, Outgoing, Playful, Responsive, Social


9. Pug

If you want a Boxer-like temperament but are a little worried about their size and energy levels - consider a Pug! Personality-wise, a Pug is just like a Boxer, just in a smaller body. That means you don’t have to worry about them knocking over your toddler as they only size up to 36 cm tall and weight up to 9 kg.

Even with their big personalities, pugs are excellent house dogs (or even apartment dogs) as they prefer being in the house, are low-maintenance, and enjoy plenty of lap (or should we say nap) time. Let’s be honest here; Pugs are a bit more on the lazy side, which is perfect for less active families.

Playful, intelligent, and even-tempered, Pugs get on well with children, especially when games are involved. It’s a toss-up of which activity they enjoy more: spending time with their family or lounging around.

Temperament: Affectionate, Alert, Cheerful, Courageous, Curious, Docile, Energetic, Friendly, Gentle, Independent, Intelligent, Lively, Loving, Loyal, Outgoing, Playful, Protective, Quiet, Responsive, Social, Stubborn, Sweet, Territorial

Hopefully, you can use this post as a guide on choosing the right dog breed for your family’s lifestyle and needs. Does this list end with these nine dog breeds? No way! There are definitely other fantastic family-friendly dogs out there! Many mutt variations of the above dog breeds can be great options for families, too.

One of the key takeaways from this post is to consider your lifestyle, what you are looking for in a dog, and whether or not a dog’s natural temperament and characteristics match your family’s needs.

Remember, dogs are for a lifetime - so make sure you choose yours wisely!

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