What Dog Breed Is Best for You?

A man and woman hugging their best dog breed on a bed.

Deciding to bring a dog into your life is a big decision. It can be exciting and stressful all wrapped into one huge experience. Not only are you welcoming your new best friend and family member, but a dog has the power to transform your life.

But before you run to your local animal shelter or begin searching for a responsible breeder, there are a few factors to consider. A potential dog parent must be able to commit adequate time to nurture, socialize, and train a dog, as well as having the resources to pay for appropriate veterinary care, healthy food, and other possible necessities such as grooming, parasite protection and dog walkers.

If you have the resources and the time, then congratulations! You’re ready to take on the responsibility of caring for one of the most magical creatures on earth.

However, there are still some decisions to make. For one, do you want a puppy or an older dog? A lot of young dogs end up in shelters because their owners didn’t realize the amount of time, energy, and patience needed to raise a puppy. You will have to socialize, housetrain and obedience train a puppy, and that takes a serious commitment. If you don’t have the time, energy or desire, an older dog or even a senior may be the right choice.

Beyond that, choosing the right breed for your personality and lifestyle is essential. “Dog breeds have been developed over hundreds of years, and each dog breed has different temperament and health traits,” says Colleen Demling-Riley, dog behaviorist for Dogtopia, a nationwide dog care facility.  “Researching and understanding different breeds will help a family choose what type of pup might be best for their family.”

How Accurate Are Dog Breed Traits?

While dog breeds do tend to exhibit specific genetic behavior tendencies, individual dogs within the same breed will have different personalities.

“The breed characteristics will give an overview of a how a pup might act, but the dog’s individual personality is just as important as a dog’s breed when selecting a puppy for the family,” says Demling-Riley.

Related: Just Like Us, Dogs Personalities Can Change Over Time

There are, however, certain genetic factors that should be considered when choosing  a breed. For example, some breeds are more high energy than other and do better with active owners. Some breeds tend to need jobs, while others devote their career to couch potatoing. Some breeds are known for being affectionate and protective of children, while other breeds are too boisterous for young kids. Others are known for their tendency to bark, which isn’t ideal for apartments but may be perfect for those living alone down a long, dark country road. There are even breeds to suite people who are allergic to dogs.

Other factors to consider are grooming needs. If you aren’t prepared to brush a dog every day, you might want to avoid a breed like the Lhasa Apso, whose fur will easily get matted.

Before you decide on a breed, examine your lifestyle and preferences honestly, and then choose appropriately. The right breed of dog may save you — and the dog — a lot of heartache in the long run.

What Breeds Are Best for Active Households?

Breed tends to be a fairly good indicator of energy level and exercise needs. But an active family doesn’t necessarily mean they should choose a high-energy breed.

Related: Want a Dog Who Loves Outdoor Adventures? Here Are 8 Active Breeds to Consider.

“Active families often think they need active pups, but that might not be true,” says Demling-Riley. “An active family should sit down and see how many of their activities are truly ‘Fido friendly.’”

For instance, she says, if a family spends a lot of time hiking, camping, swimming, and biking, then a high-energy breed like a Cattle Dog or Australian Shepherd might be a good fit. “But if that family is busy all day with kid activities like soccer, baseball, and other less dog-friendly events, then they might want to choose a lower energy pup,” she adds.

If you have an active lifestyle that allows you to bring a dog with you, consider the following breeds (and some of these may surprise you):

  • Australian Cattle Dog
  • Australian Shepherd
  • Beagle
  • Border Collie
  • Dalmatian
  • Doberman Pinscher
  • English Springer Spaniel
  • German Shepherd
  • German Shorthaired Pointer
  • Golden Retriever
  • Irish Setter
  • Jack Russell Terrier
  • Labrador Retriever
  • Miniature Pinscher
  • Pembroke Welsh Corgi
  • Poodle
  • Rhodesian Ridgeback
  • Shetland Sheepdog
  • Siberian Husky
  • Vizsla
  • Weimaraner
  • Yorkshire Terriers

What Breeds Are Best for Homes with Small Children?

Growing up with a doggie best friend is awesome. Along with unconditional love, a dog can teach a child responsibility, empathy and cooperation — as long as parents teach their child to be gentle with the family dog. While there are some breeds who tend to adore kids more than others, any dog can snap if pushed to a breaking point.

“It is critical that all kids are proactively taught how to properly interact with the puppy,” says Demling-Riley. “This will prevent any ‘misunderstandings’ that could cause a nip.”

Related: How to Deal with Parents Who Insist Your Dog Is Kid-Friendly

Some breeds are known for their patience with children, but any puppy should also have a safe place that they can retreat to when overwhelmed, says Demling-Riley. Parents to puppy and children must be prepared to do plenty of training with both four-legged and little bipeds.

Older dogs and seniors may be a good fit for children, if introduced correctly. However, some big dogs with lots of energy may play too rough for little ones, while toy dogs may be too fragile for small children.

Of course, each individual dog may be different, and it’s helpful to “kid test” the pup before bringing one home. With that in mind, the following breeds are known for their patience and love for tiny humans:

  • Beagle
  • Bernese Mountain Dog
  • Border Terrier
  • Boston Terrier
  • Boxer
  • Bulldog
  • Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
  • Cocker Spaniel
  • Collies
  • French Bulldog
  • Golden Retriever
  • Havanese
  • Irish Setter
  • Keeshond
  • Labrador Retriever
  • Newfoundland
  • Norfolk Terrier
  • Pug
  • Soft-Coated Wheaten Terrier
  • Staffordshire Bull Terrier
  • Standard Poodle

What Breeds Are Best for People Who Aren’t That Active?

Every breed of dog should be taken outside for a good walk at least once a day, but for some breeds, those walks are all the exercise they need. “All puppies need exercise, training and socialization,” notes Demling-Riley. “This holds true for our lazy pups, too.”

There are breeds that are more low energy, she says, like the Bassett Hound, Bulldog and Newfoundland. “If someone is looking for a small, mostly indoor pup then the Maltese, Italian Greyhound and Pug are great breeds for people that only want to walk their dog once or twice a day,” she says.

But if you like to spend your days relaxing, or if you’re a devoted couch potato, there are breeds that will be happy to cuddle with you — as long as they have your attention! “If someone is looking for a life-long companion that prefers life on the couch instead of at the dog park then the Tibetan Terrier, King Charles Spaniel, French Bulldog and Shih Tzu are a good fit,” says Demling-Riley.

Related: What to Get a Small Dog Breed? Read This First.

The following breeds tend to be less active — or out-and-out lazy:

  • Basset Hound
  • Bernese Mountain Dog
  • Bichon Frise
  • Brussels Griffon
  • Bullmastiff
  • Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
  • Chinese Crested
  • Chow Chow
  • Clumber Spaniel
  • Dachshund
  • English Bulldog
  • French Bulldog
  • Great Dane
  • Greyhound
  • Havanese
  • Japanese Chin
  • Lhasa Apso
  • Maltese
  • Newfoundland
  • Old English Sheepdog
  • Pekingese
  • Pomeranian
  • Pug
  • Saint Bernard
  • Shih Tzu
  • Tibetan Mastiff
  • Tibetan Terrier

How Do You Assess a Mixed Breed?

“Numerous studies have shown that even dog experts misidentify the breeds in a mixed breed pup,” says Demling-Riley. “As a result, a family should focus on a dog’s individual personality and energy level instead of their perceived breed makeup when choosing the ideal puppy for their family.”

Even with so-called “designer dogs” like the Doodles, the reliability of breed tendencies is mostly limited to first generation dogs bred from two purebreds, according to renowned researcher Stanley Coren.

There are many advantages to adopting a mixed breed dog. Their genetic diversity actually tends to make them healthier as they have a lower rate of many inherited diseases.

Related: The 10 Biggest Myths About Adopting a Dog From a Shelter or Rescue

With a mixed breed dog, temperament is assessed through the individual dog. Spending time with the dog at the shelter, a foster home or the dog’s original home will tell you the most about the dog’s behavior. “Just like us, a person’s heritage and DNA will influence who they are, but each person still has unique likes and dislikes that go far beyond where they came from,” says Demling-Riley. “The same is true for pups.”

By Jillian Blume

Jillian Blume is a New York City–based writer whose feature articles have appeared in magazines, newspapers, and websites including the New York Observer, Marie Claire, Self, City Realty, the ASPCA,, Best Friends Animal Society, The Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals, The Pet Gazette, and many others.

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