Pets

Top 5 family-friendly dogs

Author: Canadian Living

Pets

Top 5 family-friendly dogs

Welcoming a pet into your home can be an exciting adventure and, much like the arrival of a new child, will most certainly be life-altering. If the species you select to be your new housemate is of the canine persuasion, there is much to think about before plunging in muzzle first. For example, you must decide if it's a large, small, active or more sedentary family dog that's right for you and your kids.

What will be its role; are you looking for a playmate, guard dog or hunting companion? Some pooches need lots of grooming while others require very little. Each breed has a unique set of physical, behavioural and personality traits, which must be properly matched to the preferences of your household. (Wondering if you're ready for the responsibility of a dog? Know for sure with 10 questions you should ask yourself before owning a pet.)

Dr. Wojtek Wybranowski, known affectionately as "Dr. W" to patients and staff at Animal 911 Veterinary Hospital in Pierrefonds, Que., recommends the following breeds for families with children. Each can be purchased for $800 to $1,000 and will require the same investment to examine, immunize and neuter. Keep in mind that the larger the dog, the more expensive your new pal will be to feed.

1. Golden retriever (60-80 lbs) or Labrador retriever (50-60 lbs)
Why they're great for a family:
These two "sporting dog" breeds tie in the popularity contest for overall favourite family pets. They are by nature loving, loyal and gentle and will patiently tolerate even the most affectionate young child's prodding and poking. Retrievers love to swim and tend to retain their puppylike playfulness throughout adulthood.

How much care?
Retrievers need plenty of vigorous exercise and, because they shed quite a bit, will require daily brushing.

Rural or urban:
All dogs enjoy the wide open spaces of a rural setting, but retrievers adapt well to city life with lots of playtime outdoors.

2. Collie (40-65 lbs)
Why they're great for a family:
Good-natured and energetic, the collie has been a popular pet since the first time Lassie appeared on TV. They are beautiful, great with children and easy to train. The collie is considered by many to be the best family companion of all the "herding breeds." And, if Timmy ever falls down the well...

How much care?
The collie's thick coat requires regular brushing. They need plenty of exercise and while a simple walk in the park might be enough to satisfy another dog, your collie's working nature may require you to be creative. Keep him stimulated by asking him to fetch, herd or climb over or under something.

Rural or urban:
Your collie will adapt well to city life but needs space to run around in frequently.

(Read about adopting a dog from a shelter.)

Page 1 of 2 -- Interested in a miniature schnauzers or a Yorkshire terrier? Find out more about family dogs on page 2

3. Boxer (55-70 lbs)
Why they're great for a family:
Categorized as a "working dog," the boxer's mischievous, ready-for-anything gaze is just a hint of his true zest for life. He is affectionate, a true-blue friend and a great guardian. The boxer's athletic appearance -- muscular and short-coated with a square head -- gives him a serious air, but this dog is by nature goofy and fun-loving.

How much care?
Boxers have very short fur but they do shed and will benefit from daily brushing. They love to clown around and will be thrilled to romp in the park several times per week.

Rural or urban:
Your boxer will live happily in the city but needs a long, brisk walk every day.
(Learn how to test a puppy's personality!)

4. Miniature schnauzer (11-20 lbs)
Why they're great for a family:
Unlike their larger "working dog" counterparts (standard and giant schnauzers), the miniature schnauzer is considered a terrier. Reliable and affectionate, the mini schnauzer is a terrific family pet. Much like your great-uncle Esmond, schnauzers can be a bit stubborn, are quite talkative and like to have the last word. However, they are also playful and exuberant and make great watchdogs.

How much care?
The miniature schnauzer's wiry coat is hair -- not fur. They are one of many hypoallergenic breeds and do not shed at all. However, they still need regular brushing and haircuts.

Rural or urban: These lovable dogs are good apartment dwellers but have a tendency to gain weight if they don't get plenty of exercise.
(Click here for pet-friendly vacation ideas!)

5. Yorkshire terrier (3-7 lbs)
Why they're great for a family:
The "Yorkie" is one of the most popular family pets of the "toy" breeds. Alert, spirited and fiercely loyal, the Yorkshire terrier makes a great watchdog, despite its obvious shortcomings. The Yorkie is an ideal lap dog and gets along well with other pets, including cats.

How much care?
The Yorkie's long, shiny coat requires daily combing and brushing as well as regular shampooing.

Rural or urban:
These dogs are perfect for city life and get all the exercise they need just running around and playing indoors.

We have only touched upon purebred dogs in this article. There is a wide range of mixed breeds that make excellent family pets as well. The schnoodle (schnauzer/poodle mix), labradoodle (labrador/poodle mix) and cocapoo (cocker spaniel/poodle mix) are three popular ones. Cute names, too. Mixed-breed dogs, sometimes referred to as "mutts," are every bit as loving, loyal and intelligent as their purebred brothers and may be less prone to inherited disorders.

Choosing the right dog for your family may require some energy but, after all, it's nothing you wouldn't do for your best friend.

(Find out why owning a dog boosts a child's self-esteem.)

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Top 5 family-friendly dogs

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