Top 5 family-friendly dogs

Some dogs make better family pets than others. Find out what breed will suit your family the best.

By Lorri Benedik

Family dogs: Golden retrievers, Labs and collies
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

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