How to choose the right dog for your family

Picking the right dog for your family takes some thought.
Picking the right dog for your family takes some thought. Photo: Getty Images

According to Animals Australia, Australia has the highest incidence of pet ownership in the world. So it doesn’t come as a surprise there may have been a whole lot of begging and pleading in your household to get a family dog. “Dad, if we get a dog I promise to do the dishes every night for the rest of my life.” “Mum, please, if we can just have a dog I promise to never ask for anything ever again. EVER!” Sound familiar?

If you finally do agree to get a dog, it is hard to stop yourself from waltzing on in to the first pet store you see and letting your heart decide. You and your children may be tempted to buy the cutest puppy, with the biggest blue eyes, a little wet nose and a pair of floppy ears.

But choosing a dog is far more complicated than falling in love at first sight. Like all strong relationships, you and your family’s new best friend need to have some common interests. Yes, certain breeds of dogs have different personality traits, which means it is of paramount importance you research different breeds to work out which dog best suits your family.

To help you get your research underway, here is a quick look at Australia’s ten most popular pure breed dogs.

1. Staffordshire Bull Terrier

The Staffordshire Bull Terrier, also referred to as a Staffy, is a medium sized dog that is quite muscular. Brian Crump, Spokesperson for Dogs NSW, classifies Staffies as a very energetic breed, making them well suited to active families. They also get along extremely well with all members of the family.

“They are very loyal to family members,” Brian explains. “But they are high maintenance in that they need lots of regular exercise and lots of regular things to do. So if it was a family that was fairly sedentary and didn’t want to walk the dog, you’d say, ‘well no, maybe a Staffy is not for you’.”

2. Labrador Retriever

Labradors are very social dogs and Brian says they are fantastic family pets.


“They are water dogs, so they love water,” Brian says. “So if you’ve got a family that likes to go to the beach and likes to go swimming, your [Labrador] will go with you and will really enjoy it.”

But Labradors require a lot of exercise and it is important families consider this need before buying one.

3. German Shepherd

The German Shepherd is a pretty large dog originally bred for herding and guarding sheep.

“It’s not a dog I would recommend for people who don’t want to exercise it, because again, it needs lots of exercise and lots of things to do,” Brian says. “Being a powerful dog you need to be firmly in control of it and therefore you need to be fit and active.”

German Shepherds are very intelligent dogs that also respond well to training.

4. Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

A Cavalier King Charles is a small, affectionate dog and makes for a wonderful companion.

“If you are not an active family, or maybe you are a single person who doesn’t have such an active lifestyle, the cavalier is going to be much better suited,” Brian explains. “They’re a dog that does require exercise, but a lot less [than some other dogs].”

5. Golden Retriever

Golden Retrievers are a lot like Labradors. They are a medium sized dog that makes a wonderful family pet. Brian says they are another breed that is well suited to an active family.

“They’re highly active,” Brian explains. “And if you’ve got older children who want to play games with the dogs, like throw the ball and fetch, they will do all of those things.”

6. Border Collie

Border Collies are working dogs. They are also very intelligent, but being a working dog means they will go looking for things to do. Brian puts a lot of emphasis on how a Border Collie is an extremely active dog, more so than all the other dogs on this list.

“They are fantastic dogs if you want to train them in agility, or obedience, or tracking,” Brian recommends.

7. American Staffordshire Terrier

The American Staffordshire Terrier, or American Staffy, is a very powerful dog, especially for its size. It has a very strong head and a strong jaw. An American Staffy is intelligent, confident and good-natured, but must be socialised from a young age.

8. Standard Poodle

The Standard Poodle is a medium to large-sized dog. The Standard Poodle is good natured, highly intelligent and graceful. Given that this is one of the larger sized Poodles, it requires a decent sized backyard and regular exercise. If you do not have a large backyard, or much time to exercise a Standard Poodle, perhaps a smaller sized variety would better suit your family.

9. Pug

Pugs are small, lovable dogs that don’t require too much space or exercise, making it a great choice for families who live in the city.

“They are really very social and very friendly,” Brian explains. “They love a walk, but they don’t have high exercise requirements and they are very sweet natured.”

10. Rottweiler

A Rottweiler is a medium to large-sized dog. Brian says they are fantastic family dogs, but puts an emphasis on making sure they are well trained.

“Rottweilers are fantastic dogs if you’re willing to train them,” Brian says. “They are very obedient dogs once they’re trained. They love long walks [and] are highly sociable dogs.”

No doubt your new family member will quickly become everyone’s best friend. And as the old saying goes: ‘you can choose your friends, but you can’t choose your relatives’. So choose wisely!

Once you've made up your mind about what breed of dog is right for your family, instead of heading straight to the pet store you can adopt an orphaned dog from the RSPCA. Visit their website to find out more.

Nicole Thomson-Pride is a freelance writer who loves to tell a story or two. You can follow her on Twitter here.