Best Five Popular Family Dog Breeds

Dr. Mark is a veterinarian. He has been working with dogs for more than 40 years.

The best family dog breeds are common and the most popular. Do you know the five most popular dogs in the US?

1. Labrador Retriever

This breed is the most common in the world and has been the most popular year after year for a lot of reasons. Even though they are big dogs at about 30-35 kilos (66-80 pounds), the majority of Labs are gentle around kids and older people.

Another reason Labs are so popular is that they are intelligent and easy to train! Over 90% of the dogs tested have a good temperament, and in the book The Intelligence of Dogs, they are listed as the seventh most intelligent breed of dog. That means they pick up new commands easily and are likely to remember them all.

Shedding is one drawback and a reason that Labradoodles are becoming more popular. They shed about twice a year, but the hairs are short and if they are groomed with a rake-type comb, it is not too bad.

Labrador retrievers also have some serious health problems. Some of them are prone to hip or elbow dysplasia, a trick knee (luxating patella), and arthritis when they become older. Some are prone to eye problems, ear infections because of their floppy ears, and a few lines have inherited muscle diseases.

The most serious health issue in Labradors, however, is obesity. They like to eat, and since most Labs do not exercise enough, they are usually overweight. Some dogs become so fat that they have to be put on a drug to control weight gain, but limiting calories and increasing exercise is enough for almost all dogs.

Labradors live about 11 years, but if they are kept slim, they usually live another two years. During that time, they might serve as a hunter, a tracker, a therapy dog, a guide dog, or maybe just a great family companion. They are a versatile dog.

2. German Shepherd Dog

This popular dog has not been around that long. Even as recently as 1919, there were only about 50 dogs registered as German Shepherd Dogs (GSDs) in the UK. By 1926, there were over 8000. Such a huge increase was not without problems, however, and the modern German Shepherd Dog has several.

Some of the German Shepherd Dogs being bred are no longer working dogs and do not show the intelligence that the breed was originally chosen for. GSDs that are selected just for the show ring, or not selected at all, are more likely to have hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, behavior problems, and problems with their ears and teeth.

They can also have problems with bloat and develop arthritis later in life.

Good dogs are still athletic, and they are the third most intelligent breed in Dr. Coren´s book The Intelligence of Dogs. They learn new commands easily and repeat them almost every time, so they are popular with the police, army, and as search and rescue dogs.

Almost all guide dogs for the blind used to be GSDs. Labs and Goldens are a lot more popular at this task now but GSDs are still popular since they are a “one-man” dog. (They are usually very loyal to only one person, but many have a reputation for aggression and make some people nervous. Golden Retrievers and Labs rarely do.)

German Shepherd Dogs usually live to about 10 or 11 years of age. Their ability to serve as a guard dog, a personal protection dog, a police or army dog, or a search and rescue dog keeps them in demand. Their role as a great companion makes them a great pet, and one of the most common dog breeds.

3. Beagle

This popular dog is really different than the rest of the common breeds. He is a scent hound, developed to hunt with his sense of smell, medium sized (from 8 to 16 kilos, or 18 to 35 pounds), usually tricolor, and although they do not bark much, they are incredibly vocal!

This breed has probably been around a long time; the Beagle has been common since long before the development of the other popular dogs. Their ancestors were around since the 11th century and they were already known in the time of Queen Elizabeth.

In the US, they have been popular since the late 1800s and in the 1950s were ranked number one on the AKC´s breed list. That position has been taken by the Labrador retriever for many years, but Beagles have never lost their popularity. They have been popular because of their gentleness, their affection for kids, and even their love for cats!

Although they were bred for beagling (hunting with their noses), they are also used as scent dogs to find drugs at airports, dogs to find plants at border crossings, search and rescue dogs, and, since they are usually healthy, they are used in a lot of labs.

They are free from most health problems seen in other popular dog breeds. Few have hip dysplasia, and the main reason they are taken in to the vet is recurrent ear infections in their floppy ears. Some of them will have eye problems, a few dogs will develop more unusual problems like epilepsy, but their most common problems are injuries when out hunting, or obesity when sitting around. Beagles love to eat!

They usually live around 12 or 13 years. Among the common dogs, the Beagle is rated lowest in intelligence according to The Intelligence of Dogs.

Beagle fanciers point out that this is because the dogs are single minded and are really only interested in the scents in the world around them. If dogs were trained by scent, Beagles would be number one!

4. Golden Retriever

Goldens are popular because they are great family dogs and like kids. They were bred to be gun dogs that would retrieve birds without damaging them, but their personalities are so good that they have become one of the most common dogs in the US and the rest of the world.

Besides doing so well with kids, Goldens also like cats, get along with horses, and since they are rated as the fourth most intelligent dog breed, they are easy to train and perform well in obedience trials at dog shows.

Golden retrievers are also used in search and rescue, as guide dogs, hearing dogs, and of course when they are family dogs. They perform in hunting, agility, and sports like flyball and dock jumping.

Golden retrievers are great dogs but they do have some serious health problems. A lot of big dogs suffer from hip dysplasia and it is common in Goldens. Some of these dogs also become obese as they get older and develop arthritis secondary to their joint problems.

Some of them also are prone to eye diseases, like cataracts and glaucoma, lick granulomas, heart diseases, and allergies.

Anyone who has been around Goldens will also be concerned about cancer. Over half of the dogs end up dying from osteosarcoma (bone cancer), mast cell tumors, hemangiosarcomas, and lymphosarcoma.

Despite the health issues, Golden retrievers usually live to be about 11. They are not guard dogs, not personal protection dogs, but despite this, the families that find a Golden are almost always satisfied with this great dog.

5. Yorkshire Terrier

The Yorkshire terrier is the smallest of the common dog breeds and popular for a lot of reasons. He does not shed much, a big advantage when you have any dog in a small apartment. He is tiny (usually less than 3 kilos or about 7 pounds), lives a long time, and is feisty and intelligent.

Stanley Coren ranks him only 27th on his list of intelligence, a lot lower than some of the other common breeds. Anyone who has ever owned or trained a Yorkie will disagree with this rating.

Yorkies do bark a lot, great if you want a watch dog, not so good if you have neighbors. Their fine coats are said to be hypoallergenic. Although actual hypoallergenic breeds do not exist, they do not have much saliva on the hair and can be put up with by a lot of allergic people.

Yorkshire terriers do have a lot of health problems but since they are so popular, most veterinarians are familiar with them. The biggest problem is their small size, little mouth, and crowded teeth. The teeth need to be brushed daily to prevent the onset of periodontal disease, and even then may need professional cleaning early in life.

Yorkies also have some joint problems, like trick knees (luxating patellas) and Legg-Calves-Perthes disease (poor circulation to the head of the femur), eye problems (like cataracts, eyelash diseases, and retinal dysplasia), weakness and collapse of the trachea, a liver disease called portosystemic shunt, and several other problems.

Some of them are so tiny that they develop hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) and they can have seizures because of a lack of sugar to the brain. It can be so bad that Yorkies can die from it, so every Yorkie owner needs to learn to identify and treat this disease.

Despite all these problems, healthy Yorkies live a long time and their life expectancy is well over 15 years, often over 17. Train your Yorkie, take him for a walk every day, and enjoy his long life!

Common dogs are also found a lot at animal shelters. Over 24,000 Labs are available for adoption in the US and several thousand of them die each week because they do not find homes.

Fewer Yorkies are available since they only whelp two or three puppies but any breed can be found. Evaluate the dog to make sure he will fit in with your family and home, and if you can take the dog to your regular vet for an examination before you finish the adoption process.

If you want one of these five breeds please check with your local humane society and on before you contact a breeder.

The common dog breeds are out there, just keep looking!

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© 2013 Dr Mark

Pat Cary on January 29, 2015:

What about Standard Poodles? Yes, you have to clip them, but as a family fun dog, they are smart, loyal, super easy to train, kind, and love to do whatever you want to do. They don't shed! They are the best dogs EVER.

I hope the doodle crosses don't ruin them.

Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on February 09, 2014:

You are fortunate, Alphadogg. Before you get another dog, read my hub on Shiloh Shepherds, or you can find other great web sites about them. They are GSDs but are now considered a separate breed as the breeders are all focusing on health issues while keeping the great personality aspects of the GSD. I do not know if there are any breeders down in your area but you might even want to travel to find one.

Kevin W from Texas on February 09, 2014:

Great hub DrMark, I have 2 German Shepards, my 2nd generation of them however I was unaware of the common health problems that they could potentially have, as my first generation of Shepards didn't suffer from any of these issues. Voted up on your hub.

Dr. John Anderson from Australia on Planet Water on February 09, 2014:

I suggest a Jack Russell / Maltese Terrier cross - fabulous but too smart perhaps!

Jessica Peri from United States on February 09, 2014:

As my aunt's German Shepherd got older she had trouble walking. My grandparents started taking care of her, as they were home all day and the dog enjoyed the company of my grandparents' Dalmatian. She was a good dog, it's so sad that they end up with hip and joint problems.

Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on February 09, 2014:

Thanks! That German Shepherd with the floppy ear makes me smile every time I see her.

JR Krishna from India on February 09, 2014:

Those pictures are so cute!!!

Shared them in pinterest

Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on March 27, 2013:

Only demanding when she needs to be, right? Sounds fun. Labs are great but if you had purchased one 11 years ago it would be the end of his life, and with a Shih Tzu you might still have 4 or more years in front of you.

Thanks for sharing this!

Bill De Giulio from Massachusetts on March 27, 2013:

Hi there Dr. Mark. A great look at these beautiful breeds. Years ago when we broke down and got a dog I wanted a Lab but my wife and kids opted for a Shih Tzu. She's 11 now and been a great companion although she is a little stubborn and demanding, especially when she wants to eat. They really do give unconditional love and she is certainly a member of the family. Great job. Voted up, shared, etc.

Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on March 27, 2013:

How old is Zowie? Recent research shows that spaying makes females more aggressive if done early.

Pamela-anne from Miller Lake on March 27, 2013:

Well researched hub great info on a variety of breeds we have a black shepherd (Zowie); she gets aggressive around other dogs at dog park. I am hoping if we get her fixed she will become less aggressive. Thanks for the info take care.

10. Bulldog

(Picture Credit: IRYNA KAZLOVA/Getty Images)

You might not guess from their small stature, but Bulldogs are descendants of ancient Mastiff-type dogs. Though they may be a little vertically challenged these days, they still retain their stocky build.

Not the most energetic breed on this list, the Bulldog is comfortable with being a lapdog and letting some of the minor annoyances slide. They tend to be relaxed and move at a slower pace, but that also means you won’t have to worry about them chasing or nipping at kids who play, like some herding dogs do.

If you want a dog who won’t sweat the small stuff, the Bulldog is one who stays cool as a cucumber.

The 10 Most Popular Dog Breeds in the Country

Did your best friend make the list?

Dog lovers, perk up your ears. The American Kennel Club just revealed the top breeds for 2019, and lots of favorite companions are back on top. Labs have reigned supreme as the number one pick for more than quarter of a century now, but there are a few surprises among the ranks. Chances are you know someone who's gotten a French Bulldog in the past few years — and it's easy to see why. Those cute pups have ridden their wave of popularity all the way to the fourth place.

Check out the 10 most popular breeds below, and head over to the AKC website to see more about the list.

These friendly and active pups have held the top spot the past 28 years in a row. "This is a do-everything breed that needs to be with its humans," long-timer breeder Erin Henlon-Hall told the AKC. "It personifies the definition of versatility — hunting, showing, family, dock diving, tracking, obedience. It’s as American as baseball, hot dogs, and apple pie."

These trusted companions often work as police dogs and service dogs because they're fiercely loyal to their main caretakers.

This intelligent, friendly breed is basically the movie star of the group with starring roles on Full House, Air Bud, and Homeward Bound.

Frenchies have big personalities but require minimal exercise. It's no wonder the big-eared pooches are also the top choice in New York, San Francisco, and Miami, the AKC announced.

A presidential pick, both Calvin Coolidge and Warren Harding owned these dignified, courageous canines.

Curious and merry, beagles will follow their noses anywhere (and often into trouble).

They come in standard, miniature, and toy size varieties, but all poodles are considered one (extremely intelligent) breed. As for that fancy haircut, the "poodle clip" is designed to protect the joints and organs in cold water — even though most work as family dogs now.

Known as protective guardians, Rottweilers can have a softer side as loving and loyal companions to their owners.

"GSPs" are known as great hunting and field dogs because of their intelligence and strong sense of smell.

Fun fact: Yorkies became a fashionable pet in the late Victorian era, but they actually started off as vermin catchers in clothing mills.

This breed has a big heart and is great for families with small children. French bulldogs are generally very patient and gentle with family members of all ages. Just make sure to keep them entertained. If you're a family on the go, the French bulldog will appreciate feeling included and joining in on your group adventures. Little family members will have fun playing fetch with this breed, while older members of the family will appreciate their loyal personalities — and all of the cuddles that come along with the lovable breed.

As always, when you bring a new dog into your home, make sure to properly introduce your children and other family members to the pet. Set ground rules for what to do (and not do) to the newest furry member of your family. To help acclimate the entire household to the dog, assign everyone a task to help out. This can be feeding the dog at mealtime, providing the dog with fresh water, playing with the dog, and taking the pup on a morning or evening walk. This will give each member of the family a sense of pride and responsibility when it comes to caring for the dog.

Most of all, avoid picking a breed based on looks. Get to know the personality of each dog breed so that you can make the best decision for you and your family.

What Are the Best Dog Breeds for a Family Pet?

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Being man's best friend, a dog definitely makes an excellent family pet, but some breeds are more suitable than others. The single most important quality is the ability to get along with children. A family dog should be easy going and tolerant, but also playful and a good companion. Some people may also want an animal that will discourage would-be intruders — in this case, protectiveness and an imposing appearance might be considered important characteristics. While, with the right training, any specific breed, or mixed breed dogs, can make a wonderful companion. We checked with the folks at Pettable for some insights on among the best breeds for a family pet:

Labrador Retriever

This active, playful and exuberant dog makes a marvelous pet for many families. Its genetic makeup gives it a natural instinct to recover anything thrown, be it a Frisbee®, stick or ball. A family with children who enjoy a lot of physical activities, such as playing catch, running, and swimming, may love having a Labrador. A big dog with an even bigger heart, this intelligent creature is typically good-natured, gentle and trustworthy with children.

Golden Retriever

The Golden Retriever is another favorite choice. Usually quite friendly and easy to train, its devotion to its owners often makes it a great guard dog. This may be a perfect pet for families who can give it plenty of time, space and attention. A demonstrative pet, a Golden Retriever may show its love by being eager to please and obeying its owners' commands. This dog is also an excellent swimmer and often will not hesitate to rescue a drowning child.

German Shepherd

Highly intelligent and extremely faithful, the German Shepherd is often considered to be an outstanding animal. Its noble appearance only accentuates its typically keen curiosity and brilliant ability to solve problems. This is one dog that usually needs plenty of stimulation, both mentally and physically. Its natural desire to herd and constantly stay close to its "pack" — owners — can lead to separation anxiety problems, but its patience and love for children often more than make up for this.


Many people find this twinkle-eyed, merry little dog to be a pleasure to own. Inquisitive and stubborn, it is often a tenacious tracker and hunter, so it needs to be leashed when taken on a walk. The beagle is typically a submissive canine, yielding easily to the command and domination of its owners, making it manageable even for young children. Since this dog requires a large dose of adoration, especially from children, it is a family pet recommended by many.

Golden Retrievers are a popular family pet.


Whether it is the toy, miniature, or standard-sized poodle, this dog is considered one of the smartest and most sensitive of all dog breeds, which often makes it a wonderful family pet. A family with young children would likely find the standard-sized poodle most suitable, as it tends to have a more even temperament and often responds well to obedience training, compared to its smaller counterparts.

A poodle is considered a particularly good dog for a family.

Boston Terrier

This 12- to 14-inch (30.5 to 35.6 cm) animal is typically a loving, intelligent and playful bundle of joy to have around the house. Pet owners, including children, can often easily handle this mild-tempered animal. A mix between an English Terrier and an American Bulldog, this canine usually gets along beautifully with people from all walks of life — adults, children, old folks, as well as other dogs and domestic pets. A number of other terrier breeds, for example the Staffordshire Bull Terrier, also make good family pets.

Pugs are known for being very good with people.


As a family pet, this highly energetic canine companion may be able to keep the children occupied all day long. Unlike other dogs, the Boxer often remains high-spirited despite growing older and more mature. Being protective comes naturally to this animal, so parents may be able to rely on it to be an excellent family watchdog. Its typical automatic bond with children and never ending enthusiasm are endearing qualities for a pet.

Teaching a dog basic commands is part of good pet ownership.


These herding dogs, often seen in sheepdog trials, are usually easy going and loyal. They tend to have high intelligence, love to play and are protective toward children. As they are descended from working dogs, most like to be kept busy, so they need plenty of exercise and games, but they often make excellent pets for a family willing to spend lots of time with them.

Bulldogs can be stubborn, but they are generally calm and tend to be good with children.


This Dutch breed, although originally used as watchdogs, can also make an excellent family pet. They are typically playful, learn quickly, can easily be taught tricks, and enjoy playing games with children. Due to their heritage, they also tend to make good watchdogs — they will quickly announce the presence of strangers by barking, but they are usually not aggressive and they are unlikely to attack the postman.

The Pug is a small, or “toy,” breed that is very suitable for families living in apartments or flats. They have a somewhat comical appearance, which suits their playful temperaments. Pugs are often described as big dogs in a small package, as they often have very outgoing personalities, get along extremely well with people, and make great companions for children. They seem to prefer people to dogs, in most cases, but will generally be happy with other pets.

Other Large Dogs

For people with the facilities for a very large breed, a Newfoundland or Bernese Mountain Dog are both good choices. They are usually strong, protective toward their families, and big enough to deter intruders. Although enormous, they are often very gentle, easy going, and happy to play with children. Newfoundlands are very good swimmers.

Things to Consider

All the breeds above often make good family pets. Nevertheless, poor breeding, lack of proper obedience training, and cruel treatment are still factors that can affect and change a dog's character. To have a well-trained, good-tempered animal, parents must check carefully into the background of both the breeder and the dog before taking it home.

Other things to consider are the size of the animal and its need for exercise. Prospective dog owners should consider the degree of commitment they are prepared to make. For families living in an apartment or flat, one of the smaller breeds would probably be more appropriate. It should also be kept in mind that larger breeds will eat more, and therefore represent a bigger financial commitment.

Some breeds of dogs require more physical activity than others.

Watch the video: Low Maintenance Dogs For Busy Owners

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