Choosing the right four-legged friend will make you and your new pet happy.

By Doug Jimerson
Updated January 08, 2020
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Adding a new dog to the family is a big decision. Not only are there many different dog breeds to choose from (the American Kennel Club (AKC) officially recognizes 200, with more being added to the list every year), but it's also essential the new pet gels with everyone in the family. For instance, it may need to adjust to a noisy household, young children that tug on ears and tails, or many handlers.

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Before selecting a name and pet-proofing the house, parents will want to research different family-friendly dog breeds (or combinations of breeds) and take each one's energy levels, care requirements, and personality traits into account. This list includes 10 popular choices, plus information on each one's history and characteristics. And don't forget: though puppies are adorable, they can be expensive and a considerable amount of work. If you find a breed on this list you like, make sure to check out the AKC's network of breed-specific rescues to find a young, middle-aged, or senior pooch looking for a forever home.

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Charlie Brown didn't always get everything right, but his choice of dog was pitch-perfect. Snoopy, his loyal beagle, epitomized this medium-size hound's best qualities: loyalty, friendliness, and fun. These sturdy dogs, which weigh under 20 pounds, can play rough-and-tumble games in the backyard and then come in for a long, relaxing nap on the couch. Their short hair coat is easy to maintain and comes in a variety of color combinations, including red, black, lemon, white, tan, and blue. Beagles are members of the hound family, so they do follow their nose if they come across a pleasing scent, but with training early on to follow basic commands, these dogs can be the perfect family dog, especially with a longer life expectancy of 10-15 years.

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Smart, outgoing, and eager to please, the Labrador retriever is the ideal choice for active families. Its short waterproof coat also gives it a leg up on other breeds when it comes to lake or ocean activities. They do require regular exercise and can become bored and destructive if left alone in the backyard all day. Labradors are a snap to groom and come in three colors: black, yellow, and chocolate. The dogs vary anywhere from 65-80 pounds and live up to 12 years.

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The happy personality of golden retrievers is legendary. These dogs, which live around 10-12 years, love everyone and are smart enough to master a wide range of tricks and tasks. Originally from Scotland, golden retrievers have taken America by storm and always land in the top 10 list of dog breeds, according to the AKC. Like the Labrador, golden retrievers love the water and will become willing swimming partners with your kids. Early obedience training will help channel this breed's intelligence into positive activities. They usually live 10-12 years.

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In the 1960s, few breeds were as popular as the cocker spaniel. Sadly, over time, they fell out of fashion, but they remain a top pick for young families. The happy-go-lucky cocker weighs anywhere from 20-30 pounds and is the ideal size to pack in the car with a crowd of kids in the backseat. They are a smart, active breed that requires regular exercise and early obedience training. They can easily learn a variety of tricks, too. Cocker spaniels, which live between 10-14 years, require regular grooming to keep them looking good.

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Tall, elegant, and intelligent, the standard poodle will delight you and your family for many years. Bred originally as a retriever, the standard poodle is a rugged breed that revels in outdoor activities. And, because they are so smart, your kids should have no trouble teaching them a variety of fun tricks. What's more, they are large enough to roughhouse with the kids (they weigh anywhere between 40 and 70 pounds), but their slender build makes them easy to squeeze into your car. Plus, poodles can live anywhere from 10-18 years, so they're a great dog for little ones to have around for their entire childhood. Although the hypoallergenic dog's coat is thick and curly, they actually shed minimal fur. Standard poodles require regular trips to the groomer.

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Although they are small in stature, weighing in at about 14-18 pounds, don't discount the pug as a great companion for an active family. These happy little canines have a go-anywhere, do-anything attitude, and a cute, pushed-in face with large expressive eyes that endear them to kids everywhere. Available in black and fawn, pugs require almost no grooming except for an occasional brushing to remove loose hair and dirt. Just make sure to keep an eye on them in hot weather because, with their pushed-in noses, they can overheat easier than some other breeds. That aside, the pug, which lives 13-15 years, is certain to delight everyone in your family.

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There's no mistaking a Bernese mountain dog when you see it coming down the street in its striking tricolor coat. The Bernese mountain dog (affectionately nicknamed the Berner) is happy to spend every waking moment with its family. These outgoing dogs, which were bred in the Swiss mountains to pull carts, are easily trained for any task. Their long, soft coats require regular grooming, and they tend to have shorter life spans than other breeds (6-8 years), but every second with a Bernese mountain dog is precious.

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Ever since Lassie first appeared on the silver screen, the rough collie has been a famous family dog. Intelligent and handsome, collies, which live around 12-14 years, are quick learners and active participants in all family activities. Because collies are members of the herding group, they might try moving children and guests around your living room as they would sheep. Still, with early obedience training, you can easily keep that behavior under control. The most popular coat color is sable and white, but tricolor, merle, and white collies are also available. Regular brushing is a must to keep their long coat free of tangles, but if this seems like too much work, there is also a smooth collie breed. Their weight varies anywhere from 50-75 pounds.

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By their very nature, terriers are active, rough-and-tumble dogs that revel in any outdoor activity. But, they can also be headstrong, so early obedience training is essential. The West Highland white terrier, commonly called the Westie, is a generally happy, easygoing dog that is as at home on the couch watching cartoons as it is rambling in the woods with its owners. Westies, which have a life expectancy of 13-15 years, do require regular grooming to keep their wiry coat in top form. Their small size (weighing in at just 15-20 pounds) makes them ideal traveling companions.

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If you are looking for a big, huggable family member, you can't go wrong with a Newfoundland. These web-footed water dogs have an instinct to watch over family members and have even been known to save people from drowning. They have a thick, waterproof coat that is available in black, brown, gray, and black-and-white (commonly called landseer). Although male Newfoundlands are sizeable and can weigh 100-150 pounds, they don't take up as much floor space as you think and generally curl themselves into a big furry ball for a snooze. They do have a thick undercoat that sheds once a year, so regular brushing will help keep your house from becoming a big furball. They usually live for 9-10 years.

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