A Puppy for Christmas?

This post is sponsored by K9 Resorts. We at ABQ Mom partner with businesses that bring value to our readers.

What are the best dog breeds for families?

I know I am stepping on sacred ground here because so many of us have profound emotional attachment with the dogs of our youth and adult years. We love best what we have experienced. I am basing my opinions on input from veterinarians, staff at K9 Resorts, dog trainers, and my own experiences and prejudices.

A Puppy for Christmas?

Circumstances Matter

Do you live in a home with a yard? Do you have a small apartment? Or, do you want a working dog to run with you or a hunting dog or a lap dog? Your circumstances help determine what kind of pup you should get.

I will break my list down into five categories: family-friendly small dogs for small spaces, family-friendly large dogs for small spaces, family-friendly small dogs for big yards, family-friendly large dogs for yards, and finally, dogs to avoid for families.

First let me start encouraging everyone to consider a rescue dog.

Sometimes they do get puppies, and they often get dog breeds but most of their dogs are mixed breed dogs. At K9 Resorts we are huge supporters of Watermelon Mountain Ranch in West Rio Rancho. It is a no-kill shelter that has saved over 250,000 dogs in its 26-year history. K9 Resorts and Laurie and I personally donate to support their noble cause in protection of our best friends.

There are also rescue groups: lapdog rescues, golden retriever rescues, German shepherd rescues who also provide amazing puppies and dogs to deserving dog parents.

If you want predictability in behavior, a dog breed is the most reliable. Dogs have been bred for thousands of years to be our partners—doing specific work. Studies show that bred dogs are healthier and they provide the most predictable behavior pattern.

As a bird hunter, I have always found dogs from reputable breeders. Please avoid like the plague dogs from pet stores. Most often they come from puppy mills. You want to meet the parents of your new pup if possible and develop a relationship with the breeder. The breeder of my French Brittanys, Tex and Chaco, has also provided three other amazing dogs to family and friends, and I know he breeds dogs for biddability and bird skills. He breeds his dogs to maximize the best characteristics of his dogs.

Family-Friendly Small Dogs for Small Spaces

French Bulldog

One of our very favorite breeds at K9 Resorts is French Bulldogs. They are big, fun personalities who will play all day if given the opportunity. Like most dogs, I believe they will be happiest with another dog sibling, preferably another bulldog. They tolerate small spaces well.

Shih Tzu

These happy, people-oriented lap dogs are bred to please people. They can be vocalists but will be happy with part-time attention.

Cavalier King Charles

Joyful, outgoing CKC are lap dogs with gentle, friendly personalities. There are few more beautiful small dogs who just shine with good grooming.

Family-Friendly Big Dogs for Small Spaces (Not Recommended)

St. Bernard and Newfoundland

These are surprising big dogs breeds that love to sit around and need just a walk or two a day to be happy. They are very affectionate and love kids. One of my good friends with three boys has three of these huge dogs. He says a 20-minute walk a day exhausts these dogs, but they are great playmates and snuggle buddies to his boys.


Several dog trainers highly recommend greyhounds as incredibly warm and friendly dogs. Of course, they are incredibly athletic but are content with short, intense walks.

Family-Friendly Little Dogs for Big Yards

If you have a yard and enjoy the energy of more active dogs, these breeds are for you.


A delightful, family-friendly trail and hunting dog that is good with children and loves to be outdoors.

French Poodle (All Sizes)

These well-bred dogs are non-allergenic and barely shed for those folks with dog hair concerns. They are loving and fun dogs to be around. The toy versions do well in smaller spaces.

Family-Friendly Big Dogs for Big Spaces

Golden Retriever

Rarely are people disappointed with these affable, loyal, kind, friendly retrievers. Goldens love people and want to please. They train easily. We had three Goldens: Jingle, Eureka, and Copper. They raised our five kids. I have tears in my eyes as I remember what great partners they were to me in the field as well and dear friends to all our children.

Labrador Retriever

After year three, there is no more noble, gentle, and faithful friend to your family than a Lab. My first dog Mitzi as a child was a dear friend but a rapscallion. The first three years they are high-energy troublemakers, but good training helps them mature quickly. Several trainers tell me that the dogs bred for show are less energetic and more mellow than those bred for the field.


This amazing breed of working dog is a fine companion to any family with a little space.  They a low-key guard dogs with great social skills. I have seen dozens of Boxers as great family dogs. This is another well-bred dog.

Dogs to Avoid

Belgian Malinois

These intelligent high drive dogs are only for those folks serious enough to train them. Our general manager, Christie, an expert dog trainer, has a great Belgian Malinois but I can almost feel the energy vibrating from this amazing dog who she manages well. They can do great feats but need constant attention to be happy.

Any Fighting Breed

After good training, all dogs can be great companions, but dogs bred to fight, in my experience, can revert to their breeding more easily. Pit Bulls, Corsos, and Mastiffs all fit this category.

Large Shepherds and Cattle Dogs

These dogs need work to be happy. Otherwise, they tend to herd or nip your children. Beware of these highly intelligent, active dogs who are best owned by folks ready to train and work their dogs.

I have heard several dog behaviorists comment that they are concerned about the new Poo and Doodle dogs—because of overbreeding and neurological issues. Certainly, there are many great new mixed-breed dogs but right now there is a red flag warning on these pups.

My recommendations are what I like to call “safe bets.” Safety is the priority of every mom and dad, and the puppy breeds I have identified provide the best opportunity for a successful partnership. I welcome your opinions on the best family dog!

About Our Sponsor

K9 Resort is a state-of-the-art facility that provides world-class care and accommodation to their guests. It is owned locally by Lindsey and Laurie Gilbert. Their facility is split to reduce the number of guests in one area. This helps to reduce stress levels in your pets. They have been rated as the top pet care franchise in the nation and are internationally recognized for their luxury accommodations, state-of-the-art facilities, flawless customer service, and their loving staff.


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