Family of four with their dog

The Best Family Dog Breeds Commonly Found In Australia

Are you looking for the best family dog breed for your home? No worries, we’ve got you covered.

 We’ve gathered the best dog breeds for families with all the info you need to make up your mind. Your next puppy is waiting for you!

Families with their dogs.

What Is A Good Family Dog?

Before diving into the best family dog breeds, it’s important to understand what we’re talking about. ‘Good family dogs’ can be a very broad term, and it’s easy to get confused. What does it mean when a dog is good for families?

Of course, the answer will depend on your specific situation and your family. Your family might include kids, older adults, teenagers, or even other pets. It could also be a mix of any of these elements! Whatever your household looks like, a good family dog -for you- is the one that will fit into your home’s dynamic. Because of it, this isn’t a blanket term that means the same thing for everyone!

When looking for the best dog breed for families, here’s what you should consider depending on your situation:

  • Do you have children? – of course, adult supervision is a must if you’re bringing a dog into your home. As the guardian of both dog and child, it’s your responsibility to make sure they get along well, respect each other and stay safe. However, generally speaking, younger kids will need a more patient family dog that isn’t likely to snap at them even if they tug their ears or tail.

    Related: Best Dogs For Children.

  • Do you have older adults? – this consideration is similar to the one above. Generally speaking, older adults can’t deal with very rambunctious dogs. A pup that likes to run around the home and isn’t mindful of their surroundings might make someone with limited mobility fall down. Very large dogs in small spaces might also be an issue, as they might inadvertently step on someone’s toes or just hit someone with their wagging tail.
  • What is your lifestyle? – this has to do with how much attention and energy you can offer your new pup. If you’re busy with young kids and work, you’ll probably do better with an older dog that doesn’t need endless playtime or walks. If you love enjoying nature with family, choose a breed that wants physical activity.
  • Do you have space? – of course, this will narrow down your options, particularly if you live in a small space or your household is very crowded. Some dog breeds need a private space where they can get away from the noise and the hustle of everyday life. Some dogs want to stay with you at all times and might make your living quarters feel cramped. Larger dog breeds need bigger beds, but also space to run around and play. Toy-size breeds can be happy just running around your home. Consider these issues before choosing a dog breed for your family.
  • What’s your schedule like? – all dogs need lifelong training, but this is especially critical when they first enter your home. However, some breeds need a little more work during training, and this implies more hours dedicating to sessions and positive reinforcement.

Based on these considerations, you’ll have to make a list on what you need from your family dog. Make sure to note down your expectations regarding exercise needs, patience, energy level and size. Then, use that list to figure out your options or, even better, visit your local rescue centre to see if they have pups that fit your needs.


How To Find A Dog That’s Good For Families

Now that you have a better idea of what would make a dog good for your specific family situation, how do you find your ideal pup? At this point you have two options: find a responsible dog breeder or adopt a pup.

For first-time owners, we recommend visiting your local rescue centre before considering buying a purebred puppy.

Rescue and adoption centres are great to find family dogs because people there have first-hand knowledge of their dog’s personality. This is very different from adopting a newborn puppy, where your only indication of possible behaviours is the parent’s personality. If you get an older puppy (older than 6 months) they will already show their main personality traits, and you’ll have a better idea of their activity level, patience and overall character.

Another benefit of adopting through a rescue centre is that many times dogs found here have been fostered. This means they already know how to live in a home setting, and their foster family will have even more knowledge to share about their personality.

What to do if you want a dog with a clear breed? Then check out any local breed rescue. In Australia, there are plenty of breed-specific rescues dedicated to helping specific breeds and their crosses, mainly because of their local popularity. Unfortunately, the most sought-after a dog breed is, the higher their abandonment rate is as well. If you’re interested in any of the family dog breeds we mention in this article, we’ve already linked some local breed rescues you can contact. They’ll probably have some pups waiting for a home just like yours?

Finally, it’s important to consider dog adoption will give these pups a new chance at life that most of them have never been offered. Rescued pups were generally abandoned at some point, taken out of dangerous situations or just plain rejected by their previous family. Most adopted dogs are thrilled to share their lives with you and will be a great companion for years to come.


The Best Family Dog Breeds in Australia

Considering that ‘family dog’ can be a generalisation, how did we come up with this list? We based it off of Pet Insurance Australia’s list of most popular dog breeds in Australia. Using their popularity with the breeds’ general personality, we cleaned up the list and came up with the best dog breeds for Aussie families. Do any of these sound like a good fit for your home?

Cavoodle

Cavoodle running

What you should know

Size

small

Coat length

medium to long

Energy level

high

Great with littles

yes

Trainability

easy to train

This is the moniker for dogs that are born from crossing a poodle and a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. They are small, fluffy and very loving. Plus, they thoroughly enjoy spending the evening on their people’s lap.

The Cavoodle has achieved the title of most popular dog in Australia! This shows that more and more people are leaning towards the so-called ‘designer breeds’, or dogs that come from crossing two pure breeds. This practice has been frowned upon, mainly because the rise in popularity also means there are more irresponsible breeders that bring puppies into the world, without a care for health and safety concerns.

PRO TIP: A word of caution about Cavoodle puppies in Australia

Cavalier King Charles Spaniels are very popular, but careless breeding through the decades has made this one of the most disease-prone dog breeds. In-breeding practices and unethical breeding have reinforced several inherited health conditions that are prevalent among purebred Cavalier King Charles Spaniels and their crosses.

These issues are very serious and many of them are life-threatening and shorten their lifespan. In fact, more than 1 out of every 2 of these pups will have heart murmurs by age 5, and the percentage increases the older they get. This is something to consider before adopting any Cavalier King Charles puppies or a crossbreed, including Cavoodles. If you want to know more, check out the Cavalier Health site.

Cavoodles are great little pups for first-time owners since they are eager to please and enjoy praise, and because of this, many people think of them as the best dog for young families. They are very high energy, but because of their size, it’s easy for them to burn off lots of steam just running around the house and barking. Keep in mind they can become bothersome barkers if not properly trained, so thorough socialization to get them used to regular outdoor noises is essential.

Related: Complete Cavoodle Breed Profile.

In general, these pups are fairly adaptable and will gladly go on long walks with you as well as snuggle up for a movie marathon. Of course, they still need consistent walks, obedience training and dedication, but in general, it’s easy to get the hang of their care even if you don’t have much dog experience.

While some people think this crossbreed doesn’t shed, this isn’t true. Both the poodle and the cavalier shed, and depending on the curliness of your pup’s coat, you’ll have more or less shedding to clean up. Daily brushing and weekly grooming sessions are a must to keep this little one happy.

Maltese

Maltese

What you should know

Size

small

Coat length

long

Energy level

high

Great with littles

yes

Trainability

Easy for first-time owners. Loves to please

Looking for a small family dog? Then the spunky Maltese might be the right choice for you. This fluffy pup has a lively personality and enough brains to outsmart you. Due to its impressive looks and mellow character, Maltese and their crosses are a family favourite across Australia.

The good-looking Maltese has more to offer than its stunning looks. These small pups enjoy being part of everyday family dynamics and will do well in both small condos and sprawling homes. Thanks to their size, this breed only needs short walks to get their exercise needs in, but they can also get used to going on long walks or jogs with you.

On the other hand, because they are dedicated companions it’s very common for them to have separation anxiety, especially because people tend to skip training small dogs. To counteract this, you must focus on socialization and training to ensure your Maltese pup grows to be a balanced adult dog.

Maltese are great for first-time dog owners because of their people-pleasing personality and cuddly ways. However, their grooming might be too involved for many. Their naturally long coat reaches the floor and even though they don’t have an undercoat, daily brushing is essential to keep their skin healthy.

Because grooming their long hair can be very time-consuming, many families choose to clip their coat short into a ‘puppy cut’. This has the advantage of needing significantly less grooming, but you’ll need to make appointments at least twice a month to keep their hair short.

Labrador

Black Labrador

What you should know

Size

medium to large

Coat length

short

Energy level

high

Great with littles

yes

Trainability

easy

One of the classic family dogs, Labrador retrievers are popular for good reason. Their patience with grabby hands, happy personality and size has made this breed a family favourite for decades. Thanks to their sport ability, this is a very active dog that needs consistent exercise to be happy, but they also love a good snuggle on the couch!

If you love the outdoors, Labrador retrievers might be a great option for you. Good-natured and hard-working, these popular dogs are one of the world’s most popular breeds. Since they are so smart and generally sweet, they are easy to train and have been used as assistance, rescue and police dogs.

For first-time owners, Labradors are a great breed to learn training basics. They are pretty smart, love people and will be happy to please you as soon as they understand what’s asked of them. Keep in mind this is an active breed that loves to eat, so a consistent exercise schedule of at least 40 minutes a day is essential to avoid obesity.

If you intend to adopt a Labrador, you’ll need to find a good breeder or just adopt from a rescue. Because of their popularity, they are prone to inherited health issues that can be very painful like hip dysplasia. Ask your breeder for updated health screens for both parents and, if possible, your puppy.

In general, we recommend going the adoption route since so many Labradors are abandoned every year. Plus, retired Labradors often find themselves in need of a home even after years of training as therapy dogs, police dogs or eyesight dogs. Here’s a list of some Australian Labrador rescue groups where you can ask about adoptable pups:

Golden Retriever

Golden retriever

What you should know

Size

medium to large

Coat length

medium to large

Energy level

high

Great with littles

yes

Trainability

easy

Of course, we couldn’t make a list on the top family dogs without mentioning the Golden Retriever. This is a classic family dog breed for a reason: they are smart, even-tempered and enjoy spending time with the little ones.

This is a friendly breed that’s eager to please and enjoys spending time with their loved ones. Many first-time dog owners choose Golden Retrievers because their smarts mean training is relatively easy. Plus, if you have littles that want to partake in the puppy’s education, Goldens are a good option.

One of the main benefits of this breed is that they stay puppy-like throughout their adult years. In general, most Goldens are thrilled to share their life with you, cuddle on the couch and run errands. This breed loves their people, and they don’t do well when left at home all day. If you have a very busy life and your dog will stay alone for hours on end, reconsider getting a Golden. Of course, considering this is a large dog they do need consistent exercise. This means daily walks and a fenced-in yard are a must.

Keep in mind this is a long-haired dog and they shed significantly. Schedule daily brushing sessions and bi-monthly grooming to keep on top of the excess hair! On top of brushing, keeping your Golden Retriever healthy also involves consistent vet check-ups. Due to poor breeding practices, this breed is prone to several health issues like hip dysplasia, and cancer is also fairly common. Avoid any scares with regular visits to the doctor to make sure everything is working properly.

If a Golden Retriever seems like the right choice for your family, consider adoption. This is a very common breed in rescues, because many families buy irresponsibly and don’t fully understand the time commitment involved in dog ownership. Here’s a small list of rescues focused on rehoming Golden Retrievers. They have pups of all ages waiting for their forever home!

Border Collie

Border collie with a stick

Looking for a smart-as-a-whip, energetic family dog? Then the border collie could be the right choice. This is a family favourite because of their loving nature and amazing brains. Border collies are affectionate, but not every household will be the right fit. Here are the basics:

What you should know

Size

medium

Coat length

medium length

Energy level

very high

Great with littles

yes, but an adult needs to be the main handler. High prey drive around moving targets, including infants.

Trainability

easy but needs variety. Does best when challenged.

Border collies, when properly socialized, are loving with their family and wary of strangers. This is a working dog, so their activity needs are very high and you’ll need to supply the physical and mental stimulation they need to thrive. On the flip side, if you cannot provide this kind of consistent stimulation, border collies tend to become hyperactive, destructive, nippy and in some cases, aggressive.

Due to their working dog background, border collies are extremely attached to their owners even if they’d rather do things their way most of the time. But if you provide consistent exercise, they’ll be more likely to want to listen to your cues.

Related: Complete Border Collie Breed Profile.

However, because of their independent streak training can be hard even if they quickly grasp new cues. Border collies get bored really fast, and if they lose interest, they won’t listen to you anymore. Avoid any issues by providing challenging training sessions that they actually need to focus on to understand, coupled with a consistent exercise regime. Border collies excel at agility, scent work and tricks, so the world is your oyster!

If you’re interested in this breed, we recommend you get in touch with a local rescue. They’ll have first-hand knowledge of adoptable border collies and will have plenty of advice for new owners:

French Bulldog

Running French Bulldog

What you should know

Size

small

Coat length

short

Energy level

average

Great with littles

yes

Trainability

easy

If you’re looking for small family dogs for apartment living, a French bulldog might be the right choice. Small and easy to care for, Frenchies are some of Australia’s favourite family dog breeds because they are perfect for small living spaces. These funny pups shed minimally, love to cuddle and don’t need more than a short walk around the block to be happy. Is this the breed for you?

Funny and kind, French bulldogs are great for families looking for a pup. They are playful, loyal, smart and generally patient with grabby hands. Plus, since they have a flat snout, their exercise needs to be carefully monitored to avoid breathing issues. Because of it, French bulldogs need minimal daily exercise and will have to stay thin through their diet.

Another great thing about this breed is that they aren’t big barkers. Unlike other small family dogs, Frenchies are generally quiet and will only make noise if something is out of the ordinary. Of course, you’ll still have to socialize them to be well-adjusted pups, but overall, they are mellow little folks.

We highly recommend adopting instead of buying, since that way you’ll avoid getting a puppy mill dog that hasn’t been screened for any health issues, and you give a second chance to a pup that would otherwise be discarded. Here are some breed-specific French bulldog rescues in Australia where you can ask for adoptable pups:

Kelpie

Australian Kelpie

What you should know

Size

medium

Coat length

medium

Energy level

very high

Great with littles

under adult supervision and after being properly socialized. High prey drive.

Trainability

need some convincing. Focus on positive reinforcement and consistent exercise.

The Australian kelpie and their crosses are some of the most popular family dogs in the country. Their athletic looks, bold personality and hardworking character have helped them rise in popularity over the years.

However, this working dog isn’t the right fit for every household and is currently one of the dog breeds most frequently abandoned in Australia. Want to know if you should bring a kelpie into your home?

These hardworking herding dogs were specifically created to handle the rough Australian heat. They have endless energy that lets them run around in scorching temperatures, herd cattle, jump and keep an eye out for predators. Because of this, kelpies loathe staying at home. This breed thrives with daily activity, even better if they get to go with you on your daily errands.

Related: Complete Australian Kelpie Breed Profile.

Kelpies need consistent physical and mental stimulation to be happy. If left unattended, kelpies will become destructive and difficult to handle. Their strong prey drive also means they’ll chase after everything that moves, including running infants, cars, bikes and joggers. Avoid nipping and chasing by providing thorough socialization since puppyhood, and consistent exercise throughout their life. Training this breed can be difficult, since they need some convincing, usually in the form of plenty of treats. Plus, kelpies are very independent and smart, so whenever they get bored, they’ll stop paying attention to your cues.

In general, adopting a kelpie means using one to two hours per day to training and exercise, plus grooming and bonding time. If you’re very busy and cannot provide this dedicated time, then choose another breed. Countless kelpies are abandoned each year because families didn’t truly understand their needs, or just had too much to handle with young kids and a new pup.

While kelpies are good with the littles, an adult or experienced teen will have to be their main handler. Running, screaming kiddos can trigger their prey drive, so an adult will have to oversee these interactions to avoid issues like herding and nipping.

Because of these issues, we don’t recommend kelpies for first-time dog owners. But if you’re ready for a challenge, look into adopting a kelpie! Here are a few local rescues that can help you find your new best friend:


Final Thoughts

Did any of the pups in this list catch your eye? We hope our roundup of the best family dogs can help make up your mind. Let us know what’s your favourite family dog down below!

Eloisa Thomas

Eloisa Thomas is a dog lover & anthropologist. She enjoys writing content that will actually help people understand their dogs better. Eloisa is able to use her expertise to write informative posts on canine behaviour and training.

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