What’s the Right Type of Pet for Your Family?

When it comes to care and feeding, obviously not all creatures are created equal. How much animal can you handle? Here, the experts help you decide—before the kids corner you with specific requests! And for more advice, take a look at the six things to consider before getting a pet.

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Large Dogs

Stats: Average size: 70 pounds

Average Life Span: 10 years

Traits: Breeds such as retrievers can be gentle and even-keeled with young kids and are highly intelligent and trainable within a year. Some breeds, like Labradors, tend
to chew things when left unsupervised. Their constantly wagging tails are not great around delicate objects.

Good to Know: Sporting breeds, like retrievers, are athletic. They love to swim, fetch, and run around, so access to a yard is ideal. At a minimum, most big dogs require two walks a day.

Large Breeds to Consider:

Belgian Malinois: Known for their role as police dogs, many in this intelligent breed have protective instincts that can translate well into a family guardian. Training will likely be a breeze because these dogs thrive on pleasing their owners.

Labrador and Golden Retriever: Both are among the top three of America’s favorite breeds according to the American Kennel Club. They would be loving, loyal, and active additions to any family.

Medium-Size Dogs

Stats: Average size: 30 to 50 pounds

Average Life Span: 13 years

Traits: They are active and playful but may not require as much exercise as bigger breeds. Their size means they’re comfortable living in most spaces. Some medium-size dogs, such as border collies, were bred for herding, so they can chase and nip when playing with children.

Good to Know: French bulldogs, a popular midsize breed, are cuddly and easy to groom, thanks to a short coat. But they (and some other breeds) are also prone to health issues: The smooshed face can lead to eye infections and breathing difficulty. The wrinkly folds need regular wipe-downs to avoid irritation.

Medium Breeds to Consider:

Bulldogs: (Some Bulldogs fit into the large breed size parameters as well.) This non-sporting breed is laid back and are often ideal pets for busy owners because they require fewer, shorter walks (so an on-the-go lifestyle won’t interfere with their needs). If you’re looking for similar attributes, but a smaller size, consider a Pug (they’re about ¼ the size of a Bulldog).

Small Dogs

Stats: Average size: 5 to 15 pounds

Average Life Span: 15 years

Traits: Most of these easy-to-tote toy breeds—like the Shih Tzu, Chihuahua, and Yorkie—are spunky (read: noisy) and affectionate. Their small size means there’s less fur to shed around the house. Toy breeds’ small frames are fragile and prone to injury—a risk that’s heightened in a house with small kids.

Good to Know: Grooming needs vary by breed. The Chihuahua’s coat requires only the occasional brushing. A longer-haired Yorkie needs a daily brushing and a grooming every month or two.

Small Breeds to Consider:

Terriers: (Jack Russell, Westie, Irish Terrier, etc. can fit within the medium breed size parameters as well.) Great for small spaces, these compact canines are easy to train and highly motivated by a job. They tend to be pretty vocal, so if you live in an apartment complex or have a new baby, consider that they might not stop barking when commanded to do so. Many Terriers are known for their rodent-hunting instincts, so may bolt after a scent during walks.