Choosing the right dog breed for you and your family

So you have finally made the decision to bring a four-legged friend of the canine variety into your home but how do you know which dog breed is right for you? It’s not just as simple as choosing the cutest puppy, choosing a dog needs to be taken seriously with lots of consideration before you make your final decision. You can find lots of useful information online and in books or magazines about different dog breeds and their needs. you can even complete online tests to help you choose your ideal dog. Simon and I had fun completing the Legal & General Breed Selector quiz, just don’t tell Bramble that we both came out with Labrador Retrievers and Labradoodles!

Points to consider

Cute puppies
Photo by Patrice Alsteen

Time for exercise

Dogs need exercise come rain or shine, light or dark but some dogs need more than others. Do you have time to play games with your dog and take them for walks? If you are the kind of person who walks miles each day, consider whether the dog you choose will be able to keep up with you.

Training and Socialisation

Despite growing up with dogs myself and already having owned three dogs of my own in adulthood, I forgot how much time it takes to train a dog. Bramble was 2 years old when we bought him and he had some training but not when it came to being house-trained. Those first few weeks of constantly cleaning up mess were tiring and frustrating, to say the least. Thankfully, when it came to socialisation I didn’t have to worry because Bramble loves other dogs and humans but that isn’t always the case so you need to ensure that you socialise your pet to keep others safe from harm.

Vet’s Bills

Dog at vets

This was one of our biggest considerations before getting Bramble. We had seen how costly vets bills could become with family members whose pets had become poorly or had accidents. We did lots of research on pet insurance. We started with how much we could afford and then searched for the best cover from there. However, I didn’t consider that the pet insurance wouldn’t cover the standard vet’s fees like annual boosters, flea and worming treatments.

Home – them and you

Are you the type of person who likes their home shipshape and Bristol fashion or do you prefer the lived-in look? If you don’t want to be vacuuming every day then do your research on which dogs drop their coats regularly and which don’t. I can tell you from experience that Bramble (Cocker Spaniel) loses lots of hair every day and I’ve noticed it even more since we have tiled our hallway.

What about your dog? Where will they sleep? Are you planning on using a crate, a dog bed, a kennel or will they be sharing your bed? I have never used a crate before with my dogs but for Bramble, it was a necessity. The plan had been for it to be on a temporary basis but Bramble loves his crate, it’s where he feels safe and for an anxious dog like Bramble it’s his haven. Luckily our kitchen can take the size of the crate now that we have knocked our kitchen and dining room into one but it would never have worked when the rooms were separated.

Which Dog Breed?

Toy Breeds


These might be the smallest of the bunch but don’t be fooled, whilst some will love nothing more than to sit on your lap all day and do nothing, others are a pocket rocket of energy so will need lots of exercise and stimulation.

  • Pugs – generally happy little dogs with a kind nature who long to be part of the family.
  • Cavalier King Charles Spaniel – (my first dog Rusty) – a happy companion who will love going out for walks and cosying up by the fire with you.
  • Yorkshire Terrier – these little fellas have a strong hunting instinct and so will need lots of gameplay and exercise as well as regular grooming.
  • Chihuahua – for a tiny dog they need a lot of exercises because they are highly intelligent so their naughty streak might show if they haven’t been tired out during the day. The good news is they are easy to train so you could have lots of fun together.


Shih Tzu

Utility dogs come in all shapes and sizes but some of the more popular breeds in this category include;

  • Shih Tzu – we have two of these little monkeys in our family and they make a brilliant family pet. They know who they are and where they want to be, they are generally extroverts with big personalities who need a lot of grooming.
  • Shar-Pei – these big wrinkly fellas were originally bred to guard and hunt. They make excellent guard dogs who adore the company of their owners.
  • Lhasa apso – the Lhasas are independent dogs who are happy in their own company but with lots of training and play they can become a great family dog who will love you unconditionally.
  • Miniature Schnauzer – a tough dog with great agility, they are switched on and alert and great for people who live in a town as they are quite small.
  • Bulldog – don’t let their grumpy face fool you, the Bulldog is a very loving and even-tempered dog who will make a great family pet.


Staffordshire Bull Terrier

The terrier breeds were bred specifically to hunt and kill vermin so it’s in their nature to dig and kill, they need lots of stimulation and play because they are intelligent dogs. That said, they are also very loyal and loving dogs.

  • Staffordshire Bull Terrier – I stand by the Staffies being a very misunderstood dog, my best dog ever (Ty) was a Staffie and was the softest, most loving and intelligent dog I ever had. Unfortunately, they have earned a bad reputation from some of the less than ideal owners who have used them for fighting.
  • West Highland Terrier – a happy little dog who adores children, they love to be active and will go out for a walk even on the coldest, wettest days so they are great for the UK!
  • Jack Russell – an intelligent and very active dog that needs a lot of stimulation. The Jack Russells are happy little dogs who will make a great family pet provided they are kept busy.
  • Bull Terrier – admittedly not the prettiest of dogs but they love people and can be a very friendly, loving pet.
  • Border Terrier – bred as a working dog the Border likes to be kept active so would make a great pet for the outdoorsy family.



Hound dogs are bred as hunting dogs to work away from people so they can be very independent and less easy to form a bond with. They like companionship but also like their own space, although they can be destructive if left alone for long periods of time.

  • Beagle – a beautiful dog which looks like an overgrown puppy in my eyes, they love to be kept active and once they discover a scent will give chase without a second thought.
  • Basset Hound  – a very easygoing dog who is as happy wallowing in mud as they are snoring by the fire.
  • Dachshund – a little dog with a lot of energy, this dog can run for miles (especially when it discovers a smell) but will love curling up on your lap afterwards.
  • Whippet – the whippets have earned themselves a reputation for being extremely loving and affectionate towards their human parents.
  • Rhodesian Ridgeback – a loyal and protective dog which makes a great family pet.


Siberian Husky

Super intelligent dogs who need lots of exercise and stimulation, they tend to be a larger dog but often can be the gentlest of dogs when trained well and socialised.

  • Siberian Husky – these dogs have a strong natural hunting instinct and require lots of exercises. They can be quite bullish but friendly although they will need a lot of training and specialist care.
  • Boxer – a big, bouncy ball of energy. The boxer makes a great family companion and will be very loyal.
  • Rottweiler – whilst they have a strong guarding instinct the Rotty’s are actually a very gentle dog. You will need to provide them with lots of opportunities to exercise and will need to give them lots of specialist care.
  • Dogue de Bordeaux -these dogs were bred to hunt and fight however with careful training they can be a loyal and loving pet.
  • Doberman – despite their reputation the Doberman is actually a great family pet who loves to get outside on long runs and exploration with the family.


Shetland Sheepdog

Pastoral dogs were bred to work with livestock so they are very alert, active and intelligent dogs who need lots of mental and physical stimulation if you don’t want them to go rogue and find their own entertainment (think destruction).

  • Shetland Sheepdog – a happy, bouncy dog who will be affectionate with their humans but might be wary of strangers.
  • Smooth Collie – a friendly dog with natural herding instinct, they need a lot of exercises right and to be kept active.
  • Rough Collie – rather like their smooth counterparts but need much more grooming.
  • Border Collie – a humans best friend who needs lots of physical and mental stimulation.
  • German Shepherd Dog – a very intelligent dog who will work hard for you but needs to be kept busy.


Cocker Spaniel

The gundogs make excellent family dogs because they are very affectionate, they love to be kept active and will love to impress you with their intelligence.

  • Cocker Spaniel – a loving and clever dog who can be easily trained and has a lot of energy.
  • English Springer Spaniel – the perfect dog for the active family, this dog will love nothing more than joining you on a long hike.
  • Labrador Retriever – the best ‘all-rounder’ this dog loves children, has oodles of energy and is generally very happy.
  • Golden Retriever – as above, this big bundle of energy will make a great family companion.
  • Weimaraner – a little bit ditzy but a great family pet nonetheless.


Often described as the Heinz 57 variety the crossbreed tends to cover all other dogs which don’t fit the above categories because they have been crossbred or are mongrels. They tend to have less prominent behaviour traits and can make excellent pets. They can, however, be affected by health problems due to the interbreeding.

To learn more about breeds, read detailed guides on DoggieDesigner.

Choosing the right dog breed for you and your family

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