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We recently went on a search for a new dog for our family of four which includes two small children, a 6 and 2 year old, plus a 13 year old grouchy Shepherd mutt. We put our adored 11 year old Labrador retriever down two years earlier and we were ready for a new dog. We looked at the local shelter but really wanted a puppy and they never seemed to have any during the months we were looking.

After having experienced the sheer work and energy a Labrador requires (especially early on), my husband wasn't up for the task again and was pushing for a Pug. He wanted a small family dog and thought they were cute and funny.

We were also particular about the breed the dog was (or was mixed with) because of our family and lifestyle. We knew we needed a dog that required less physical energy from us daily and could chill at home, because we were busy with work and kids. But, we also needed a breed that could keep up with our active, outdoor lifestyle. Basically, our ideal dog needed to be able to keep up with us on our hikes or camping trips, but chill when we needed him to.

We took the plunge and purchased a puggle (Beagle and Pug mix). He's a stout, proud little guy that seems to have more hound than pug in him at this point and will get to be a comfortable 20-25 lbs. We're still working on dealing with puppy behavior, but he's added another level of life to our family and he's keeping the kids busy while they wear him out. He's even showing some retriever signs in him with his vast fetching skills.

It's going to be fascinating to see what traits he develops from which breed and how we settles into our family dynamic. My hope is that my kids will find a new childhood friend in him and that maybe he'll be cool enough for me to truly enjoy over the next who knows how many years.

It took us months of research (and years of discussions) to find the right dog for our family and the process can be daunting, but it's important to know what you are looking for in your dog and what lifestyle the dog needs to fully thrive.

Below are interesting tidbits about 20 of the more popular dog breeds for families:

Golden Retriever. Golden's were originally developed as a hunting dog for hunting birds, but quickly gained popularity and the breed proved to be a devoted and trustworthy companion. Golden retrievers are full of energy and are an excellent choice for families that enjoy lots of outdoor activities.

Labrador Retriever. Labs are another extremely popular retriever amongst active families. Labradors seem to have boundless energy for active families and playing with children. Labs were developed to help hunt birds, love to swim and, much like the Golden Retriever, quickly became a popular choice of breed.

Irish setter. The Irish Setter was initially developed for hunting, but shows a natural tendency to be an eager and loving companion. Their beautiful red coats require some grooming in order to keep out tangles. These dogs are highly popular and loved by many families.

Pembroke Welsh corgi. The Pembroke Welsh corgi is another popular family pet and is a good sized dog (25 pounds). This breed needs regular exercise and is excellent with older kids (6 years+).

West Highland white terrier. These small white terriers are fun and lovable, but don't let their size fool you - they do still require exercise to keep happy and need grooming to keep its coat free of tangles. Westie's aren't recommended for households with younger children (under 10 years), but can be an excellent choice of dog breed for older children.

Schnauzer. Schnauzers make wonderful family pets. They are always on guard keeping the family safe and are eager to please. They require regular grooming and daily exercise and are bred in three sizes (miniature, standard and giant). Schnauzers flourish on the interaction they receive from their human companions.

Airedale. These solid curly haired terriers are a loyal friend and protector. Airedales can be care free and fun family dogs as well as dominant dogs, so it's important proper training and socialization is done in Airedale puppies. This breed was originally designed for hunting badgers and otters and has gained popularity in families everywhere.

Basset hound. Don't let the Basset hounds sleepy eyes fool you – they are full of energy when kids are around and make great family dogs. Similar to the rest of the Hound group, Basset Hounds historically hunted many animals including trailing rabbits and hares.

Beagle. Beagles are a surprisingly active breed that fits in well with active families. Beagles are notorious for their bark in hunting while trailing rabbits and fox. All a Beagle really needs is a good place to sleep and games to play and they can blend into any family.

Shih tzu. Originally bred as a companion animal for royalty in Tibet, this breed enjoys a pampered life. Shih Tzu's are excellent around kids and enjoy spending time with their people.

Boxer. First encounter with a Boxer may be intimidating but they are actually very sweet and lively dogs. Boxers are working dogs, and are natural guardians and people dogs, and prefer the company of its companions over other dogs. Boxers are well adjusted and usually do well in both quiet homes and with active families.

Cairn terrier. Just like any other terrier, the Cairn Terrier requires regular exercise and play time and thrives on human interaction. These terriers are small (average weight is 10-15 lbs), but aren't timid. Cairn Terriers are notorious rodent dogs and can help keep the mice out of the family home!

Collie. The Collie is a loving family pet in households all over the world. Always associated with the famous "Lassie", Collies are even-tempered, loving and patient dogs with energy to play with the kids and enjoy the family. Collies require regular grooming of their fur.

Boston terrier. Boston Terriers are small (10-25 lbs) black and white dogs that play well and sleep well. Boston Terriers make excellent watch dogs and are especially great for the less active families.

Poodle. The Poodle is notorious for being highly intelligent and a great pet for hyper-allergenic individuals because they don't shed. Poodles love to play and run and, like Schnauzers, Poodles come three different sizes.

Bichon frise. The Bichon Frise is a great little white dog to add to any family who will go along with the flow and put up with almost anything. This is a very faithful and obedient breed, but the bichon does require regular grooming to keep his coat looking good.

Pomeranian. Another little white dog that fits well into the family is the Pomeranian. Usually weighing around 5 pounds, the Pom is an adorable breed that thrives on human companionship. Pomeranians are great for families with older children.

Newfoundland. The Newfoundland is a very large breed of dog that may drool a little too much for some people. But, this breed makes a wonderful addition to any family that has the room and is looking for a larger breed. This is a great dog for the family that lives around water. Newfoundland's are excellent in and around water dogs and have historically saved countless lives by saving drowning victims.

Pug. Part of the toy group, Pugs are one of the oldest breeds and their primary function has been as a lap dog. Pugs are affectionate, loveable, and even-tempered and enjoy being part of a family. Pugs can also be mischievous and gets along great with children.

Whippet. A sporting dog designed for racing, Whippets are fast dogs that should be kept on a leash or in a secure yard when outside because they love to chase things. Whippets are quiet and gentle and are excellent with children and are wonderful dogs indoors as well.

No matter what breed or mutt a family chooses it's important to remember that the dog should fit well within the family dynamics, lifestyle, home and any other pets that may be living in the home.

Find out more information on Dog Groups and Choosing the Right Family Pet. For specific dog breed products, visit our dog gift store.

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