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Life with Pets

How to Choose the Best Dog Breed for Your Lifestyle

Wondering what kind of dog you should get? Deciding the best dog breed for you is both fun and very important. Here are several scenarios to consider.

So, you’ve decided you’re ready to add a pup to your pack. But on the heels of that exciting decision comes another: What kind of dog should you get?

Figuring out the best dog breed for you is both fun and very important. Because some dogs might be perfectly suited for your situation, whereas others… Well, let’s just say that a mismatch wouldn’t be good for either you or your dog. (Believe it or not, some people ultimately give up or even euthanize their dogs because they don’t fit their lifestyle.)

To help you make an informed and confident selection, here’s an overview of the best breeds for common scenarios.

Note: Interested in adopting? Some shelters use Wisdom Panel™ dog DNA tests to identify the ancestry of their mixed breeds. So, even if you’re not planning to get a purebred, we think you’ll find the following information helpful.

Golden Retriever lying in the grass

New pet parent? Start with these best dogs for first-time owners.

Even for veteran pet parents, caring for a canine can sometimes be a challenge. So—if this is your first dog—do yourself a favor and choose a breed that’s easy to train and known for its agreeable nature.

Best dogs for first-time owners include:

You may also want to think about adopting an adult dog. Though you’ll miss the adorable puppy stage, you’ll also miss the making-a-lot-of-messes puppy stage.

Kids petting their dog

Do you have kids? Consider family-friendly dog breeds.

Before you bring a pup into your pack, you need to make sure they’ll play nice with the rest of the family. And if you have younger children, you’ll want a sturdy dog that can handle the inevitable rough-housing.

Some of the best dogs for kids and families include:

These breeds typically make for gentle, easygoing companions who don’t play favorites. For more suggestions—as well as a few breeds to avoid—check out this guide from The SprucePets.

Note: For safety reasons, please always supervise any playtime between your pup and children, and teach your kids the right way to interact with dogs. Children don’t always pick up on subtle cues that a dog has had enough.

Yorkshire Terrier tilting head

Do you have allergies? Pick a hypoallergenic dog breed.

If you’re sensitive to pet dander, hypoallergenic dog breeds may be best for you.

Truthfully, no dog is 100% hypoallergenic. But many dogs create less of an allergic response because they shed less or don’t even have hair (e.g., American Hairless Terrier, Xoloitzcuintli). Also, dogs with furnishings, or a prominent beard and eyebrows, shed less in general. These include most curly-coated and wire-coated breeds.

And less shedding and hair = less dander to trigger allergies.

Besides the hairless dogs above, breeds considered hypoallergenic include:

For more ideas, try the AKC’s list of hypoallergenic dogs.

Did you know? Wisdom Panel™ tests can detect whether a dog is more likely to shed based on whether they carry a reduced shedding gene variant.

Woman feeding her small dog treats in her apartment

Live in an apartment? Seek out small dog breeds.

The size of your home (and yard) is an important factor when deciding what kind of dog you should get. In general, the smaller your property is, the smaller your dog should be.

Therefore, some of the best dog breeds for apartments include:

For more ideas, browse our Breed Library by “dog size.”

If you’re set on a bigger dog, there are a few that tend to be relatively subdued for their size—including Whippets, Greyhounds, and (amazingly) Great Danes. The catch is that when they do want some physical activity, they generally want to run hard and fast.

Remember that all dogs need some exercise. And when they don’t get it, they may develop destructive tendencies (such as chewing the baseboards or digging up the flower beds).

Petting a black and white dog

Are you a social butterfly? Choose one of these friendliest dog breeds.

Most dogs are friendly by nature. (We call them “man’s best friend” for a reason!) But if you often have guests over to your home or envision taking your pup to populated areas one day, you need a dog that’s every bit the socialite you are.

All of the family-friendly dog breeds listed above qualify. In addition to those, social dogs include:

Keep in mind, though breed influences how a dog acts around people, it’s only one factor. Puppy socialization also plays a major role.

Man going on an active hike with his dog

Want a running buddy? Go with an energetic dog breed.

If you have an active lifestyle, you’ll likely want a pup that can keep up—whether you’re running, swimming, hiking, or just taking a long walk. Working terriers, herding breeds, large scent hounds, and sporting breeds—particularly the pointers—are all good choices.

The best dogs for active lifestyles include:

Note: For some dogs, strenuous activity can be dangerous. Before exercising your dog, we recommend testing for Exercise-Induced Collapse (EIC) and other health conditions with Wisdom Panel™ Premium.

Dog standing guard outside

Need a guard dog? Scout out these loyal dog breeds.

Throughout history, humans have used dogs to guard people and property. So, it’s no surprise that several breeds still possess loyal, fearless, and vigilant characteristics.

Breeds that make for loyal guard dogs include:

For more suggestions, check out the “Guard” genetic group in our Breed Library.

Since guard dogs are bred to protect—and most are big and strong—it’s critical to invest in training and socialization.

Cat hugging a pug

Have other animals? Look for laid back dog breeds.

Despite what cartoons may suggest, dogs and cats can get along. So, if you already have a cat (or another animal) at home, don’t let that stop you from getting a dog.

Most dogs can learn to play nice with other animals through socialization. But peaceful coexistence seems to come more naturally to certain breeds.

The best dog breeds for cats and other animals include:

Which dog breeds should you avoid? Working terrier breeds, sighthounds, primitive-type breeds, and cattle-herding dogs were all bred to chase (and, in some cases, kill) animals. As a result, they tend to have a strong prey drive.

It’s sometimes possible for these breeds to get along with other critters. But you must be very intentional about socializing them at an early age. Chasing and killing are instinctual to dogs. So, some pups can never be trusted around animals they might consider prey.

(Also, it’s not all about which breed you choose. Consider that it might take your other pets some time getting used to a new dog!)

Woman showing affection to her dog

Feeling lonely? Match up with these most affectionate dog breeds.

Dogs show love in many ways. But—as anyone who’s received a slobbery kiss can attest—some breeds are more obvious about it than others.

If you’re wanting a pup to cuddle with, the most affectionate dog breeds include:

For more suggestions, check out the “Companion” genetic group in our Breed Library. There you’ll find several breeds that exist for the sole purpose of comforting their human counterparts and providing emotional support.

Border Collie

Got lots of time? Try these smartest dog breeds.

If you want a canine that can learn commands and complicated tricks quickly, a big-brained breed may be right for you. But know that high IQ can also mean a badly behaved dog if you don’t meet their needs.

Without mentally stimulating activities, smart dogs tend to get bored—and then get into trouble. If you bring home a smart dog, be prepared to invest regularly in training throughout their life (or face the consequences: digging, missing shoes, etc.).

If you’re up for the challenge, here are some of the smartest dog breeds:

And if you need ideas of how to keep your genius pup happy and engaged, take a look at these games you could play together.

Did you know? Because smart dogs often need a “job” to do, they are great choices for dog sports, such as agility.

Funny dog jumping

Need a laugh? Add these fun-loving breeds to your pack.

All dogs have their own endearing characteristics that cause us to fall head over heels. But in our minds, a few breeds stand out as loveable clowns that just make your days better and more joyful.

Our favorite goofballs with larger-than-life personalities include:

Many hounds also make for fun, quirky companions. Find those recommendations in our Breed Library under the “Hound” genetic group.

Woman smiling and holding her French Bulldog

Find the best breed for you in our Breed Library.

We hope this primer on dog breeds has helped you narrow your options down to a few perfect pups.

To learn more about the temperament, traits, and histories of hundreds of dog breeds, check out our Breed Library. (And remember: the best dog for you might be a mix!)

Browse the breed library