Choosing your next best friend can be an intriguing and baffling challenge, especially if you haven’t known a lot of dogs. There are nearly 400 breeds to ponder over, and going online to complete superlative searches like “best family dogs” or “smartest dog breeds” is a worthwhile place to begin. As you embark on the journey of discovering which dog breed may be ideal for you, be mindful of exceptions, mixed breeds, and the fact that there really isn’t one right answer.
Smartest Dog Breeds
Border Collies, Australian Shepherds, and German Shepherds are usually at the head of the class. Dog experts use several factors to determine intelligence, including word comprehension, problem-solving capabilities, responsiveness to training, communication skills (humans and animals), memory, and the ability to predict human behavior. The most intelligent dog breeds score high in ALL of these categories. Fair warning – the smartest dogs are typically the most impassioned and intense as well.
The fact is, most dogs are intelligent. Dogs that rank lower on the intelligence scale are those that like to make that willful decision to do their own thing. Dogs ranking even lower on the scale may be overwhelmed by their scent, predatory, or other innate drives.
Best with Kids
This list is long, but the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Bernese Mountain Dog, Alaskan Malamute, Boston Terrier, Golden Retriever, Irish Setter, and Pug get top billing in this department. There are lots of great ways to train your dog to play well with kids, beginning with positive reinforcement, socialization, and obedience training.
Low Grooming Needs
Dogs are hairy beasts. If you can’t stand dog hair, I recommend an Iguana, or maybe a nice hermit crab. Even the dog breeds that score well in the low grooming division, like the Beagle, Boxer, Great Dane, Weimaraner, and Italian Greyhound, are still going to press hair onto your black pants. Those short stubborn hairs on seat cushions or in the dryer’s lint trap provide further evidence, but at least there won’t be huge tufts and tumbleweeds flying all over the place.
Best Small Dogs
The Alaskan Klee Kai (mini-Husky), Chihuahua, Pomeranian, Rat Terrier, Yorkie, and Japanese Chin are favorites amongst the toy breeds. These guys tend not to be listed in those “smartest dogs” registers, but they should be. Yorkies are particularly clever and sneaky little devils.
Most Active Dog Breeds
The Siberian Husky, Dalmatian, Springer Spaniel, and Border Collie are great for runners, hikers, spelunkers, tomb raiders, and other adventurous types.
Best Large Breed Dogs
The top rated YUGE dogs include the St. Bernard, Great Dane, Newfoundland, Great Pyrenees, and Mastiff. These 140-pound companions will ensure your food budget and sleeping arrangement will never be the same. Even their drool is epic, whether you are measuring volume, yarble distance, or slimability. Ginormous dogs tend to not live as long (only 8-10 years) as compared to medium or small breeds that may live to be 12-16 years old.
Most Photogenic Dog
While wondrous and weird, the Weimaraner wins this category. I had a Weimaraner named Rueben about 30 years ago. They have wild waves of energy in those puppy years, and Rueben had serious separation anxiety as well. In any case, there is a famous photographer named William Wegman who shares wonderful Weimaraner work with the world wide web:
Mastiffs, Bassett Hounds, and Beagles get the short stick with this label. Scent hounds are on this list because they are so obsessed with the next scent and may be harder to train. Keep in mind though, many dogs are simply stubborn, like bosses, parents, or people that drive slow in the passing lane.
Top Rated Dog in the USA
The Labrador Retriever is the most popular dog in America. They are friendly, tolerant, and loyal. This enthusiastic and versatile breed may be trained for hunting, showing, dock diving, or tracking. Labradors are social animals and faithfully hold Lab conventions on a frequent basis. Labs also shed regularly and will need a weekly brushing.
American Kennel Club Selector
The best resource for those with their heart set on a purebred dog is the AKC online breed selector. This exceptional online questionnaire is designed to choose a breed based on preferences and living arrangements. They begin by asking if you are new to dogs and then cover pertinent circumstances such as living space, activity level, number of children (or other pets), and your tolerance for shedding or barking.
After the short test, a chart displays 10 breeds that meet the input criteria. The page includes photos, personality details, popularity, size and weight data, grooming requirements, shedding and barking levels, life expectancy, and a few other traits.
My Favorite Dog Breed
When you look at enough of these superlative lists, it may still seem like too many dogs are the best dogs. My favorite breed is the “Brown Dog.” Brown dogs don’t have to be brown of course, and I’m referring to the mixed breeds you find in shelters or rescue organizations.
Despite the varying proclivities of different breeds, dogs also share a great number of the same quirks and qualities. The most enriching earmark is the one where they follow you around because they love you. Regardless of breed, all dogs need socialization, exercise, training, and a “job” (just like we do). You may very well end up with that puppy that just needs to be rescued now, and that’s a marvelous thing.
Featured photo – Finn, a German Shepherd Catahoula mix, was one of Nitro’s best friends back in the day. Finn lived an astonishing 17 years, which is a long time for a 70 lb dog.