No American family is complete without a family dog, but choosing the right breed can be next to impossible. There are just so many breeds, after all, and each one has its own idiosyncrasies, its pros and cons, and the particulars of owning and raising the dog. It can be hard to know which breed is the right one to have with a family, as opposed to the ideal dog for a single person or a couple – after all, kids interact with pets differently compared to how adults interact with pets.

The Energy of a Puppy, the Intelligence of a Mature Dog

Perhaps the perfect one-size-fits-all breed for families, however, is the Labrador Retriever. Retrievers are known for their remarkably even temper, able to withstand quite a bit of stress and maintain their cool for extended periods of time – perfect for playing with lots of kids! On the other hand, if you are a little more on the relaxed end of things, Retrievers tend to run on something of a “slow burn” once they get past the puppy stage, with less energy output which works great for older parents or a couple who don’t have the time to keep up with a super-energetic dog.

Retrievers are also remarkably intelligent. They are probably the best assistance dog breed available, with many countries using them for assistance dog training across the world. You can frequently see Labrador Retrievers being used to work with and aid people who are blind, who have autism, and who are in need of therapy dogs. Furthermore, their keen sense of smell, great intelligence, and eminent trainability make them ideal for screening and detection work by law enforcement agencies.

A Friend for Life

For a family with young children, however, Labrador Retrievers are by far the best possible choice as far as breed is concerned. The breed loves to play, always being willing to pick up a toy and play tug-of-war – rough-housing but with no danger involved, they are so careful and protective! – or play catch with a Frisbee or fetch with a ball. (They always like to have something in their mouth!) As they are prone to obesity, it is a good idea to give them plenty of opportunities to exercise, which means regular walks and plenty of play. Your kids, fortunately, can take care of that!

Labarador Retrievers are one of the smartest breeds available, but that means their curiosity and eagerness to explore the world can make owning them a larger responsibility if you don’t want them to go running off. If you don’t have your dog on a leash whenever they are outside, then you want a sturdy fence to keep them in – because with all of that intelligence and energy, they will quickly find a way out of a normal fence, and an electric fence rarely poses much of a challenge to the indefatigable Retriever!

It should be noted that when you bring a dog into your family, there is always the risk of health problems; this is the case with every breed of dog. Labrador Retrievers in particular have problems with bone disorders, including hip dysplasia, elbow problems, and arthritis. By getting regular exercise and a healthy diet, however, your dog can avoid these problems and live to a ripe old age as your family grows, expands, and changes over the years. From puppy to friendly old dog, a Labrador Retriever will be one of the best friends to your family you could have.

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+Neil Kilgore is a dog owner, dog lover and the Jack (Russell) of all trades at Greenfield Puppies in Lancaster Pa. He regularly blogs about puppies, breeders and dog care advice on the Greenfield Puppies website.