7 best dog breeds for busy families

Written by Pip Harry for Real Insurance.

Looking for a low-maintenance pup to join your pack? Some dogs naturally need less exercise, attention, grooming and vet appointments. We talked to Dr Tim Hopkins, Emergency Veterinarian at SASH Vets in Sydney, about the best dog breeds for a family’s busy lifestyle. “Almost any breed has the ability to be a loving and loyal family pet when raised with patience, empathy and consistent training,” says Tim. “But some are just more likely than others to be a happy fit.”

1. Low maintenance

Looking for a sweet-natured, fluffy breed that adores cuddles? “Personally, I love the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel,” says Tim. “They’re such reliably loving, happy and easy-going dogs that are the perfect fit for busy families with young kids.” This small-to-medium sized pup can be easy to train and doesn’t require huge amounts of exercise. “They have their own heritable diseases (including some neurological and cardiac problems) that any prospective owner should be aware of, but overall, they’re a fantastic, low-maintenance package,” says Tim. “The Cavalier-cross Poodle, often called a Cavoodle or Cavapoo, is a very popular cross with a similar good nature, but low shedding.”

2. Best for children

Golden Retriever puppy on green grass

Some breeds are more tolerant, loving and laidback with children. “Aside from the Cavaliers, the most consistently child-friendly breeds would be the Labrador and Golden Retriever,” says Tim. “Both breeds are larger, which might concern some parents. The flipside is that they’re more robust, generally good-natured, affectionate, tolerant and easy to train, either because they’re eager to please, or simply food-motivated… I’m looking at you, chunky Lab!” Don’t forget that children always need to be supervised around dogs, regardless of breed.

3. Happy home alone

Admittedly, puppies are super cute, but older dogs are usually more content with their own company and less likely to fret or tear the house apart if left alone. “While not technically a breed, senior dogs are often better at spending time alone and they’re a known quantity in terms of their behaviour and temperament,” says Tim. “Fostering a senior dog from a shelter is a kind act and lets you see if they’re going to be a good fit for your home before making a commitment. They’re almost always house-trained, sleep more and need less exercise than young adults and puppies.”

4. Apartment friendly

Greyhound puppy on green grass

Contrary to their reputation as a high-energy, racing dog, Greyhounds enjoy lots of lounging and don’t need endless exercise or space. “While Greyhounds are known for their incredible speed, less people are aware that their energy is consumed very quickly and they’ll often sleep for most of the day,” says Tim. “Add to this their placid temperament and they can make great apartment dogs. My favourite description of the breed is: “cat software, dog hardware”. The adoption agencies will endeavour to work with you to find the best fit for your circumstances and help to overcome any challenges in the rehoming process.”

5. Attuned to neurodiversity

Need a dog that will fit in with your families’ neurodiverse needs? Assistance dogs can improve communication skills, confidence and independence in children and adults living with neurodiversity, such as autism and ADHD. “Assistance Dogs Australia is an amazing resource for anyone considering a dog in a neurodiverse family,” says Tim. “They can help to navigate what type of dog to look for, and the options for sourcing a dog.” 

6. Good for active, outdoorsy types 

Border Collie puppy in a field

If your family is high energy and constantly on the go, then an active dog is a sensible choice. “Most families are not able to satisfy the exercise requirements of a working dog like a Kelpie or Border Collie,” says Tim. “If you’re in the minority with the ability to devote at least two hours a day to their exercise, they can make hugely rewarding family dogs. They are super intelligent, trainable and loyal – just don’t expect them to entertain themselves!”

7. Healthy choice

Due to their breeding, some dogs suffer from heritable diseases that may see your vet bills pile up. “Most people would be aware of the significant breathing problems we see in the brachycephalic breeds, including the Bulldog, Pug and Boston Terrier caused by Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome,” says Tim. “While every dog is an individual, and these breeds can make fantastic pets, the risk of breathing difficulties is something all prospective owners should be aware of.”

Crossbreeds are worth considering if you want to avoid significant health issues. “If you want to save yourself some heartache and avoid vet bills, you should consider a crossbreed dog,” says Tim. "Mixed-breed dogs (i.e. any cross between any purebred dog) could be healthier for any given aspect than the average of their parents.”

Whatever breed you choose, consider pet insurance in case your dog suffers an injury or illness, to cover eligible vet bills and give them the care they deserve to stay healthy and well.