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Published: Nov 09, 2012

You may remember the often-heroic adventures of Lassie, a collie, or the gentle demeanor portrayed by golden retriever Shadow in family movie "Homeward Bound." There's a reason families, real and fictional, choose breeds like collies, retrievers and beagles as their canine companions. These dogs, and several others, are known for being good with children. So what makes a great family dog?

Sturdy build, plenty of energy
Looking for a playmate for the kids? Make sure your dog is large enough that it cannot be injured by the often-rough hands of children, especially if you have kids under the age of three. As the kids grow, you'll also want to make sure your dog will be able to keep up with their fast-paced lives. Large, high-energy breeds like boxers, Staffordshire bull terriers, retrievers and Bernese mountain dogs fit these categories. Bred to work, they are ready to run and play all day with their child companions.

Wouldn't hurt a fly
Of course, a key concern for many parents is the safety of their children. Although most dogs can be trained to be friendly and gentle, some are simply more amiable by nature. Dogs who were bred for human companionship, like beagles and retrievers who spent much of their time in the field with a master when they were at work, are particularly friendly and tolerant. If you are looking for an easygoing gentle giant, you might choose a Great Dane. However, many smaller breeds like miniature poodles and pugs are loving and devoted family dogs, too. If you are choosing a smaller or larger dog, make sure your children are old enough so they don't feel overwhelmed by the dog's size, or unintentionally harm a smaller one.

Loyal and loving
They say dogs are a man's best friend, but some breeds are particularly family-oriented and loyal. Breeds like the Newfoundland are known for their sweet demeanor and temperament, and can be incredibly loyal to their owners. In fact, these canines may become protective if they sense that their family is threatened. Bernese mountain dogs are also known for their sensitivity and loyal, devoted personalities. Labrador retrievers and golden retrievers are also known for loyalty to their families.

While these traits are important to consider when choosing a dog, you should also think about what type of care the breed will require and whether you have enough time and energy to give it. For example, Bernies, Newfoundlands and golden retrievers may require a fair share of dog grooming, since they tend to have fluffy fur. Larger breeds may also be prone to arthritis in dogs, and smaller breeds like pugs are prone to obesity in dogs. Do your research and talk to your vet to decide which breed would best fit your family.