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Find the 5 best dogs for your family

By Sarah McCurdy, Contributing writer
Published On: Mar 09 2012 02:15:57 PM CST
Updated On: Dec 01 2012 02:28:11 PM CST

iStock/pkline

How much is that doggie in the window? And even more importantly, is he family-friendly?

The American Kennel Club recognizes 150 different breeds of dogs and that number can soar to more than 400 if you count mixed breeds. That means you have many options of furry friends to add to your family.

Dogs don't come with operating instructions, but you get the basic idea: feed, exercise, play, clean up and train. After that, the personality type is up to you. But be sure to do your research before you get in too deep.

We suggest adding a "gentle giant," a dog whose wrinkles age him beyond his years, a silver fur ball, a people pleaser or a retriever to the mix. All would be great additions to your family, though don't expect them to double as guard dogs -- they might just be too friendly.

Newfoundland dog breed

Newfoundland: The gentle giant

Newfoundlands are famous for their size and strength and are often referred to as "the gentle giants."

Your neighbors may do a double take when they see you out for a walk -- newfies are also nicknamed "blackbears." Newfoundlands have large bones, strong muscles, webbed feet and are exceptional swimmers. They were originally bred and used as working dogs by fishermen in Newfoundland, Canada, and have also been known to assist in water rescues, according to the Newfoundland Club of America.

Their thick coats require frequent brushing. They are sweet and gentle and are often recommended as family dogs. Newfoundlands are considered a large breed with the males reaching 130 to 150 pounds and females reaching 100 to 120 pounds. They can measure 22 to 28 inches at the shoulder.

The breed itself has many claims to fame: explorer Meriwether Lewis had a Newfoundland companion and "Peter Pan" featured a fictional Newfoundland, the children's dog Nana.

pug dog on grass

Pug: The Hollywood type

Pugs are a very small breed of dog called a "toy" breed. They have a wrinkly face and a curly tail. Pugs can be stubborn but are rarely aggressive, making this a good breed for families, according to the American Kennel Club.

Most pugs love children and playing. They can be quiet or playful and read the owner's mood. What the pugs lack in size, they make up for in personality.

Since this is such a small breed, care must be taken to ensure that the dog doesn't become overweight, which can lead to health problems. Owners must clean inside the wrinkles on the pug's face to prevent infection.

The breed's playfulness and personality has also made them a hit on the silver screen, starring in such movies as "The Adventures of Milo and Otis" and "Men in Black."

Keeshond dog

Keeshond: Friendly ball of fur

This breed tends to be playful, has quick reflexes and loves children and families. They also prefer to be close to their humans as much as possible.

The Keeshond breed is bright and achieves high levels of obedience work, according to the Keeshond Club of America. They catch on to what you're doing and saying, even if you are not directly teaching them.

Those kept in a yard away from their humans tend to become nuisance barkers. The Keeshond (plural Keeshonden) needs regular brushing, about an hour per week. They are not prone to stinking like some dogs do, so they don't require frequent baths. Due to their double coat, it is not recommended that you clip the hair short.

The Keeshond averages 17 to 18 inches tall and weighs 35 to 45 pounds, making it a medium breed. The tail is curled and the breed is a member of the spitz group of dogs.

golden retriever dog closeup

Golden retriever: No guard dog here

Golden retrievers are friendly and eager to please. If you add one to your family, you will be in good company -- golden retrievers are the fourth most popular dog breed by registration in the United States, according to the American Kennel Club.

Golden retrievers are friendly to their owners as well as strangers, thus making them poor guard dogs. They are smart dogs and take to obedience training well. They are also regarded for their patience with children.

This is a medium to large breed, with the American golden retriever at 20 to 24 inches tall at the shoulders. They weigh between 55 and 80 pounds.

Golden retrievers do well when bathed once every one to two weeks. They need to be groomed as puppies to tolerate being groomed as adults. This breed is an average shedder. The golden retriever needs daily walks and loves to join you on a run. Regular exercise will help this dog avoid hyperactivity.

Black lab Labrador retriever dog

Labrador retriever: Voted most popular

The Labrador retriever, according to the American Kennel Club, is the most popular breed of dog by registration in the world, and the most popular breed in Canada, the U.K. and the U.S.

Labradors are also popular as assistance dogs. They are athletic, great with young children and, as their name indicates, they enjoy playing catch and retrieve games as well as hunting.

Labs are a medium breed. They average 21 to 24.5 inches tall and weigh on average 55 to 80 pounds. You will see labs as white, yellow or chocolate in color.

Labradors are friendly and make great pets. They are prone to chewing objects but can be trained not to do so. They will bark at noise but are not known as a noisy or "barky" breed. They are often trusting of strangers, making them less than ideal guard dogs. This breed has been dubbed ideal for search and rescue, as well as therapy work.