How to Choose the Best Breed of Cat or Dog for Your Family


Considering a new pet? Experts from the American Kennel Club offer advice on how to choose the best breed of cat or dog to fit your family's lifestyle.


After hearing, "Please, can we get a puppy or kitten?" from your children for the one-thousandth time, perhaps you've decided it's time to add a furry friend to the family portrait. For first-time owners especially, a purebred pet may be a wise decision because of its predictable personality. With 160 American Kennel Club (AKC)-recognized dog breeds and 41 Cat Fanciers' Association (CFA)-recognized cat breeds, there are many suitable options for families of all ages and activity levels.

Meet the Breeds; American Kennel Club; purebred dogs

Left to right, top to bottom: Border Collie, Bulldog, Labrador Retriever, Miniature Poodle, Portugese Water Dog, Pug, Maltese, Golden Retriever, Yorkie


Some important first steps to finding the right pet include researching different breeds, talking to breeders, and consulting dog- and cat-owning friends and neighbors to get a clear picture of what the commitment requires. Below are some things you may want to consider when choosing your family dog or cat:


What kind of family are you?

Active. If you and your children are extremely active and enjoy running, then a Border Collie or Abyssinian would make a wonderful dog or cat (respectively) for your family. The Border Collie is an athletic and energetic dog that thrives on outdoor work and requires more than a walk around the block. This medium-sized breed is loyal and loving but does best with more mature children because of its tendency to herd. The collie's counterpart in the cat world is the Abyssinian breed, a busy, active, agenda-driven, but overall friendly feline.

Outdoorsy. If your kids like to play outside, then the Labrador Retriever, the most popular dog breed in America according to AKC registration statistics, may be right for you. Labs are playful, loving, and hardworking dogs that do best as part of an active family. They're also even-tempered pets, which makes them generally easy to train and good with children. Cats are mostly indoor creatures, but the Cornish Rex is an active, racy, and affectionate cat that will be quite happy to play fetch with you indoors.

Indoorsy. If your family prefers to stay inside and play, a dog or cat that enjoys the shelter of your home and constant companionship would be best for you. Some prime candidates include the Bulldog or Pug on the canine side. Bulldogs are intelligent and easygoing pets that require only light exercise. This wrinkly breed is devoted to its family and loves kids. The smaller Pug is a playful, loving dog that also needs minimal exercise; this breed loves being near people and is always eager to please. The LaPerm is an affectionate and gentle cat, and while very active, enjoys sitting in a comfortable lap. You'll find a mellower but equally affectionate feline pal in the silky-coated Ragdoll, a docile, placid, and loving breed.


Consider your living space.

Would you rather adopt a pet? You may have more options than you think.
Limited. If you live in an apartment with limited space, a Toy dog breed or the Exotic cat might be best for you. The Yorkshire Terrier, or Yorkie, is a small dog with a big personality. They are brave and energetic dogs that require limited exercise due to their small size. Similarly, the Exotic, a short-haired version of the Persian breed, is a playful and easygoing cat breed with a quiet, endearing nature.

Space to Spare. If you live in a spacious home, you might consider a Sporting dog breed, such as a Goldent Retriever, or a Russian Blue cat. Goldens are intelligent, active, and energetic dogs that require daily exercise. Russian Blue cats are intelligent and affectionate, and have even been reported to open doors and teach their owners to fetch!


What about allergies?

Have an allergy sufferer in your family? You can still have a pet! There are some breeds that have consistent, predictable coats that do not shed and produce less dander, which is the cause of most pet allergies in humans.

Some examples of such dogs are the Portuguese Water Dog (PWD), Poodle, and Maltese. The PWD is a loyal worker and companion, an athletic, active breed that requires daily vigorous exercise. The Poodle is exceptionally smart and active and also requires daily exercise. The Maltese is a brave yet gentle-mannered dog that's also playful and full of energy.

Some cat breeds that are best for allergy sufferers include the Oriental, Colorpoint Shorthair, and Sphynx. The Oriental Shorthair's coat appears like it is painted on and is satin-like to the touch; these cats are very close to their family and want to be involved in everything their people do. The Colorpoint Shorthair cats are especially good in homes with allergy-sufferers because they have very little dander. And the Sphynx-an unusual breed-is mostly hairless; they are inquisitive cats and love to be the center of attention.


You can learn about all 200 dog and cat breeds at this year's Meet the BreedsTM event at New York City's Jacob Javits center on October 16 and 17. Watch dog and cat demonstrations and play with hundreds of dogs, cats, puppies, and kittens. Visit for more info.