When a family seeks out a dog as a pet, i.e., primarily for companionship, it will look for qualities of a good family member. Particularly when young children are about, gentleness, friendliness and patience are prized characteristics. Fortunately, many breeds from American Kennel Club classifications possess these traits, giving dog shoppers a wide variety from which to choose.
Toy dogs are small canines bred specifically for companionship, thus many breeds of this group are good-tempered. Among the most agreeable toy breeds is the pug. Originating in the Far East, this breed is known for its playful yet stable personality. Pugs are eager to please and are not known for causing trouble. Likewise, the Cavalier King Charles spaniel is known for its gentleness and devotion, although it can express its love with a good deal of vim and vigour. Whether running or napping, the Cavalier King Charles spaniel is content. Other even-tempered toy breeds include the shih-tzu and the Havanese.
The original purpose of these breeds was to chase off rats, mice and other pests. But terriers adapt quite well to keeping company. The miniature schnauzer, for example, was bred in Germany to control farm vermin. Today this breed is as comfortable in an apartment as in a barn or on a pasture. Miniature schnauzers learn quickly and respond well to training. Another terrier breed, the soft-coated wheaten terrier, originally was used by poor farmers to police the perimeters for pests. While they need ample exercise, these terriers are loyal companions for adults and children alike.
Working dogs originally were bred to serve as beasts of burden, guardians of property and searcher-rescuers. Perhaps the most widely known example is the Saint Bernard. The image of this noble beast saving the life of an avalanche victim is factually based, since that was the dog's purpose. The Saint Bernard takes well to obedience training and is a loyal and loving family member. A prospective owner with infants or toddlers, however, does well to remember that a puppy will grow very large, its amiability notwithstanding. The boxer is also illustrative of a well-tempered working dog. It is a natural people pleaser and low-maintainance with respect to grooming.
Sporting dog breeds were developed to assist in the hunting of game fowl. Because these dogs have worked side by side with people for generations, they have grown comfortable among them. Any reader of the LL Bean catalogue is familiar with the Labrador retriever. This is the most popular breed in the United States due to its deep desire to please and its training aptitude. Most labs enjoy water, and are happiest in the midst of family. Like the lab, the Welsh springer spaniel thrives among people, and does not like to be alone. It was first bred in Wales during the Renaissance, and is easily taught if training starts early. Welsh springers love exercise, but also require daily grooming. The Sussex spaniel and Irish water dog are additional sporting breeds known for their good nature.
This classification of dogs consists of primarily companion breeds. The Tibetan terrier, looking perfectly suited to weather the harsh climate of its original region, was first bred in Buddhist monasteries. These dogs are very in tune with the emotions of their family members, and always seek to be a comforting presence. The French bulldog performs a similarly soothing role. A typical lapdog, the Frenchie needs minimal exercise and next to no grooming.