Dear Lisa: Our family is searching for the right breed of dog for our family. We have two sons at home, 12 and 13 years old, and are looking for a small family pet of 35 lb. or less in weight fully grown. Any advice you can give would be appreciated. – Looking for Mr. Good Dog

Dear Looking: There are a variety of dog breeds under 35 pounds. But rather than decide what type of dog to get based on weight, you should consider what your family and your sons’ lifestyle is like before you start your breed search. You have two teenage sons which I’m sure are mature enough now to actually care for the dog rather than leaving all the dirty work to the parents.

What type of activities do your kids like to do to have fun? Are they most likely to sit in front of a computer or video games to enjoy themselves or would they rather build a fort in the woods and play adventurer? If they are of the couch potato variety, I would recommend something in the not needing much exercise category like a Bulldog, although they are larger than 35 pounds at 50 pounds, but they are compact. If you like the look but want to go smaller, then a Pug at 12 to 18 pounds or a French Bulldog at not more than 28 would be ideal!

Comrade to Explorers
If your boys are active, I would recommend one of the sporting, terrier, or hound breeds. From the Sporting Group there are some smaller breeds such as the English Cocker Spaniel or Field Spaniel, which are easily trained and have a wonderful temperament. The Beagle from the Hound Group makes an excellent pet, and is quite portable usually less than 20 pounds.

Originally bred to hunt vermin, terriers are feisty, smart and full of energy. Most terriers are under 35 pounds, but my favorites are the Soft-Coated Wheaten Terrier which comes in at 35-40 pounds, or the Miniature Schnauzer, which is great if the boys suffer from dog allergies at all, since their single coat sheds less and produces less dander.

Dear Lisa: We have a 22 month-old Bernese Mountain Dog and we just adopted a 7-month-old Standard Poodle from the shelter. He was not well taken care of by his previous owner since he is 22 inches tall and only weighs 23 pounds. He is not neutered. We have had the puppy for four days now. At first everything was fine but the past two days the Berner has been getting rough with the puppy when they play. We are afraid the puppy will get hurt. But we don't want the Berner to think he is being punished and not loved since this new guy came on the scene. Do you think we should have the puppy neutered A.S.A.P. Maybe this would solve the problem! - Rough House Hound

Dear Rough: I would not let these two dogs play with each other until the Poodle bulks up a bit. He is fragile right now and needs time to adjust to his new surroundings and family and establish a new routine. The larger dog may want to play but don’t know his strength and an injury could occur inadvertently.

I would continue to pay equal attention to both dogs, don’t show favorites, and maintain a routine for feeding, play and exercise. Spend time with each dog individually, especially with the new Poodle and try to build up his confidence with simple obedience exercises like sit and stay and playing games.

Neutering the Poodle
When you do have the dogs together, keep the big guy on a leash to prevent unwanted bullying. Neutering the poodle will not stop this behavior on the Berner’s part. You have to let the Berner know that rough housing with the Poodle is not acceptable. Once the Poodle has gained some weight, settled into the household, and become a part of the family, then I would contact your vet about the surgery.


Lisa Peterson, a long-time owner/breeder/handler of Norwegian Elkhounds, is the AKC Director of Club Communications. If you have a question, send it to Lisa at and she may select it for a future column. Due to the high volume of questions we cannot offer individual responses. Read previous columns here.

© 2008 The American Kennel Club, Inc.