Hello! My family is interested in adding a Dog to our household in the Spring/Summer, after we get our yard completely fenced-in. I'm requesting suggestions on what the best dog for us might be. I'm not interested in going to a breeder, preferring to work w/rescue groups. Of course we aren't ruling out a mutt, but my local pound gets a LOT of purebreds, so I'm researching that line of thought as well.
Briefly, we will attend to excersize/grooming needs in accordance to the animals' nneds, but we aren't a HUGELY energetic bunch, ourselves. Two adults, one 2 & 1/2 yr old, and 6 (formerly rescue) cats, all indoor, and all 8 pounds or bigger.
Thanks in advance for your advice!
Sincerely,
Cori
Mixed breed.
Hello! My family is interested in adding a Dog to our household in the Spring/Summer, after we get our yard completely fenced-in.

First question: are you planning to keep the dog in that fenced yard all the time? If so, don't get a dog.
Second question: what experience, if any, do the adults in the family have with dogs?
Third question (actually, this is a set of q's): What exeperience, if any, does your toddler have with dogs? How has s/he reacted to them? And has s/he been taught respect for animals?
Fourth question: What experience, if any, do your cats have with dogs?
Sionnach asked some very good questions. I would add some things to keep in mind:
1. A medium to large sized, adult, dog will fair better in a home with atoddler. If you get a toy or small breed then your little one may have the repeated urge to pick the dog up which presents problems. Dog not wanting to be picked up, child dropping dog, etc.
2. How vocal is too vocal for your family? Alot of toy & small breeds tendto be yappy. There are also a good deal of larger sized dogs who enjoy barking when outside. For most people this is a non-issue but for some its bothersome.
3. There are a number of breeds who do not do well with cats unless theywere raised with them. Since you are considering adopting a dog, you need to be aware of this. A rescue group will be able to tell you if any of their dogs aren't friendly with cats. A shelter sometimes can but more often its a crap shoot.
4. There are a number of breeds known to be fence jumpers so if your fenceis only 4 or 5' tall, you'll need to make sure that whatever breed you choose doesn't have "escape artist" as a breed trait.
5. A shelter is a great place to adopt and the animals there all need homes.The only problem is that very few shelters can tell you much of anything about how a dog will do with children or cats, whether its a fence-jumper, hole-digger, resource-guarder, etc. You may want to consider a rescue group instead. The resource guarding issue is a biggy with a small child in the home. While your supervision will be required for dog/child interactions, you'll want to take the safest road possible and not adopt a dog with issues that your child may inadvertantly provoke.
The first breed that comes to mind with regards to any family situation is the Labrador Retriever. They are well-known for being wonderful family pets, great with children, and rarely do they have an issue with cats. They are fun-loving, easy-going and loyal as the day is long. A young Lab is a chewer though, very busy, oftentimes a digger, and sheds a good bit so this is a problem for some people.
The Boxer, the breed I'm most familiar & in love with, does wonderfully with children, is loyal, fun & funny, active but not hyper (in a dog 3 years and up) but they are all too often not very good with cats unless they were raised with one. They are generally fence jumpers too unless the fence is 6' high.
With any adolescent dog (under the age of 3 for most males and 2 for most females) you'll get tons of energy and a potential problem with the dog knocking the child down. There are truly so many general considerations to ponder before you even get into breed-specific traits.
Last but not least, please remember that many of the dogs who have been dumped at the shelter (which is where rescues get 90%+ of their dogs from) haven't had alot of training, haven't had much socialization with other dogs & people and will not be perfect. This means that the dog may differ some in personality/traits/temperament from what you'll read about its breed online and in books. IOW, just because Labs are wonderful family pets who are very tolerant, forgiving and rarely aggressive, that doesn't mean that the one at the shelter had the proper upbringing to make it a "normal" Lab.

Adopting an adult is definitely the best way to go with a young child in the home, and you'll be giving a home to a dog in need of one so please don't let my warning deter you. I just think people should be aware that a rehomed dog may come with a little baggage.

Tara
First question: are you planning to keep the dog in that fenced yard all the time? If so, don't get a dog.

First answer is a Resounding NO. I just would like to be able to let the dog Off Leash to pee & play occasionally, and want to be able to do that in the safety of my own yard.
Second question: what experience, if any, do the adults in the familyhave with dogs?

I grew up with a few dogs, then, my Sister has always had dogs, so I have had great experiences with them in my interactions with her (and all of hers are BIG dogs). Hubs had dogs growing up, and his grandparents had a dog. One of our best friends is a Vet, so we see/play with dogs at his place all the time, and we've fostered two dogs.
Third question (actually, this is a set of q's): What exeperience, ifany, does your toddler have with dogs?

She has been around my Sister's German Shepard; loves to interact with the dogs at the pound & at her Godfather the Veterinarian's place. Is initially cautious, but warms up fairly quickly.
How has s/he reacted to them? And has s/he been taught respect for animals?

She LOVES them. She has, indeed, been taught (and is constantly being taught) respect for animals, as Hubs & I do cat rescues from time to time. She loves her cats, and any animal she finds/sees. :-)
Fourth question: What experience, if any, do your cats have with dogs?

When I had my fosters in the house, that was their only experience. They got scarce for several days, then came back out & observed the dog through the gates. Weren't too thrilled, but handled it okay.
C
First answer is a Resounding NO. I just would like to be able to let thedog Off Leash to pee & play occasionally, and want to be able to do that inthe safety of my own yard.

Great! It wasn't clear from your first post, and we so often get people in here who ARE intending to keep dogs that way, or (more so in the behaviour group, but here too) complaining about the behaviour of dogs who are kept outdoors 24/7 that I wanted to make sure. :-) It *is* good to have the yard fenced, even if the dog is well trained- not only can you relax more with your own dogs, it generally keeps other wandering dogs out. (I fenced my yard as much to keep one obnoxious neigborhood dog OUT as to keep my own dogs IN.)

Even better. :-) Again, I couldn't tell from the original post if you were familiar with dogs - so many people get them without realizing what's involved.
She has been around my Sister's German Shepard; loves to interact with the dogs at the pound & at her Godfather the Veterinarian's place. Isinitially cautious, but warms up fairly quickly.

She should be fine with adding a dog to the family, then- although I'll second Tara's recommendation that you'd probably do best to add a young adult rather than a puppy or adolescent. Bumptious puppy/adolecent behaviour can be a bit much for a toddler.
She LOVES them. She has, indeed, been taught (and is constantly being taught) respect for animals, as Hubs & I do cat rescues from time to time.

And that removes the other concern about mixing dogs and toddlers. :-)
They got scarce for several days, then came back out & observed the dog through the gates. Weren't too thrilled, but handled it okay.

That's about normal... and it sounds like they'll adjust to the permanent addition of a dog, as long as the dog isn't a danger to them.
Cori,
considering you have a toddler in the house I would:

1: advise you to wait wait until the child is 5 YO or older to get any dog

2: Strongly advise you to not get a rescue dog. Even though purebred rescue groups USUALLY foster dogs for several weeks to determine proper temperment, how they deal with children and cats, etc., the rescue dogs still generally come with some baggage and occasionally hidden physical challenges. Unfortunately, there are some "Rescue" people who aren't quite what they say they are. So, please see #1, above.
3. Really, really strongly advise against getting a dog from the pound whenyou have a toddler. The pound knows nothing about the dog's temperment. Don't get sucked in by a dog's apparent submissiveness when you see it in a shelter. More often than not the dog is scared to death. It is not uncommon for rescue dogs to not show their true personality for several weeks in a new home. I have fostered several dogs that have turned out to be vicious; some from physical trauma and some from being abused. In one case the problem did not surface for two years, in another the problem surfaced in two days.
Protect your child first, please. There will be plenty of dogs needing homes in three years. I will have a good one waiting for you. (I always have two or three)
chuck petterson
rescue bus driver