I would have to say a Labrador or a Newfoundland. Pretty much all you are looking for and if trained can be great with small animals. Also are great with kids, loves exercise but doesn't require a lot and loves to go to the park, swim and just hang out.
***Edited By: Newflover6 on 11/18/2006 7:04:15 PM*** Reason: spelling correction
Some people in our kennel club have flatcoated retrievers, there was one named Siren in Riddick's obedience class that he considered his 'girlfriend' lol. We see them occasionally at dog shows and he just goes crazy with joy when he sees her. She is a very very nice dog.
We considered a flat-coated retriever when we were researching breeds. We decided against it mainly because of health problems. I learned that this breed is prone to cancer, and many don't live past 7 years old. Also, they seem to be very hard to find. I would expect that if you find a flat-coat, it will cost a lot more than a lab or a golden.
I feel like a broken record, but I frequently recommend a labrador mix from a shelter. There are certainly quite a few out there and they make excellent pets.
My daughter has one, and she is a joy. She loves everyone and adores water. They have trouble getting the dog to stay out of the bathtub when someone is taking a bath!
Basically, you want to choose a dog that just shakes and wiggles and wags its tail in its eagerness to get to you and worship you. That's a lab trait.
Labs and Lab mixes do shed like nobody's business, but they are usually very good tempered, love water and love to be walked. It's also been my experience that they also enjoy hugs and wrestling and just fooling around with their people.
Mere, get a doberman! I swear they are an amazing breed. I wish I could clone everything about Lady and hand her clones out lol, I wouldn't trade her for anything in the world.
Lady (as you've seen) gets along well with cats, and other dogs, she adores her family, and would protect us with her life. She is also very social with other people. She does shed...ALOT! Even after her mange clears up I'm sure I'll be batteling Dobe fur lol....I have to sweep the floors 3 times a day. Also after meeting two other Dobes at our Holiday shop for the AWN I've realized that most well trained and bred Doberman's are just like Lady. I've been bitten by the "bug" lol and will always have a dobe in my home.
I must say, until I saw that you didn't want a huge dog the first thing in my mind was a Newfoundland. It sounds like exactly what you want - can wrestle but careful not to hurt you, gentle with other pets and children, loves swimming (they are used in water rescues), protective but not so extreme that it becomes a problem, attractive, fluffy and cuddly.....I never heard a bad thing about a newfie. They even come in a couple of different colors, they're not limited to just black.
Poodle maybe? There smart and love pretty much anyone but are still great gaurd dogs and have great personalities.. They do need large dog exercise but mostly mental exercise.. I'd look into the breed just to check. I have a small poodle.. When I was first recomended a poodle my jaw dropped and the only thing that came out of my mouth was POODLE??????? But I haven't regretted a thing about getting Misha and do recomend the breed as a good stable and reliable dog. A dog that really wants to know who YOU are and stubburn enough to find out.
except for the more mellow part you are describing a labrador, however with exercise when young and getting older they do mellow. english lab that is. or, less common is the curly coated retreiver, i've heard is a bit more mellow than a lab, but hard to find. they're prone to cancer too like the flat coats though.