Best Dogs for Kids: A Guide to Child & Family Friendly Dog Breeds

Dog with Kid

So, you are ready for your first (or second, third or fourth) family dog. Great! But what are the best dogs for kids? What kind of dog should you get? Does it matter?

Should you let your kid(s) pick out whatever dog they like? Picking the dog breed with the best fit for your family is a big decision, and one that should not be taken lightly.

This is especially true when you have children at home, and pets too. There are many things to consider and this guide will be your best friend.

Popular culture has taught us that dogs and children go together like peanut butter and jelly. But unfortunately, this isn’t always the case.

For example, kids who bring home small dogs often mistake them for toys and injuries to the puppy or little dog then follow. Bad fit!

Big dogs can be a bad choice too because, well, they’re big, and it can be harder for them to be gentle without careful training from their new owners. The truth is there are some dog breeds that tend to be better for kids than others.

Animals, Species, Breed, Name

Animal expert Cesar Millan says:

"Animals, species, breed, name -- in that order." He explains, "Even though certain breeds contain certain specific characteristics, the breed is only something to be aware of when considering your dog’s innate needs. More important is their inborn energy level. This varies within the breed and even within the litter."

How can you apply this concept to finding the best pet for your family?

Matching your new dog's energy level to your family is more important than seeking out a specific breed.


 

Cesar with Pitbull

Temperament, Size and Energy Level

  • Temperament – This is the dog’s personality. You should look for an agreeable temperament, especially if you’re looking for a child friendly dog.
    If your family and kids are more sedentary than you want a lower energy dog. 
    On the other hand, if you want a dog that is going to play and run around with your kids, you’ll want a breed with more energy to burn. We get more into the specific kid friendly dog breeds below.

  • Size – Size should be looked at in relation to both temperament and energy level. Some larger dogs tend to be docile such as the Great Dane while some smaller dogs can be more easily excited. Also, you should match the energy level of your kids in relation to which type of dog you want. For example, some small dogs (like the Shih Tzu) are not best for kids because they can be easily injured by horseplay.

  • Energy – This is a matter of preference for your family. Be realistic about the lifestyle you can provide for a dog that needs more exercise than average. If you can’t meet a dog’s needs, his excess energy can lead to behavior problems down the road.

 

Some Questions to ask Before Dog Shopping

  • Is the dog safe for all members of the family? Some dogs are perfectly happy to socialize with everyone in the family, while some prefer only adults or one gender.

  • What type of energy level is the dog? You may want a dog that will accompany you and the family on long walks or one that can be carried in your arms most of the time.

  • What ongoing care will the dog require? Is it a longhaired dog who will need regular grooming or an older dog who may need more frequent veterinary visits?

  • What age of dog are you looking for? Would you prefer a puppy that may require lots of training but will likely socialize well with the entire family or an adult dog who is potty trained but may be shier when friends come visit?

  • Will this dog get along with other pets? If you have other pets at home you want to choose a dog that likes other animals and be sure that your animals like the new dog.

  • Are you prepared for the cost and commitment of owning a new pet? When you take home a new pet, you should plan on other expenses that go along with it. This means expenses throughout the lifetime of the pet. You can learn more about pet expenses here. Don’t kid yourself, it costs a lot of money to own and maintain the proper health of a dog you plan to have for the rest of its life.

 

Best Dogs for Kids and Families

Behold the Beagle

Beagle

Do you have active kids with endless energy? If so, meet the Beagle breed.

These clever, friendly dogs do need a lot of exercise and they have been known to wander off if you don’t keep a close eye on them but they're great with active kids.

The Beagle’s small size (they can easily be carried!) and calm temperament make him a great choice for families. And if your kids love the outdoors this breed will fit right in. There is nothing they love more than exploring outside and taking to the trails.

Smart, friendly and happy, the Beagle usually gets along with other pets (except for a bit of chasing here and there). However, they do shed and require frequent brushing and bathing.

 

Beagles were originally kept as hunting dogs. Their sturdy build means you shouldn't have to worry about your kids hurting them, unless of course, your kids don't understand that dogs are not toys. Always make sure you teach your kids the dos and don'ts of dog ownership before you bring home your new puppy or dog.

  • You should first teach your kid(s) not to give your Beagle table scraps because they have a tendency toward obesity.

Boxer

Yes, it’s true that Boxers are energetic but they’re also playful, affectionate, pack-oriented and they love kids. Be sure you give your Boxer plenty of exercise because they're prone to barking and digging if restless. 

Note: Always assert who is the alpha in the pack – meaning YOU – the adult. Dogs with strong personalities need to follow their leader, not lead the follower.

Boxers
woman with bulldog

Bulldog

To know a Bulldog is to love one. This breed is calm, gentle and friendly with children. 

There are two kinds of Bulldogs, the French and English Bulldog. Both are wonderful pets and bred today to be companion animals.

They are small enough that kids can easily interact with them but sturdy enough to handle a fair amount of horseplay. As a bonus, they also serve as great guard dogs for little ones, protecting them from potential dangers.

This is a go-to breed when it comes to finding a dog that’s sure to act affectionately towards the kids. However, he won’t win any awards for "most energetic dog."  A docile and loyal dog, the Bulldog gets along well with other pets and is comfortable living in large houses as well as small apartments. Most are pleasant with outside visitors too which makes them the perfect fit for a busy, social family.

If you are interested in a Bulldog, keep in mind the compressed nature of their jaw means they’ll need a little extra care in teeth cleaning. You’ll also find that wheezing, snoring and some drooling is the norm for Bulldogs. On the other hand, their coat needs minimal care, although the folds around their tail and facial wrinkles need to be cleaned to prevent dirt build-up.

 

Note: Bulldogs are not good swimmers, as their bodies were not designed for water, so keep this breed away from the pool.

Bull Terrier

Unfairly branded an 'aggressive' animal, the Bull Terrier was bred to be a companion dog and they're friendly and loving towards grown-ups and kids.

This well-framed dog has a high threshold for annoyance, making it perfect for rambunctious children just learning how to properly treat dogs.

Keep in mind, your Bull Terrier may often have mischief on its mind, especially when it comes to other small animals and dogs. Avoid problems by keeping your pet mentally and physically active and stimulated every day and by socializing your new puppy early in life with other pets and people of all sizes and ages.

Their short, flat coat is easy to care for and the breed does best as a housedog with easy access to a yard for play.

Bull Terrier
Behold the Beagle

Cocker Spaniel

This gorgeous breed is known for its cheerful disposition and desire to please. The Cocker Spaniel is likely to be just as happy snuggling on the couch or cuddling in your bed as he is playing with the kids.

One thing to keep in mind is the Cocker Spaniel does not take well to being teased and/or taunted though they are playful and gentle, so you will need to train your kids (along with the dog) as to what is and is not acceptable behavior.

The Cockier Spaniel is a truly kid friendly dog and will get along just fine with both young and older children, again, provided the kids know that a dog (of any breed) is not a toy. You will especially love this dog’s look as it ages, as they are beautiful, sweet and extremely loyal.

Collie

Perhaps the most famous Border Collie was Lassie. If you recall, Lassie was quick to rescue anybody trapped down a well so that should give you a pretty good idea what type of dog you are taking home.

With a variety of breeds classified as Collie, such as the Border Collie and Bearded Collie, your options for this family friendly pup are not only limited to the classic “Lassie” dog, a Border Collie, but we'll focus on that type of Collie here.

Gentle, predictable, easy to train and best of all they love kids; in fact, the Collie tends to be protective of their pack and are great for bonding with kids of all ages. They love to please their owners and protect their family.

 

Collie

Collies are a gentle breed, rarely misbehaving and easily trainable which is perfect for families unfamiliar with dogs.

The only problem you may have with a Collie is that they are a herding breed of dog. As a result, you may have to discourage your puppy or dog from herding your children, even if you do see this as a favor!

This might be amusing at first but it’s probably best to discourage the child-herding (no matter how handy you may think it could be).

Because of the Collie's long hair, the breed requires regular grooming to keep its coat in tip-top shape.

 

Golden Retriever

Golden Retriever

The Golden Retriever is truly worth its weight in gold when it comes to dogs. They are known
for their patience, something most adults wish they had more of.

Goldens are loyal and kind so they are super kid friendly dogs. They do require quite a bit of exercise, but they love to play which is why they are one of the best dogs for kids and families. They especially love to play retrieving games since that is in their nature.

Your kids can tire out your Golden Retriever while it does the same for them. You’ll be happy at the end of the day when they all lie down to rest together at night.

The Golden Retriever is a confident, smart, kind and loyal dog. Neither aggressive nor timid, the Golden Retriever is extremely patient, which makes them a perfect match for kids. You’ll find that the fun-loving Golden Retriever is affectionate and obedient so your kids will fall in love instantly.

Proper care for their glorious golden coats requires twice weekly brushing and while the breed is adapted to living outdoors, they’d really prefer to be indoors with their humans most of the time.

Irish Setter

Known for its red coat, the Irish Setter is playful, energetic and loves being around people. They play well with children, so you can certainly label this beautiful breed kid friendly.

In fact, Setters love being with their family so much that they hate to be alone. This means they’re on their best behavior when surrounded by their loved ones.

You should also consider that if you are rarely home and the dog is going to be alone most of the day, this is not the breed for your lifestyle. Always consider your lifestyle and that of your family before purchasing a dog.

The Irish setter needs lots of exercise and is a good match for energetic kids. A smart and trainable companion, the Setter is perfect for people with a yard, and they’re great at greeting new people into your home. Learn more about the friendly Irish Setter from PetMD.

 

Irish Setter
Labrador Retriever

Labrador Retriever

You cannot get a better dog than a Labrador Retriever. This is one of the most popular dog breeds and for good reason. The Labrador Retriever is playful, patient, loving, protective and reliable. Another perk—Labs are highly intelligent and nothing makes them happier than pleasing their pack members so they are super easy to train.

Whether it’s the black, chocolate or yellow variety, you’ll find that Labradors share the same sense of stamina, strength and obedience. These traits make them one of the most popular dog breeds in the country. They are affable dogs that get along well with other animals and pretty much everyone they meet. Plus their short coats mean they only really need a weekly combing to keep them clean and healthy.

They require a lot of exercise (they love swimming!) though. So if you’re considering a Lab for your kids, be sure your family is up for the challenge. Having a little extra room for them to run around and play is optimal. This is a highly kid friendly dog as they are wonderful with children, especially those with lots of energy. Labs love to play and frolic and they too, like the Golden Retriever, will wear your kids out!

The only downside to this breed is that they only live 10 to 12 years and are prone to tumors, which can shorten their time with your family.  Overall these are great pets and I dare you to find a Labrador Retriever owner who says otherwise.

Midsize Mutt

Why a mutt? There is nothing wrong with mixed breed dogs. And you’ll find that there are plenty of them who need great homes. Mutts often provide you with the best traits of two great breeds in one dog. Many of them are super healthy and live long, wonderful lives.

If you are not looking for specific breed characteristics, a mutt might be your best choice. For more information on adopting a shelter dog vs. purchasing from a pet store or breeder click here. If you go to a shelter or rescue group, volunteers or staff are usually able to tell you about the personalities and histories of the dogs in their care, which means you have an even better chance of choosing a dog that will fit in with your family and get along with your kids.

Midsize Mutt

Medium sized dogs are best if you have small kids because they’re not too big as to overwhelm them (or you) and you don’t have to worry as much about your child accidentally injuring them.

Some things to consider when purchasing any dog but especially one that you might not have a full history on:

  • Does the dog approach you and your family with a wagging tail or body or does it cower in the corner of the room?

  • How willing is the dog to play or share with your family? Some dogs become possessive of what they believe is theirs and this can escalate into a dangerous situation if young children are unaware that the dog may aggressively defend its toys and/or food.

Always consider your family’s lifestyle before exploring what breed of dog will be the best fit, especially if you are looking for a kid friendly dog breed. For instance,if you have small children, a large, rambunctious dog may inadvertently knock the children down or intimidate them. On the other hand, smaller breeds can be very easily injured or worse by kids who don’t understand their vulnerability and fragility.

 

Newfoundland

Newfoundland

Nicknamed "Nature’s Babysitter," the Newfoundland or Newfie is considered one of the most intelligent breeds in the world. They are smart, love children and are very protective of kids and their other owner(s).

Gentle, kind and patient, this breed is almost like the Mother Teresa of dogs. Your whole family, young and old, will quickly fall in love with this wonderfully sweet, large dog.  Because of their size, the Newfoundland best suits a family with large open spaces. They are great swimmers and have been known to save lives in emergency situations.

They are easily trained and quite task oriented, so don’t be afraid to provide them with stimulation that requires a little extra work on their part.  

Note: They drool. They also shed excessively. If this is a concern of yours, this breed is not for you. They are very social and should not be left to live outdoors in the yard for any reason, especially in Arizona. The Newfie wants to be inside with its family.

Pit Bull

Unfortunately, Pit Bulls get a bad rap in the media which often pays a lot of attention to Pit Bull attacks.

Pit Bulls one of the best dogs for kids if you do a good job of training and socializing them early. But early training is important with any breed.  Pit Bulls are smart and highly trainable—plus, they really like pleasing people.

Couple that with the fact that they’re energetic, playful and solid enough to put up with a lot of roughhousing. They need a whole lot of exercise so be sure your kids are up for this breed. All of these factors make them a great dog for children. Plus, who’s going to mess with a kid who has a Pit Bull?

Pit Bull
Poodle Babies

Poodle

The Poodle is a great family dog and one of the best dog breeds for kids.

They are smart, gentle, patient, loyal, caring — and they’re wonderful if anyone in your family has allergies.

Poodles shed a lot less than most other dog breeds. To find out more about dogs that shed less click here. Keep in mind, there is no such thing as a totally hypoallergenic dog, but Poodles are as close to it as you can find.

Poodles are happy to play with kids. But they also aren’t overly energetic, so you don’t have to worry about them being too high maintenance.

Besides their often-distinctive haircuts, the Poodle also happens to be a very smart and gentle dog.

Poodle

The breed is available in both miniature and standard sizes, meaning you can choose the specific Poodle size that best matches your living environment.

Each Poodle breed comes with different perks.

  • The Standard breed, for example, is very obedient and smart, playful and adventurous (although often shy with strangers, they get along great with familiar people and kids).
     

  • Miniature Poodles, on the other hand, tend to dedicate themselves to one person but they are good with other pets and kids. They’re also smart, responsive, obedient and playful, making them a great match for children.  

No matter the particular breed of Poodle, their coats do require regularly scheduled grooming to keep them in top-top shape. 

Vizsla

While this breed isn’t exactly a common household name it’s one of the best dog breeds for active and energetic families with older kids. The Vizsla is a great dog for children and families. However, they do need regular exercise. So if you cannot provide this, or if your kids are too old to be interested in helping, you might select another breed.

 

The Vizsla has a lively disposition but a gentle manner and is loyal, affectionate, obedient, confident and smart. They will form close bonds with family. They learn new tricks quickly too because they are so smart. You and your kids will love their sensitive, gentle nature.

Vizsla

Conclusion

So now that you know a thing or two about kid friendly dogs,choosing one for your home  and family should be a little bit simpler. Good luck and get more tips here on what you need to prepare yourself, your family, your home and your new puppy for life as a family.