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The 10 Best Dog Breeds for Kids

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Layne is an animal lover who grew up in a household full of rescued critters. She is a registered veterinary technician.

Best dog breeds around kids and children.

Best dog breeds around kids and children.

Best Dog Breeds Around Kids and Babies

The big question when it comes to getting a dog is what type of dog is right for you and your family. If you have children—young kids, teenagers, or even a baby or toddler—trusting your new dog around your children is a big step. Most people will go for a puppy because they feel like they can control and develop the puppy into the kind of "good" dog that they have in mind. For others, a puppy is too much to handle.

All Breeds Have Their Good and Bad Traits

The truth is that all dogs and all breeds have their good and bad traits. Years of inbreeding too, even in amazing breeds known for their gentle nature, like the Labrador Retriever (a strong service dog), can produce aggressive offspring. This has been noted in Golden Retrievers and Labradors especially.

While all dogs can exhibit good and bad behavior, some breeds have a more gentle tendency than others. In addition, mixed-breed dogs can be wonderful and amazing. Not only that, but by adopting a mixed-breed dog or working with a purebred rescue, you save a life.

How to Find a Breeder or Purebred Rescue

In most cases, families will work with a reputable breeder to get a new dog. If you are firm on going this route, make sure the breeder you work with tests for genetically inherited conditions. Certain breeds are prone to certain health issues which can make for true heartbreak down the line. Other than that, here's a list of the best dogs for kids.

The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is a great dog around kids.

The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is a great dog around kids.

1. Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

These dogs are sweethearts. They are known for being social, patient, playful, affectionate, and easygoing. They have cute, floppy ears, a beautiful coat (black and tan, ruby, tri-color), and they are nothing but a forever-puppy. The breed has a life expectancy of 9–14 years. Males and females typically range from 13 to 18 pounds and they reach around 13 inches in height as an adult.

The Good and the Bad

You won't have to worry about your dog's temperament around the kids—it's often that you will have to teach your kids to be gentle around this adorable spaniel. Like a typical spaniel, they come with ear problems, so keeping those ears clean and dry is important. In addition, this breed is known for inherited heart issues, so make sure you work with a reputable breeder. This breed is not hypoallergenic.

2. Golden Retriever

You probably already know about the Golden Retriever. Golden Retrievers make great service dogs and therapy dogs. They are very sensitive and good around babies, kids, and older adults. They are known for being gentle being a soft-mouthed retrieving breed. They are often tolerant of being crawled on, cuddled, tugged, and loved.

The Pros and Cons

Golden Retrievers have fantastic personalities. It's important that you get your male and female Golden Retrievers fixed so that they do not act out as they mature. Both males and females can occasionally be aggressive towards other dogs. Goldens are also prone to skin issues, cancer, and particularly hip dysplasia, so it is important that your family does not overfeed them and keeps them at a healthy weight in addition to working with a responsible breeder. This is a large-breed dog.

The Water-Loving Newfoundland Hero Dog

3. Newfoundland

I absolutely love Newfoundlands. They are gentle, courageous giants with the heart of a hero. These dogs are trained to jump out of helicopters into bodies of water to rescue adults (they can swim a mile with 6 adults holding on to their life-saving vest!). This breed might be big but it is a wonderful protector and especially gentle around small creatures. They are loving, affectionate, gentle, and get along with other animals.

The Good and the Bad

Being a large dog (they can weigh up to 130-150 pounds!) with a big coat, they eat a lot of food, take big poops, and drool a lot. They also have longer coats and can shed. Like other pure breeds, they are prone to allergies. Being a larger breed as well, their life expectancy is from 8 to 10 years of age. They are particularly prone to big-dog problems like gastric torsion (GDV), hip dysplasia, and epilepsy. It's important that you keep them at a healthy weight.

The Irish Setter is a great dog around children.

The Irish Setter is a great dog around children.

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4. Irish Setter

Irish Setters are absolutely goofy. They are loving, kind, gentle, and lightfooted as well, making them great for families with kids. Not only are they playful and friendly, but they are beautiful to look at (just check out that coat!). They are known for being high-energy, especially in their early years of life, which might not make them good for smaller children but perfect for ages 7+.

The Pros and Cons

Irish Setters are extremely intelligent and easy to walk. They require decent training if you'd like them to behave. They are often in good spirits, graceful, and very sweet around their family. They also like to play, so they are great for an active group of kids. Irish Setters are actually prone to Celiac disease, so they may require special or hypoallergenic diets. They are also prone to various cancers and thyroid issues. Their life expectancy is surprisingly decent for a medium-sized breed at 12–14 years.

Pugs are sweet dogs but they can also be a little dramatic.

Pugs are sweet dogs but they can also be a little dramatic.

5. Pug

Pugs are very popular all around the world, and they are especially sweet around kids. Just look at that face—they were bred to tug on our heartstrings. As a smaller breed and one that is . . . less athletic and more about cuddles, they make for a great family pet, especially for a household with smaller children or babies. Their face is mostly skin and their shortened jaw means they are less likely to cause any damage in the event that they would bite or nip, which is very much unlike them.

The Good and the Bad

Being a brachycephalic breed, these dogs are prone to allergies and respiratory problems. This means that you will want to train your kids not to feed them all kinds of human foods. In addition, brachycephalic breeds have lousy heat and exercise tolerance, so your kids won't be able to take this dog for a run around the block in hot weather (no dog should be exercised in hot weather!). While they aren't the type of small breed dog to get out there and go for a swim in the lake, they do make for excellent cuddles.

Labrador Retrievers are goofy dogs.

Labrador Retrievers are goofy dogs.

6. Labrador Retriever

Labrador Retrievers, much like Golden Retrievers, are known for being great around children. They are sweet dogs and will train as seeing-eye dogs or other types of support and therapy dogs. They come in all types of wonderful colors: cream, blonde, yellow, chocolate, and black. They are one of the most popular dog breeds in the world. They are extremely sweet, loyal, protective, and athletic, and they will bond with your family for a lifetime.

The Pros and Cons

Labrador Retrievers are super goofy and take a while to grow up—that means they need good training as they are quite hyperactive. If you have a big family with active kids that like to chase, play sports, and run around, a lab is perfect for you. This breed will add to the excitement. If you are not ready for a high-energy, medium-to-large-breed dog, you might want to consider another breed.

Also know that Labrador Retrievers require quite a bit of exercise and should be kept at a healthy weight. They can be prone to knee issues and hip dysplasia, so work with a reputable breeder to rule out these issues. They also will eat anything and everything when bored, so keep an eye on them and don't leave legos around.

7. Bichon Frisé

Bichon Frisé are cute, little dogs. They look like white teddy bears and they make great lap dogs. They get along rather well with other household animals including cats, and they are extremely gentle around babies and children. They simply want to be around the family and they want to be loved just the same. You will probably catch them hanging out on the couch or sleeping closely or even cuddling, they are simply that sweet and amicable.

The Good and the Bad

Bichon Frisé are easy-going dogs. A small breed, they don't require a ton of exercise and they are pretty mellow for the most part. They do require quite a bit of grooming (though non-shedding) with their beautiful white coats–this means keeping their mouth and their eyes clean (to avoid tear stains and the sort). They may require hypoallergenic foods and can be prone to allergies and they also have a tendency to become window barkers. Otherwise, this is a great breed for first-time dog owners and young children.

Boxers make great companions.

Boxers make great companions.

8. Boxer

Boxers are a fun breed and appeal to many for their cool looks and athletic build. Boxers are extremely loving, fun, and friendly. They are all about people and socializing and they love affection and have high energy. This breed is perfect for an active household of children, especially ages 7 and up. They love to run and play fetch and play chase, but they are rarely aggressive and almost always protective. They are also sensitive and tend to do well around small kids.

The Pros and Cons

Boxers are high energy dogs and require a good amount of exercise. They are also extremely protective of their families, which is a good thing or a bad thing depending on who you ask. They require decent training or else they can be all over the place. Having a short coat, they really don't need to be groomed. This breed, however, is prone to cancer and knee issues. Make sure you work with a reputable breeder to rule out any hereditary health conditions or you might face heartbreak from a shortened life expectancy.

9. Poodle

The Standard Poodle is a large breed dog and Toy Poodles are on the smaller side. This intelligent and observant breed can be great around kids. They are known for their smarts and can, therefore, assess a situation very well. They are lightfooted, swift, and extremely loyal. They do require quite a bit of exercise and training, but they make great family dogs. They also come in a variety of wonderful coat colors and can be good for people who require a hypoallergenic breed.

The Good and the Bad

Poodles do tend to have a strong prey drive if not trained properly. That means that while your kid is walking them on a leash, they might go tearing off after a squirrel that runs up a tree. While a Standard Poodle is quite large, you might want to consider a Toy Poodle if you are worried about size and biting. Poodles are prone to hip dysplasia, progressive retinal atrophy, and can experience thyroid issues.

Shelter dogs also make great companions.

Shelter dogs also make great companions.

10. Mixed-Breed Dogs

Yes, mixed-breed dogs make wonderful pets. Now, while you might not be able to temperament test an adult dog as well, most animal shelters will do the testing to rule out any negative behaviors before a dog is up for adoption. Sometimes they will put restrictions on dogs they think won't do well with small children. They take this type of testing very seriously.

The Pros and Cons

The benefit of getting a shelter dog is that you are saving a life and by default, your pet is less likely to inherit or experience as many health issues as a purebred! If you are really set on a purebred, you might want to check out a purebred rescue. Yes, they exist!

Some rescue animals come from traumatic backgrounds and you may not know their trauma. They may not always be predictable either, and there is always a risk associated. I grew up with two wonderful rescue dogs and they have been great around kids. If adopting a smaller breed makes sense to you, consider going this route. Smaller dogs deliver less serious bites in some cases. If you are set on a puppy, many shelters adopt out puppies as well. Consider nature over nature, as all dogs deserve a loving hope.

Happy searching!

More Great Dog Breeds Around Children

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

© 2020 Laynie H


Laynie H (author) from Bend, Oregon on August 31, 2020:

Hi Liz, thanks for reading. I've always had great luck with rescues, but some people feel most secure with a purebred with "predictable" breed traits. Small dogs do less damage, too, so that's always a good route to go if you are afraid of dogs.

Liz Westwood from UK on August 29, 2020:

I used to be wary of dogs around my kids. But, having seen how good a chocolate labrador has been with my grandchildren, I can now understand that there are some dog breeds that are especially good with children. Your article is very helpful as it gives a balanced view and encourages me to consider other dog breeds.

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