Holle has owned two Akitas and has trained and bred dogs for decades.
If you’re looking for a family dog and you have small children, you’ll need to carefully consider which breeds will best tolerate toddlers and kids. You probably think a small child will do well with a small dog. Hold on there, pal—a lot of small breeds are prone to nipping and even full-on biting. Sometimes, small breeds are also inherently nervous or high-strung.
Another reason a small or toy breed might not be the best for kids is because of their vulnerability. They’re small, and they know it. Kids can be rough, so a small dog may lash out in perceived self-defense. The pooch might not be “mean”—it might just be afraid, and often with good reason.
Small dogs do have their advantages, too. They cost less to feed and care for in general. They’re often easier to exercise, and most small breeds live a long time. These petite pups don’t take up a lot of room on the couch, in the bed, or in your favorite chair. Luckily, there are some mall breeds that tolerate—and even enjoy—the company of children. If you're set on finding a small dog that is likely to do well with children despite its size, consider the five breeds listed below.
One breed that gets on well with kids is the Beagle. This is a sturdy little dog that’s easy to groom and care for. They're very playful and intelligent, and because of their desire to please their master, they're easy to train. Beagles weigh 20 to 25 pounds and do fine living inside, even in small apartments, as long as they have a daily walk or playtime outside with the kids.
Since these little guys are natural scent hounds, they'll sometimes wander off while following an interesting smell, so it's best to keep them contained or on a lead when outside. Be vigilant about this—my grandson’s Beagle followed her nose on a hunting adventure, and we never found her. Another negative is that most Beagles are known for their howling yodel. A well-cared-for Beagle will give its family up to 15 years of companionship.
Another small breed that’s a good choice for kids is the Pug. Like the Beagle, the Pug has a thick, sturdy body and a short coat. Pugs are playful and affectionate, with a pugnacious attitude. And don’t tell him he’s little—he thinks he’s a big dog in a little dog's body. They make great alarm dogs for inside, and they’re very intelligent, even if they are a little stubborn.
Like other breeds with short noses, Pugs often have breathing-related problems, so they shouldn’t get too hot or too cold. Also, you should never let a Pug get too tired from overexertion. Pugs are pretty calm indoors and don't bark much, even though they love a little vigorous play outside. A short walk every day will meet their need for exercise. Pugs weigh between 15 and 20 pounds and often live for 15 years.
3. Welsh Corgi
The Welsh Corgi of the Pembroke variety is one of the most highly recommended breeds for kids. It has the body of a medium-sized dog on short legs, so it’s plenty sturdy for a little roughhousing with kids. Its protective nature makes it a good inside alarm dog to alert you to possible intruders, but they don't usually bark without a good reason.
Highly intelligent and willing learners, the Pembroke excels in obedience trials. The dogs weigh between 25 and 35 pounds and do well with apartment living as long as they get a good daily walk. A healthy Corgi can live as long as 15 years.
Despite its froufrou appearance, the Maltese is a great little dog for families with kids. They’re one of the oldest breeds, and they are beautiful, loyal, quiet, and affectionate. Maltese weigh from seven to nine pounds, although some breeders are breeding a “teacup” variety that weighs about three pounds. These smaller Maltese are really too fragile for small children, so opt for a larger individual.
Maltese are incredibly intelligent and excel in competitive obedience events. Some bloodlines are prone to nipping, so make sure to check out the temperament of the parents. I’ve had family members who raised the breed, and I’ve never seen this undesirable trait. One problem with the breed is the grooming that’s required for the long, silky white coat. It tangles easily. We kept ours clipped to keep it cool in our hot climate and to avoid tedious combing. If you take good care of your Maltie, it should live a long, happy life. My Maltese, Pumpkin, was euthanized at the age of 17.
5. Boston Terrier
The Boston Terrier is another winner with kids. They’re strong and sturdy, and they often prefer hanging out with the kids rather than the adults. The breed is smart and easy to train, but their training should be done gently—they’re often very sensitive. They’re also affectionate and even tempered with the whole family.
The Boston weighs from 10 to 25 pounds and does well indoors with a long daily walk. If you take good care of your Boston Terrier, he should give you 15 or more years of devoted friendship.
Pets Are Part of Our Families
A shelter dog or rescue pup is always a good idea, too. There are hundreds of thousands of dogs and puppies in shelters across the nation that are waiting for good homes. For a family with small children, a puppy is best, unless you can find out about an adult dog’s history and know that it’s good with kids. Take the kids with you on your visit to the animal shelter. Watch them interact with several canines before making your choice.
Before deciding to adopt a “furkid” into your family, make sure you're totally ready to commit to giving the animal a forever home. Unfortunately, according to reputable sources, over 40 percent of families who buy or adopt a dog give it up within one year. Pets are not disposable—or at least, they shouldn’t be. Whatever dog you choose, teach your children to treat it with love, gentleness, and respect. A good dog can be a rewarding addition to your family and can be your child's best friend for many years to come.
renee on March 30, 2012:
wot animals dont bight
carissa on February 15, 2012:
kool dog yo!!!
Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on December 03, 2009:
In size, yes - in temperament, no. lol
James A Watkins from Chicago on December 03, 2009:
From one extreme to the other!
Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on December 02, 2009:
Thanks, James! Pumpkin was great - not yappy like some toy dogs. Now I have Great Danes!
James A Watkins from Chicago on December 02, 2009:
I am thankful that you mentioned the Maltese. And you had Pumpkin!! That's awesome. My Hercules will be 7 January 1. He is only 6 1/2 pounds but only because he was the runt of the litter. I wrote about him (and them) in my Hub "Maltese Dogs."
I enjoyed your article. It is finely written, with excellent advice. Thanks for the pleasure.
Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on November 06, 2009:
True, PK. So are my Great Danes! lol
Place Kick from North Carolina on November 06, 2009:
You're right the boxer is not a small dog, but they're little babies at heart. :)
Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on November 05, 2009:
I love Boxers, but I don't consider them a small breed. My niece has one, and it is a cutie pie and very good with the kids.
Thanks for reading!
Place Kick from North Carolina on November 04, 2009:
I could add that "Boxers" are also good with kids but you need to be careful of the blood line and really the mother and father and what their actions are toward being happy go lucky friendly ones. The boxers I've had really loves kids and the smaller the kid the more the boxer are careful not to hurt them. The only problem is that the boxer will protect the kid so if you spank them the boxer may go into a whine telling you NO! Then he/she may grab whatever you're using as a paddle! I've never had a boxer that bit anyone. But as with all dogs they have to be raised right without being abused.
Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on November 03, 2009:
Totally agree, Izzy! There are some wonderful small dog breeds. Thanks for reading!
izzytellsall on November 03, 2009:
These are great choices--beagles are great with kids, but as you say, they can be prone to wander ;-). We learned that first hand with ours, but found he was easy to keep contained when we always kept him on a leash and the kids adored him. It's not just big dogs that make great family pets!
Ethel Smith from Kingston-Upon-Hull on October 06, 2009:
How could anyone resist that puppy with those beautiful eyes. Aww
Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on October 05, 2009:
I think they would be called "not-so-great Danes."
susieq450 from Genoa on October 05, 2009:
Thanks for your perspective on this topic.
Randy Godwin from Southern Georgia on October 05, 2009:
What, no miniature Great Danes? Or would they be called So-So Danes? Hmmm, something to think about!