The Five Best Small Dog Breeds for Families With Young Children
If you’re looking for a family dog, and you have small children, you’ll need to carefully consider which breed 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 out-and-out biting. Sometimes these breeds are 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 the dog often lashes 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. But are there small breeds that tolerate, and even enjoy, the company of children? Yes!
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 fru-fru 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.
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.