If you have kids in the family, you might wonder which dog breeds are best. Tiny dogs are generally not recommended for families with young children because they are too delicate, and very large breeds can unintentionally knock over your little ones. Enter the medium-sized dog. Not too big and not too small, medium dog breeds (in general, those weighing between 20 to 50 pounds) are a great choice for families with children of all ages.
Even with breeds that are good with kids, most pet experts recommend waiting until your youngest child is five years old before welcoming a dog into the family. By that age, most children have a better handle on impulse control and are more capable of both understanding and following the rules for interacting with the dog. No matter what, an adult should always supervise all interactions between kids and dogs of any breed, just to be on the safe side.
Your new dog will be part of your life for the next decade or longer, possibly until your kids are grown and out of the house. Take your time now to choose the best breed for your family, and teach your kids how to interact with dogs safely.
Here, we’ve rounded up 12 medium breeds that are known for living happily with kids.
Don't forget that although dogs of a certain breed are more likely to share similar traits, every dog is an individual. They all have their own unique characteristics and personalities. Ongoing and appropriate training and socialization also play their part in shaping how dogs react around other dogs, adults and, of course, children. Finally, even the most docile, good-natured dog can be pushed to their limit with children that are not respecting their space. Make sure you are an advocate for your dog and that you do not put them in situations with children that could be asking for trouble.
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The American Water Spaniel was developed in the Great Lakes region of the United States in the mid-1800s as a versatile hunting dog. These dogs excel at flushing and retrieving birds, and are comfortable both in the field and in the water.
The breed is a little standoffish with strangers and needs socialization and training in puppyhood to develop into a confident and well-manned adult dog.
American Water Spaniels are hard workers and have energy to spare, so they need lots of daily exercise to prevent behavior issues stemming from boredom. The upside to all this energy is that these dogs are happy to romp and play fetch as the kids keep throwing the ball or Frisbee.
One of the rarer spaniels, the midsize American Water Spaniel is an energetic and merry companion, completely devoted to its human family, including children.
HEIGHT: 15 to 18 inches tall at the shoulder
WEIGHT: 25 to 45 pounds
Physical Characteristics: Active, muscular and medium-sized; the thick double coat, which is wavy or tightly curled, comes in three shades of brown; solid liver, brown or dark chocolate.
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Another rare spaniel that originated in the United States (South Carolina to be specific), the brown Boykin Spaniel is an enthusiastic hunting dog when in the field, but sweet and laid back at home.
The breed was originally used to hunt wild turkeys, but today is prized for hunting smaller birds like ducks and doves.
Friendly and playful, Boykins love being included in family activities, and get along great with respectful children, especially older kids who can throw the ball and play in the yard.
Boykin Spaniels are very rare, so be prepared to get on a waitlist if you’re hoping for a puppy.
HEIGHT: 14 to 18 inches tall at the shoulder
WEIGHT: 30 to 40 pounds (males); 25 to 35 pounds (females)
Physical Characteristics: Solidly built with moderate bone; the solid liver (brown) coat can range from flat to slightly wavy to curly, and is medium length
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Larger than a spaniel but smaller than a pointer or setter, the Brittany (sometimes incorrectly called the Brittany Spaniel) is a popular and versatile hunting, pointing and retrieving dog.
Brittanys are exceptionally friendly, willing to please, and are easily trained. They make great family dogs and are always ready and willing to join in on the next adventure. This could include hunting, hiking, running, swimming, camping and training for a competitive dog sport like agility.
Because Brittanys have abundant energy, it’s important to provide enough exercise and mental stimulation or they may become destructive or try to escape your yard.
WEIGHT: 30 to 40 pounds
HEIGHT: 17.5 to 20.5 inches tall at the shoulder
Physical Characteristics: Compact and leggy with a dense, flat or wavy coat in combinations of white and orange or reddish-brown
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Dignified and even-tempered, the Bulldog is known for its affinity for children. These dogs are patient and docile, happily going along with calm play. Although Bulldogs are very tolerant, children should never be allowed to pester the dog or play too rough. Teach kids how to respect the dog’s space and interact gently.
Despite its heavy build, the Bulldog is also surprisingly active, enjoying long walks and romps in a safely enclosed area like your backyard. Many Bulldogs also love to chase after balls and toys—an excellent way for kids and dogs to play together. Take care not to exercise your Bulldog in hot weather. Due to the breed’s pushed-in face, the Bulldog can overheat easily.
HEIGHT: 14 to 15 inches tall at the shoulder
WEIGHT: 40 to 50 pounds
Physical Characteristics: A heavy, thick-set, low-swung body and massive, short-faced head; the straight, short, fine-textured coat comes in red, white, fawn or fallow (pale brown), or any combination of these colorsContinue to 5 of 10 below.
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Full of energy and exceedingly playful, the English Springer Spaniel is a great companion for kids. Excellent dogs for active families, Springers needs lots of daily exercise. Fom long walks to jogging, hiking, swimming, games of fetch or even training for a competitive sport like agility or flyball, your ESS will be up for the challenge.
These dogs don’t do well when left alone for long periods of time, but luckily their medium size makes it easy to take them along on family outings. The Springer’s coat requires professional grooming, and brushing a few times a week to keep mats at bay.
HEIGHT: 19 to 20 inches tall at the shoulder
WEIGHT: 40 to 50 pounds
Physical Characteristics: Compact, well-proportioned, muscular body; the medium-length double coat (a flat or wavy topcoat and a short, soft undercoat) is usually black or liver with white markings, or the opposite
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The Finnish Lapphund is a spitz breed, a type of dog that hails from cold and snowy regions and has a fluffy coat, upright triangular ears and a tail that curls up and over the back.
These types of dogs have been in existence for thousands of years in the northernmost region of Finland, where they were most recently used a reindeer herders.
Lappies, as they are often called, have a friendly and submissive demeanor that makes the breed excellent for families with children.
However, as with all breeds, care must be taken ensure the kids are gentle and kind in their interaction. Lappies love to play—toss a ball in the backyard and offer daily walks to keep them happy.
HEIGHT: 16 to 21 inches tall at the shoulder
WEIGHT: 33 to 53 pounds
Physical Characteristics: Strongly built and thickly coated; the double-coat comes in black, golden, brown, cream, wolfsable and white
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The only native breed to Iceland, the fluffy Icelandic Sheepdogs history dates back more than 1,000 years. The breed was used to watch over and herd livestock like sheep, cattle and horses. The Icelandic Sheepdog is another spitz breed (also referred to as Northern breeds), easily identified by its foxy-looking face, triangle ears, fluffy coat, and plumed tail curling over its back.
Friendly and affectionate, Icelandic Sheepdogs are mostly beloved family pets these days, though they still retain a strong instinct to herd. They are lively, confident, curious, and enjoy playing with respectful children.
Icelandic Sheepdogs are sturdy enough for gentle play, yet small enough that they won’t accidentally knock down small children. The breed is rare, so if you think you might be interested in a puppy, prepare to wait.
HEIGHT: 16.5 to 18 inches tall at the shoulder
WEIGHT: 25 to 30 pounds
Physical Characteristics: Rectangular, medium-sized spitz breed; the thick, waterproof double coat can be short or long, and comes in a variety of colors, including fawn, cream, chocolate, black and gray
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Another spitz breed, the Keeshond stands out with its unique black glasses-shaped markings around the eyes. Though found throughout Europe for many centuries, the breed was most popular in Holland, where they were used as watchdogs on riverboats, barges and farms.
Friendly, spirited and outgoing, the Keeshond is renowned as an outstanding family dog. They are especially gentle and empathetic and make wonderful therapy dogs.
This breed is active and needs daily exercise and play, but what it wants most is to spend time with the family.
The fluffy coat, which feels clean and has very little doggie odor, needs a good weekly brushing and bathing every month or two.
HEIGHT: 17 to 18 inches tall at the shoulder
WEIGHT: 35 to 45 pounds
Physical Characteristics: A well-balanced, short-coupled body; very thick double coat in cream, black and gray color variationsContinue to 9 of 10 below.
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Famous for its affection toward people and its special affinity for children, the Staffordshire Bull Terrier has earned the nicknames “Children’s Nursemaid” and “Nanny Dog.” Of course, this is not to say that this breed should be left home alone to babysit the kids, but with proper adult supervision, kids and Staffies can be the very best of friends.
The Staffordshire Bull Terrier is small but mighty, with a muscular body and brave temperament. Although Staffies love people, many do not get along well with other dogs, especially strange dogs. Some have very high prey drive (the instinct to chase), and the breed is not considered trustworthy around small pets like cats.
HEIGHT: 14 to 16 inches tall at the shoulder
WEIGHT: 24 to 38 pounds
Physical Characteristics: Active, agile and of great strength for its size; the short, smooth coat comes in red, fawn, white, black, blue or brindle (any shade), with or without white.
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The Whippet is a sighthound, which is a type of hound that hunts using its excellent eyesight and speed. Quiet, gentle and mellow, the Whippet is made for family life.
The breed is known for being tolerant and kind and for enjoying the company of children as long as the kids are gentle and respectful.
If you provide daily opportunities for brief sprints, Whippets are generally very laidback in the house—some may even call them lazy.
Whippets are prone to escape attempts and will chase anything that moves (cats, squirrels, even wind-blown leaves or trash), even if that is into the street and oncoming cars. To avoid heartbreak, keep your doors secured and keep your Whippet on a leash when outside or ensure off-leash exercise is always in a safely enclosed area.
HEIGHT: 18 to 22 inches tall at the shoulder
WEIGHT: 25 to 40 pounds
Physical Characteristics: Medium-sized, with balanced muscular power and strength; the short, smooth coat in a variety of colors including black, blue, fawn, red, white, and various shades of brindle