Best Dog Breeds for Kids and Families

Find a Child-Friendly Dog

An illustration of different breeds of dogs that are best for kids

The Spruce / Elnora Turner

If you are in search of a dog that can get along with children, there are many breeds that fit the bill. In theory, almost any dog has the potential to get along great with children. Factors such as obedience training, age, size, and breed type can all affect your chances of finding a good family dog. Think about the ages and activity levels of your children. Toddlers can be knocked over by an awkward, gangly puppy that does not know his own size. Bigger kids could crush a small dog if they are not always careful.

Tip

You can speculate about which dog breeds are best for kids, but you just never know how each individual dog will turn out. Seek out your local dog rescue group and ask about dogs that have been in foster care. Foster "parents" know and love them. Since they want the dogs to go to the right homes, they tend to be very honest about the dogs' personalities and temperaments. Or, if you decide on a reputable breeder, spend time talking about the temperament and socialization history of the pups. An experienced, responsible breeder will know the pups and parents well and share information freely.

There are many dog breeds that have the reputation of getting along well with children. A family with kids ideally needs an intelligent dog with a good temperament and moderate energy level. Take a look at 10 types of dogs that have a history of good behavior around children.

  1. Boxer

    The breed is known to be a playful one that does not mind befriending kids as playmates. A lively dog, it can go toe-to-toe with children who also seem to have endless energy and a love of the outdoors. It has a goofy, childlike personality that children can appreciate. It can be sometimes clumsy and bump or knock over a kid or two, so watch it closely around toddlers.

    Breed Overview

    Height: 20 to 24 inches

    Weight: 55 to 70 pounds

    Physical Characteristics: Stocky, muscular, powerful body; square, blocky head with undershot jaw and short muzzle; short coat with fawn and brindle as standard colors, standard markings include a black mask, black mask with white markings, and white markings

  2. Labrador Retriever

    Labs are loyal family dogs. Even-tempered, they are one of the last dogs to get aggressive. They are outgoing, kind, gentle, and very smart dogs. They get along great with kids and other animals in the house. They tolerate a child hugging, patting, or prodding it. Their relaxed demeanor is a big plus for families with young children. However, they do prefer a lot of space preferably with a backyard since they need a lot of daily exercise.

    Breed Overview

    Height: 21 to 24 inches

    Weight: 55 to 80 pounds

    Physical Characteristics: Medium to large-sized sturdy, athletic build; smooth, water-resistant coats; otter-like tail; a clean-cut head with a broad skull, powerful jaws, and friendly eyes

  3. Golden Retriever

    A golden retriever is much like a longer-haired, furrier Labrador retriever. Their temperament is very similar: gentle, laid-back, tolerant, and non-aggressive. This breed can get hyperactive and a little unmanageable if it does not have a constructive way to release its bountiful energy. A playful and smart breed, it can make a great companion for school-aged children, enjoying a game of fetch and other yard games.

    Breed Overview

    Height: 21 to 24 inches

    Weight: 55 to 75 pounds

    Physical Characteristics: Sturdy, muscular, medium-sized dog with a lustrous gold coat with a broad head, friendly and intelligent eyes, and short ears

  4. Poodle

    The poodle is extremely smart and has a great temperament. Poodles’ high energy often matches the energy of children. Poodles are very loving, cuddly, and gentle, also patient. Plus, you have a size choice: toy, miniature, or standard. Although, the larger, standard poodle is probably the best choice for families with children; it is the sturdiest and can withstand more roughhousing than the smaller varieties.

    Breed Overview

    Height: Standard: over 15 inches; Miniature: 10 to 15 inches; Toy: 10 inches and under

    Weight: Standard: 45 to 70 pounds, Miniature: 15 to 18 pounds, Toy: 5 to 9 pounds

    Physical Characteristics: Graceful appearance and proud chest; curly, dense single coats that may be one of many solid colors, including but not limited to white, black, grey, brown, and apricot

  5. Bichon Frise

    This little cotton ball of a dog loves to play but is not usually too hyper. It is affectionate, charming, and has the energy to match a kid's endless spirit. It is also a small dog, which is perfect for little kids. Although, if your younger children are overly rambunctious or rough, it might give a warning snap to let a child know there is only so much it can take.

    Breed Overview

    Height: 9 to 12 inches

    Weight: 7 to 12 pounds

    Physical Characteristics: Fluffy and curly white hair (may have traces of apricot, buff, or cream), resembles a cotton ball or powder puff

  6. Beagle

    These dogs are friendly, clever, and not too big, making them very suitable for kids. Though some can be a bit high-strung, they typically respond very well to training. They are a social breed that enjoys being around people and children. They are loyal and easy-to-bond with a child. It may even be one best guard dogs for your little one, letting you know with its distinctive baying cry when someone comes near. A vocal breed, it may not be the best kind of dog for very young infants and toddlers who wake easily from barking or sounds.

    Breed Overview

    Height: 13 to 15 inches

    Weight: 20 to 25 pounds

    Physical Characteristics: Muscular, solid body with a domed skull, squarish muzzle, long floppy ears, and perky long tail held upward

  7. Cairn Terrier

    These active little dogs seem to have a natural affinity for kids. They can keep up with them and tolerate just about anything but are still gentle. They are a very affectionate breed, particularly with children. While many smaller dogs usually can't handle roughhousing children, the cairn terrier seems to love them.

    Breed Overview

    Height: 9 to 10 inches

    Weight: 13 to 14 pounds

    Physical Characteristics: Scruffy-looking double coat with a wiry outer coat and soft undercoat; coat comes in many colors, including red, brindle, black, sand, and gray

  8. German Shepherd

    This breed is extremely loyal and protective but must be well-trained. The German shepherds have a playful side, especially at a younger age. They can be sweet and gentle with their family but are wary of strangers. A very intelligent breed, they can be taught to do almost anything.

    Breed Overview

    Height: 22 to 26 inches

    Weight: 60 to 100 pounds

    Physical Characteristics: Large, athletic build with a double coat, comprised of a thick undercoat and a dense, slightly wavy or straight outer coat with tan and black or red and black coloring

  9. Shetland Sheepdog

    Shelties are much like collies—think Lassie. These are both very calm, gentle and tolerant breeds that often do well with children of all ages and sizes. Shelties enjoy human company. The breed is playful, gentle, and well-behaved with children, but does need some training to break it of its natural inclination to nip or herd. Overly active children might overwhelm the dog, so keep a watchful eye on their interaction to make sure they get along well.

    Breed Overview

    Height: 13 to 16 inches

    Weight: 15 to 25 pounds

    Physical Characteristics: Double-coated with long, harsh outer coat and short, dense undercoat; full mane framing head; feathering on the legs and tail

  10. Mixed-Breed Dogs

Mutts can be well-balanced and intelligent dogs. Overall, you can find a truly amazing dog in a mixed breed. They come in a huge variety of sizes and coat types. Mixed breeds are often physically healthier than purebred dogs and can be less high strung. Plus, you can save a dog from life in a shelter or, in some cases, death row.

Breeds to Avoid

Some dogs do not adapt well to households with young kids. The children may not be respectful of boundaries; some kids may stare, move quickly, or like to scream or squeal with high-pitched voices. Generally, the breeds that might not be the most amenable to a child in the household include spitz breeds like Akitas, chows, huskies, or malamutes—these intelligent breeds tend to be more aloof and distant. Also, a few smaller breeds that have big attitudes may not be the best fit, such as Chihuahuas, Pekingese, or shih tzus.